Most of us like to think we know ourselves fairly well – we know we’re happy when the sun is shining, when we drink a good cup of coffee, or when we spend time with our loved ones. On the other hand, we also know when we’re sad: we may have lost our favorite sneakers, hit a pothole, or experienced emotional trauma. All of that seems, in many ways, quite clear to us. But when it comes to physical injuries things can get a bit confusing. How do we know of we have neck pain, shoulder, or back pain? How do we know if our knees, hips, or lower backs are giving us problems? How can we differentiate between different types of pain? It often seems as if it’s harder to self-diagnose physical pain than it is to pinpoint heartache or joy. And yet, knowing why you’re in pain is actually the most invaluable knowledge there is for treating the root cause of the problem and, therefore, eradicating the pain itself. In this post, then, we’re talking about how injuries can be confusing, how we can tell if we’re really injured – and where we’re injured – and how we can clear it all up once and for all! Let’s jump straight in.
As we said, getting to the bottom of your pain is key in relieving it – treating your elbow, for example, may do no good if it is actually your wrist giving you the trouble. And just to make things even more confusing, your pain might not even point to an injury in the first place! That’s right! Oftentimes, we may experience pain that is fleeting and that disappears on its own. Therefore, understanding the difference between a once-off pain and a chronic, debilitating type of pain is absolutely crucial. Why? Well, if you don’t attention to the pain and it actually points to an injury, then you might end up exacerbating the pain, and damage, even more. Ultimately, we need to find out if the reason for pain is a fleeting injury or not. After this, it’s time to treat it appropriately. Let’s start with the first point: knowing the difference between injury and temporary pain.
When it comes to pain, listening to your body is the first port of call. Your body is a sophisticated organism – its ability to signal injury in the form or discomfort and pain cannot be underestimated. Sensation is like your body’s language, and pain, therefore, is like a warning which signals a problem. If we listen carefully enough, our bodies will inform us of our ailments. So, when it comes to knowing if we’re injured or not, we have to listen. Look out for any signs of injury: swelling, discoloration, temperature spikes – trouble walking, placing pressure on the area, or sensitivity to touch are all indicators that something is wrong. A tip for you: if you suspect that you’ve been injured, apply heat/ice immediately. More often than not, inflammation accompanies pain – heat and ice are able to alleviate the discomfort and swelling. Be sure to be smart, though: if you feel pain for long durations of time, something is definitely wrong. Don’t make the mistake of believing your pain will disappear on its own; listen to your body and make a decision to get the right kind of help.
Once you’ve listened to your body and have understood that you’re injured, it’s time to figure out exactly what type of injury you’ve sustained. Establishing if you’ve pulled, strained, or torn a muscle can, at times, be as difficult as solving a Rubix cube… it can be incredibly challenging. One way to get to the bottom of it all is to analyze the types of activities you’ve done – Crossfit can give rise to different injuries than Yoga may, for example. This is, however, an inexact science, as injuries vary wildly at times. It is one way of trying to pin-point your injury, though. At the end of the day, however, it’s always best to see a professional physical therapist in order to establish the exact cause and forthcoming treatment needed.
Visiting a professional, hands-on physical therapist is by far the safest, fastest, and most effective way of both diagnosing and treating the root cause of your pain. Not only will a physical therapist relieve the discomfort, but will give you the tools to maintain a pain-free life. Tailor-made exercises will accompany treatment that will hone in on your specific injury – all this means that the confusion you’ve experienced is eliminated and that you’re able to get back to the activities you love.
At the end of the day, understanding injuries and pain can be tricky. It may seem impossible to identify either the cause of the pain or its location, but one thing is certain: it cannot be ignored. Listen to your body and make a decision to get the help you need. Take action. Analyze your activities, stop doing those that you think may be detrimental, and get professional help.
If you’re unsure of why you’re in pain, where you’re in pain, or if even if you’ve injured yourself during an activity you love, then we invite you to contact us today. We’re here to help you, and one of our dedicated, professional physical therapists are here to answer any and all questions you might have. Don’t live with the uncertainty of confusing pain any longer – get the answers you need and let us help you get back to the life you deserve: one that is pain-free and mobile. We look forward to chatting and helping you on your path back to health and mobility.
John Salva, PT
"We help people in pain get back to the things they want without relying on surgery or painkillers, even if past treatments have failed."