When it comes to persistent pain, there are 3 types of people in this world.
The first type of person is the one that has the mantra 'no pain, no gain' even when they are, quite obviously, injured. For these people they experience pain initially like everyone else but instead of listening to the warning they choose to ignore it (remember that pain is caused by a 'perceived' threat in the brain not necessarily an injury).
They are the perfectionists, the high achievers, the ones who feel that they have to carry on no matter what. Some are even so focused on their goal that they up the intensity. As they do, they flare up (Another warning sign and again not necessarily due to injury). So do they stop here? Do they hell. They strap up and dose up. No pain no gain right? It is only when they end up actually damaging the body tissues do they crash and end up being out of action for weeks or even months (And NOW they are really injured after ignoring the warnings!).
When this happens, the body's danger sensors become even more sensitive. As does the brain. This means that the warnings will start at a lower activity next time. What was once easy to do now causes pain because the sensors are more active. And when this happens, activity decreases.
The second type of person is one that has a huge fear of pain or getting reinjured. For these people they experience pain initially like everyone else. But panic that they must be doing damage if there is pain. They then rest for a couple of days waiting for the pain to go.
These are the passive copers. They avoid and do nothing all the while worrying about what is happening to them, afraid it may be something terrible that will impact their lives and who they are as a person.
As they experience pain, they do less to avoid it and their activity levels decrease over time. This means that their body tissues become weaker, their danger sensors become extremely sensitive so even small movements cause pain.
And finally there are those people in between the two, who have a respect for and understanding of pain. They are in tune with their own body, respect and listen to it.
They understand that pain is a perceived threat by the brain and that when they are hurting it doesn't necessarily mean they are hurting themselves (in the cases of chronic/ persistent pain). They understand that if pain has persisted for longer than the tissues take to heal then the increase in pain does not necessarily mean that they are sustaining new damage.
They know that if they have recurrent pain (Sometimes for many years) then each recurrence does not necessarily mean that they have reinjured that muscle, joint, ligament or nerve. They understand that these recurrent pains are often the nervous system trying to protect them.
They understand that if they progress slowly then it will be impossible to reinjure the tissues because it will hurt too much to even get close.
These people are patient and persistent. They don’t have a fear of pain, nor do they believe that "No pain no gain" is the way to go.
They know not to cause their body to flare up but they don’t freak out if they do either. They just know that their flare up is their body's way of telling them that they have progressed too quickly. They don't stress out or give themselves a hard time. They are patient and persistent with their recovery. They understand pain and their body. They don't ignore it or try and find a quick fix.
So who are you now? Who do you want to be?
It's my aim with my clients to get them to become the third person by giving them the knowledge of what the hell is going on. And just by understanding pain can we reduce the threat value and ultimately affect how the brain perceives a situation. Remember, it is only a brain that perceives it is in danger that will produce pain.