Pain ≠ Injury 🤯

As it’s currently defined, pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with or resembling that associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” (Source: IASP)

In other words, pain is a protective output from your brain. It occurs when your brain determines that —based on the information it receives from your body about pressure, temperature, changes in position, and internal chemistry — there is some need for protection due to some perceived threat or potential threat.

That’s a lot to unpack but we now know that pain is the product of many layers of physiological and emotional processing, it relies heavily on context, and it does not mean there is an injury to the area that hurts.

Yes, sometimes pain indicates injury … but not always. In fact, during times of persistent stress and tension, pain without injury is quite common.

Because pain happens in the nervous system, it can be influenced by persistent or intense stress, inadequate sleep, emotional responses, past experiences, and any other factor that affects your nervous system.

So if pain occurs in response to the brain’s interpretation of sensation, what happens when we change the sensation experienced?

Try these two self-massage techniques on one side of your body then sit still for a minute or two and see what you notice. What’s different about the two sides of your body? Do you notice any changes in temperature or pressure? Does one side feel bigger or fuller than the other? Maybe you notice something you can’t even put into words?

Jenn Pilotti and I recently collaborated to lead a virtual workshop to dive deeper into how sensation, movement, and relaxation can improve function and alter the experience of pain in the upper body – from the neck to the fingers. The full recording is available here.

It’s perfect if you’ve been experiencing issues in your upper body or if you’re a movement teacher who works with people who do. CEUs available for YA and NASM.