Pain, often recognized as the “5th vital sign,” is highly individualized, complex, and can presents itself in a variety of ways.1  The ways in which pain presents itself include its severity, location, and duration.  Pain is one of the primary reasons patients present to physical therapy, which is why it is important to not only consider it, but have an understanding of it—your physical therapist will assist you in better understanding your pain.2  A pain science researcher, Moseley, provides a conceptual image of pain and defines it as a, “…multiple system output that is activated by an individual-specific pain neuromatrix; that the pain neuromatrix is activated whenever the brain concludes that body tissue is in danger and action is required…”3  Pain is something that nearly everyone has experienced as it is essential to life.  It is a “normal” response, but when pain persists it can instill fear in a person’s life, interfere with activities of daily living (ADL’s), and become a debilitating problem.

Overall persistent pain has known to have an involvement with of various systems in the body including physical and psychological, not to mention: sensory, proprioceptive, muscular, fight or flight alarm, as well as rest and digest systems.4  Additionally, fear in conjunction with an increase in pain can lead to overprotective behaviors that can potentially increase the painful-disabling problem.5  Psychological factors such as stressful life events, along with inadequate coping mechanisms have been shown to influence the development or severity of symptoms in such conditions as persistent pain.6  Due to these factors, it is important to consider contacting your physical therapist as we will create a holistic therapeutic approach that assesses your pain and individual issues as a whole and with this information we can assist you in reducing the painful threat and help you to get moving safely.

Physical therapists are movement and pain specialists and more than willing to listen and help you.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a statement highlighting the benefits of physical therapy, please investigate for yourself:

  1. Lorenz KA, Sherbourne CD, Shugarman LR, et al. 2009
  2. Priganc VW, Stralka SW. 2011.
  3. Moseley GL. 2003.
  4. Jänig W, Baron R. 2003.
  5. de Jong JR, et al. 2005.
  6. Raja SN, Grabow TS. 2009.

Written by: Todd Hodenfield, PT, DPT, OCS