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The Pain Game: Why do we need pain?

Why do we need pain?

By Spencer Earnest, PT, DPT

Pain is the guidance system of the body. 

It warns of danger and threats to the body. Pain should never be feared or avoided. Though it often is.

Pain is the most feared four letter word in the world.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand pain-why the body sends it, why we need it, and why we should never fear it.

In fact, if I’ve done my job correctly- you will understand pain so well that you’ll never be afraid of pain again.

You’ll become the master of your body and the signals it sends out to you.

A couple of years ago there was a special on TV about a boy that couldn’t feel pain. I’m sure most of you at this time are saying within yourselves- “that would be amazing!”

But for this boy, it proved to be deadly.

The parents of this boy had to do regular check ups from head to toe on a daily basis looking for bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, broken bones, etc. This boy had no protective mechanism for his body. 

No pain meant no warning signals of potential or real harm being done to the body. 

The boy and the family lived in constant fear because he was unable to feel pain.

Think of that?!

Could you ever imagine being scared of not feeling pain?

Or are you, like the many millions of people, constantly trying to have Doctors take away your pain through medications/injections/epidurals/stimulators/nerve ablations/and even surgeries?

Why are you trying to become like the boy that can’t feel pain? 

We should fear not being able to feel pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old example for this. Someone walking across the street breaks their ankle. An injury that would usually be very painful.

But moments after they break their ankle, they notice a truck coming toward them. They no longer care about or feel their ankle, the only thing they can think about is getting out of the road to avoid the bigger threat- the truck! 

While this is easy to understand for most people, the meaning goes deeper.

The way we perceive our injuries and painful body parts plays a vital role in the outpouring of the pain our body sends to us.

The next time you have an injury or notice increased pain say this to yourself: 

“My body is made to get injured and my body is made to heal and recover.” 

And believe it, because it’s true!

Pain does not mean you are broken or there is something wrong with you. Like you-most people in pain think there is something anatomically wrong with them.

Please avoid this “broken” mentality.

It leads to negative thoughts which, fortunately, aren’t true anyway.

You are not broken. But you did create an imbalance of activity vs. recovery, so an issue arose.

When we injure our ankle we are ok with changing our lifestyle around it. When our back or neck hurts we persist in performing the same lifestyle without changing anything.

They are both injuries that need lifestyle modification. 

Some people feel like no matter what they do their pain doesn’t seem to improve. Start to combine all of the things you’ve learned so far. 

Change your mindset.

The body is made to be broken and injured, then it’s made to heal and recover and go back to normal. Believe that. 

Pain is the brain's warning signal to you that what you are doing is harmful or potentially harmful to you.

Try to change that script. When you are performing movements that are within your control, the body is not in danger. You have to believe that. 

With all of that in mind- modify those activities that lead to increased pain. Key word is modify, not stop. If you’re having pain sitting down- adjust your position as often as you have to. 

The human body was made to move, it hates being in the same position for a long period of time.

The best chance our body has at remaining in a single position for a long period of time is when we are completely relaxed, i.e. asleep. And even then, we often will move and adjust our position while we sleep- confirming this principle. 

If you’re experiencing increased pain with movements/activities/exercises- modify them. Perform them with less resistance/less motion/or no motion at all. Isometric exercises are a great way to begin activating those areas of pain without increasing the pain. 

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

This is one of a three part series about pain from Spencer. Part 2 and 3 coming next week. 

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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