Published on May 24, 2022

Understanding Your Pain

Knee Pain

Did you know that pain is 100% produced by the brain? When tissues are injured, they send 'danger messages' to the brain, meaning that pain is based on the brain's perception of a threat. The brain evaluates the danger or threat and decides if pain needs to be produced. 

Think about it this way: Spraining your ankle hurts. However, if you are crossing the road and a bus is coming, your brain will determine that the bus hitting you is a bigger, life-threatening event, which leads to the brain not producing pain in your ankle momentarily, allowing you to get across the street safely.

While it may feel similar, soreness after physical therapy, exercise or other activity is different than pain. Soreness is a way for your body to tell you that you're moving. It occurs more frequently with eccentric movements, when muscles are lengthened while being contracted, like when you are walking down a flight of stairs. 

When your muscles are worked harder or in a different way, it is believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, potentially leading to delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is a normal response and usually occurs six to eight hours after a new activity or change in activity occurs in the body. DOMS can cause swelling in your joints, stiffness, tenderness and a temporary reduction in muscle strength, in addition to soreness. 

To reduce soreness and DOMS, it's better to pace yourself, progressing slowly in a new program or change in a program. Pay attention to your body's warning signs. If you're feeling pain after 10 to 15 minutes of light exercise, it's time to stop. 

To prevent or reduce pain, consider the following:

  • Education - Learning reasons why you hurt and understanding that pain is a normal bodily response will aid in lessening your overall perception of a threat and calm any extra-sensitive nervous system responses
  • Exercise - Blood and oxygen calm the nerves. A brisk walk four to five times a week for 20 to 30 minutes is plenty to aid in reducing your pain
  • Medication - Extra-sensitive nervous systems sometimes need to be address before an exercise or therapy program can be tolerated. Talk to your health care provider to determine what's appropriate for you
  • Sleep - Sleeping longer decreases pain sensitivity in the body. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night

Curtis Romp, D.P.T., is a physical therapist who sees patients at Midland Professional Suites, located at 555. W. Wackerly Street, Suite 2600, in Midland. Curtis is a certified brain injury specialist and specializes in LSVT BIG therapy, neuro-rehabilitation, McKenzie and orthopedics. To make an appointment, call the office at (989) 832-5913. To learn more, visit www.mymichigan.org/rehab.