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Why do things hurt? It’s a complex subject with many layers. When aches and pains occur it often feels like something in the body must be damaged or injured. Muscles feel weak, slight movements hurt, and even basic tasks seem insurmountable. Physical damage certainly occurs in cases of trauma, such as an ankle sprain or a car accident, but it’s important to recognize that pain is complex, multifactorial, and, more often than not, is your nervous system sounding an alarm. It is not necessarily a sign that something is damaged.

The language we use to describe things that hurt is very mechanical in nature. We say that ‘our back is out’, a ‘rib is out of place’, we have ‘a leg length discrepancy’ and all sorts of other ‘syndromes’ that permeate the diagnostic world. The reality is, pain is caused by way more than just mechanical changes in the body. The above mentioned so called ‘conditions’ are rarely the root cause of the pain we feel. It often surprises our clients to hear that the biggest correlate of low back pain is actually mood and stress level. When life becomes stressful or overwhelming, our bodies can hurt. Our lifestyles play an overarching role in our pain experiences.

So, if pain is not always associated with actual tissue damage, what is the best way to manage it? At Revive Physiotherapy, when clients experience ongoing discomfort, seemingly without rhyme or reason, the solution isn’t to send them for an x-ray or MRI, It’s about discussing pain triggers, and using this knowledge to manage them. One way we do this is by encouraging our clients to put together a ‘pain recipe’. No, that doesn’t mean a 10 page scroll down a website with description of spring at grandma’s cottage before you finally get to the recipe and forgot what you were going to make in the first place.

Image describing a recipe
A different kind of painful recipe

The flipside of the pain recipe is the pain relief recipe. Once you have your list of what makes things hurt, you then make a list of what calms things down. When do you feel your best. Is It hiking? Movement? Time with friends and family? Downtime from work? Sleeping in? A quiet read in a café or a park? You can’t always get rid of those triggers that increase your pain, but you can sprinkle in some ingredients from the feel good, calming recipe. When things get overwhelming, check your list of activities that bring you joy, and take action.

Aches and pains happen, injuries happen, life happens, but the more in touch you are with your individual triggers, the more equipped you are to manage, control, and work through flare ups. If you’re dealing with persistent pain that keeps rearing its ugly head, take control! Put together your recipes! identify your triggers, keep an eye on them when they start to pile up, introduce some warm fuzzies, and start getting back to the things you love.