Pain is both a blessing and a curse. It provides an absolutely essential role in ensuring our survival. However, when the processes that control pain become disregulated, it can be the source of the most intense suffering a human can experience. Pain itself is not the problem, but once it transitions to chronic pain, it becomes no longer useful. Check out the video below to better understand chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be a result of a many things. It can be caused by poor mechanics (aka musculoskeletal pain), traumatic injury, or pathology. While the vast majority of chronic pain is musculoskeletal or caused by a traumatic event, it is essential to understand the tell tale signs that point to pathological pain.
Recently in school, during our hematology week, we learned about a bone cancer called multiple myeloma. One of the classic ways it presents is with the patient coming into the clinic complaining of back pain that is not responding to physio/massage/acupuncture etc.
The point in sharing this clinical pearl is not to petrify you and have you think it will be bone cancer anytime you experience pain. I shared this clinical gem to help you understand that one of the many early signs of serious pathology in the human body can seem to mimic musculoskeletal pain. However, pain caused by serious illness versus a mechanical problem usually is accompanied with other more worrying symptoms. These include: unaccounted weight loss or gain, change in bladder or bowel function, or new night sweats, dizziness, fever, vomiting, or nausea. Pain accompanied by any of these symptoms means that you should visit a licensed physician ASAP.
I have any athlete that I work with see a doctor about their pain before I Be Activate them. As one of my clinical preceptors taught me, even if a diagnosis is unlikely (ex. bone cancer causing back pain), if the consequences of missing that diagnosis is dire, it is essential you do due diligence in ruling it out. This does NOT always mean do imaging or more tests. However, the take home message is that if you are in doubt, see a doctor!
I am a huge advocate for establishing a paradigm of self responsibility in the health care system. Yet, this does not mean being a "hero" and not seeking out any help if you need it. It does not make you weak or mean you are to blame if you need help in any way from a health care practitioner. But when we do interact with the healthcare system, we should aim to take an active role in the process. It is our health at the end of the day. Without our health nothing else works.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.