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The Pain Game: Effects of short term pain relievers

The Effects of Short Term Pain Relievers

By Spencer Earnest, PT, DPT

This article is a continuation from last weeks blog post: "why do we need pain?" to read click here.

We just briefly learned why the ability to not feel pain could be costly, even deadly. But most of you are most likely thinking “it’s only in this one spot that I don’t want the pain. Not my entire body.”

Lets go over the effects of taking away pain through the many treatments offered in the world today. Most of these treatments are very short term pain relievers, if they give you pain relief at all. During this time of relief, or pain “masking,” the body has lost one of its best protective sources.

While you are feeling great and like you can take on the world-you have become, in a very real sense, like the boy who can’t feel pain. Although for you, it is only in one area of your body. During this time you live a great life and do all the activities and errands you’ve been dying to get done but have been in too much pain to get them done.

Just as life seems to be back to “normal,” the pain comes back.

Perhaps this time, the pain comes back, and even comes back worse, due to overloading those sensitive tissues

- without the protective guidance of pain signals being sent to modify your activity levels.

Was it worth it? Most people say that it is. Most people would take the days-weeks-months of no pain even while knowing it wouldn’t be permanent.

Is that really what we’ve become?

It’s 2020, have we really not learned enough about pain that we have to succumb to temporary pain-relieving treatments time and time again. Don’t let this happen to you.

Take back your body.

If you are seeing medical doctors or therapists that continue to “treat” your pain rather than helping you overcome and learn about the source of your pain, go to someone else. It is said that MD’s bring out the prescription pad within 30 seconds of interacting with their patients.

Let that sink in. They don’t care about helping you overcome your pain and teaching you successful strategies in modifying your day to day routine that will lead to long term outcomes.

But can you blame them?

Haven’t we done this to them? To ourselves? We are the patients and we are the ones wanting “results” now.

This mentality has led our medical doctors to provide the type of care they currently give.

“Now” care. “Get rid of my pain now. If you can’t, then you must not be very good at your job and I’ll go to someone that is.”

What!?!?! We did this to ourselves.

“Now” care leads to Doctors suggesting you should no longer do that sport/activity/hobby anymore because it keeps leading to pain. I’m sure you’ve been told this by someone: Stop doing those things and you’ll be good. Stopping the activities you enjoy is not the answer. Modifying them is.

Find a PT to help you develop a plan to modify the activities you enjoy doing.

You can call us at 702-564-6712 or click here to see a list of our locations.

But, how do I return to normal?

As humans, we have a very important superpower. Our body has the ability to adapt to the loads we give it.

I’m sure you’ve noticed this in your life. As you begin a new routine/job/hobby those first couple days or weeks are pretty brutal. But as your body adapts to the workload you give it, the days become easier to tolerate, over time.

This principle also works in reverse, unfortunately.

As we lessen or stop giving our body a workload, it adapts. It adapts by becoming weak and tight. I can picture the body talking to itself during these processes. “Alright guys, we haven’t been called upon to move in a while, you guys go weak, you guys go tight.”

And the opposite- “Whoa! Alright guys our host just used us again, we better get ready just in case he does it again. So you guys need to rest and recover and build back up to be more capable of further activity and you guys need to lengthen a bit in case he pushes us further next time.”

I love picturing this and think it helps us understand the adaptation process our body undertakes. The body is amazing and adaptable. It does have a difficult time with roller coasters though. I think you know what I’m referring to. The pattern of doing nothing for days/weeks then doing everything in one day. And this process is often repeated for weeks/months/years.

The persistent imbalance of activity vs recovery takes a toll. Leading to increased weakness and tightness of those areas, if not the entire body.

This is part 2 of a 3 part series about pain from Spencer. Part 3 coming later this week: The Pain Game: Activity vs Recovery 

Reach out to a physical therapist to help with gentle ways to increase your activity level without increasing your pain.


Spencer Earnest works at Optimal Therapy an Affiliated Company on Paseo Verde.

The address is 1358 Paseo Verde Pkwy #200 Henderson, NV, 89012

To schedule an appointment call 702-564-6712 or click here to see a list of our locations.

Spencer Earnest was born and raised in Laguna Niguel, California, spending his time playing  sports and hanging out with his nine older siblings.

  Spencer earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Utah Valley University and went on to get his Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Touro 

University, Nevada. He has a passion for physical therapy and helping his patients achieve their functional and rehabilitational goals.

  Spencer describes himself as being married to the most wonderful girl in the world and they have three amazing children. He loves spending time with his family and playing any and all sports. 

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