Pain: 10 Things You Should Know (The Ultimate Guide)
35 min read
Whether you’ve tripped over a rogue step, overdone it at the gym, or felt a twinge in your back after a day spent hunched over your desk, it’s likely that you’ve experienced mild ache or pain at some point or another.
Regardless of the cause, aches and pains may be enough to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to your daily routine, not to mention your sleep and exercise regime.
Keep reading to discover some of the different types of pain, how you may prevent injury as well as the importance of exercise, sleep and stress relief. Alternatively, use the following links to jump to the information you’re looking for.
Caused by an array of different factors and spanning a range of symptoms, there are many different types of pain.
From a bruised knee to aching muscles and joints, not all pain is created equal.
If you experience any kind of pain, make an appointment to see a suitably qualified health professional. They will be able to assess your symptoms and provide a correct diagnosis.
Some of the common types of mild pain that you may wish to discuss when them include:
Thanks to its diverse and complex nature, the lower back may be prone to increased risk of injury or pain. In fact, did you know it’s estimated that 70-90% of Australians will experience lower back pain at some point (2)?
If you experience any of these symptoms, book an appointment to discuss them with your local health professional.
Lower back pain may be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from the normal aging process through to a sports injury, sprain or strain.
However, there are two main categories of lower back pain: acute and chronic. As the names suggest, acute back pain is normally short lived, whereas chronic back pain is characterised by symptoms that last over 12 weeks (1).
If you have any concerns about your back pain, it’s important to visit a suitably qualified health professional. It’s also important to note that chronic back pain must be diagnosed by a doctor, who may also be able to determine the cause and offer tailored advice based on your symptoms (3).
At its most basic, a sprain is an injury that occurs when one of your ligaments is stretched or torn (6).
Ligaments are bands of connective tissue that attach our bones at the joint. They are tough but flexible and provide support to joints, limiting their movement and increasing stability.
A sprain usually occurs when the joint is pushed further than its normal range of motion, overstretching or tearing the ligament that supports it. Falling on or twisting the joint are two common contributors to sprains.
Although any joint may experience a sprain, they usually affect the ankles, knees, thumbs, and wrists (6).
Of course, if your symptoms persist, worsen or change, it’s important to book an appointment with your doctor.
Commonly referred to as a ‘pulled muscle’, a strain occurs when our muscles are overstretched or torn. Often, this is the result of strenuous of high-speed activities such as sport.
Although they may affect any muscle in the body, it’s most common to experience a strain in the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, back, or groin (6).
A strain’s symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the number of muscle fibres torn and the severity of the injury.
If you have any concerns about your strain, talk to a suitably qualified health professional who will be able to address your individual needs. You may find it useful to note the following common symptoms and discuss them during your consultation:
Although most people associated strains with sporting activities, they may also be caused over time by poor posture. This is known as postural fatigue and may occur in the back, shoulders, or neck muscles.
Whether you fell off the playground as a youngster or bumped into a door at some point or another, chances are you’ve experienced bruising. But what is it?
Bruising occurs when a forceful blow or bump (like those mentioned above) damages our blood vessels and causes us to bleed under the skin (4).
Usually bruises will heal on their own, however if your symptoms persist or worsen, make an appointment with your GP.
Often, when a bruise first appears, it will be red in colour before progressing to a blue or black tinge. During the healing process, this usually fades to a pale green or yellow hue.
These colour changes are the result of the body breaking down and clearing out the damaged blood cells (4-6).
Our joints are the parts of the body where our bones meet. They’re made of cartilage: a strong, fibrous and elastic connective tissue that allows our bones to glide over each other with minimal friction.
When our cartilage is healthy this allows easy movement. But, injuries or normal wear and tear may damage the cartilage and result in mild joint pain. Sprains, overuse and inflammation may all contribute to this (9).
You might experience mild pain in any of your joints, but it’s most common to experience this in the shoulders, hips, knees and elbows (9).
If you have any concerns about your mild joint pain, talk to your health professional.
You may find it useful to keep an eye out for the following symptoms and discuss them with your doctor:
If your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They will be able to assess your symptoms and provide individual advice that’s adapted to suit you.
When it comes to joint pain and joint disease, arthritis is often used as a broad, catch-all term.
But, there are over 100 different types of medically diagnosed arthritis and associated joint conditions (10), so it’s important to get an official diagnosis from a doctor.
The symptoms associated with medically diagnosed arthritis may range from mild to severe. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing arthritis, make an appointment to discuss your symptoms with a doctor. Common symptoms to pay attention to include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek the advice of a suitably qualified health professional. They will be able to assess your individual condition and provide a suitable diagnosis as well as offer tailored management options.
When it comes to pain, strains and sprains are often confused. Although they may sound similar, there are some key differences when it comes to these two common injuries.
Put simply, strains affect our muscles whereas sprains affect our ligaments (the tissue that connects our bones at the joint).
If you’ve strained a muscle, you might experience muscle tightness, muscle weakness, bruising and a reduced ability to fully stretch the injured muscle.
In contrast, if you experience swelling, restricted range of motion, bruising and the reduced ability to bear weight, you may have a sprain.
Preventable pain is often associated with injuries (such as strains and sprains) that may occur when we suddenly increase our physical activity levels (11-12).
There are some things you may do to help prevent these injuries, such as:
If you have any concerns about your exercise regime, a physiotherapist may help you to develop an appropriate routine for your fitness level.
If you overdo it while exercising, experience a small fall, or bump into something, you may experience a mild soft tissue injury such as a strain, sprain, or bruise.
If you have any concerns about your injury, seek the advice of a health professional as soon as possible.
However, if your symptoms are mild, there are two main methods to keep in mind during the first 48-82 hours after a soft tissue injury. These are commonly known by their acronyms: ‘RICER’ and ‘Avoid HARM’.
RICER stands for rest, ice, compress, elevate and refer to a health professional:
HARM refers to things that should be avoided while experiencing a soft tissue injury:
Periods of stress are a normal part of our busy lifestyles. After all, juggling work, family, financial, social and personal commitments isn’t always a breeze.
But have you ever wondered how this stress may manifest in the body?
You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response. It triggers the body to enter survival mode when we encounter stressful, potentially life-threatening situations.
Unfortunately, our bodies might not always distinguish dangerous situations from normal day-to-day stress and may activate ‘flight or fight’ unnecessarily.
This response happens very quickly. In fact, its so quick that we’re often unaware of the changes that are happening inside our body in response to stress.
One of the physical manifestations of a prolonged ‘flight or fight’ response may be inflammation. Ordinarily, inflammation is a normal part of the body’s healing process and is one part of the immune system’s response to cuts and scrapes as well as foreign bugs and germs.
However, when the longer the body remains in ‘flight or fight’ mode, the more damaging inflammation may become. This may lead to inflammatory chemicals starting to attack the body itself.
One example of this is inflammatory joint pain, where the joint tissues are attacked by inflammatory chemicals and may lead to pain, inflammation and swelling (15-22).
If you have any concerns about your mental health, a suitably qualified health professional will be able to provide tailored advice for how to manage your stress.
You may also find it useful to integrate the following practices into your day-to-day routine:
Do you want to learn more about how stress may affect the body? You can find more information and tips here.
If you have any concerns about your mental health or stress levels, talk to your health professional. For additional support or advice, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Although it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re experiencing pain, what we eat plays an important role in maintaining many aspects of our health and wellbeing.
In relation to pain management, a healthy diet may help to reduce inflammation as well as provide the nutrients needed to support joint and muscle health, and support the healing process of injured tissues.
Importantly, a healthy lifestyle that includes both a balanced diet and regular exercise helps us to maintain a healthy weight, which may reduce the pressure on our joints.
Nutrients that may help to support pain management are divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients (23-25).
As the name suggests, macronutrients are the nutrients that our bodies require in large amounts. They include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Fats have an interesting relationship with controlling inflammation within the body. While pro-inflammatory fats (such as those found in greasy and processed foods) may increase inflammation in the body, anti-inflammatory fats may reduce inflammation.
It’s also important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, as they are sources of anti-inflammatory compounds known as antioxidants.
On the other hand, micronutrients are nutrients that the body requires in smaller amounts. Although there is less demand for these nutrients, they are equally important for maintaining optimal health. All vitamins and minerals are micronutrients.
In particular, ensuring you maintain adequate levels of these nutrients may help support your bones, joints and muscles:
If you have any concerned about your diet, talk to a suitably qualified health professional. They will assess your individual nutritional needs and may provide an appropriate meal plan accordingly.
Sleep is important for maintaining our health and wellbeing. While we’re asleep, important bodily functions take place, including those that help the body to physically recover and repair (32).
Inadequate sleep may also contribute to inflammation within the body, so it’s important to ensure we’re getting our 40 winks.
But, the catch 22 may be that many of us find it more difficult to get comfortable and doze off to sleep when we’re experiencing sore muscles or stiff joints.
These general tips may help you to drift off to the land of the nod. However, if you experience prolonged or severe pain, it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified health professional (26-30).
Establishing good sleep hygiene habits as part of your night-time routine may help to support a restful night’s sleep. This includes:
If possible, investing in a quality mattress may be beneficial for supporting sleep with joint and muscle pain.
Firm mattresses are ideal as they are better equipped to support your body weight and keep the body in alignment.
Overly soft mattresses may be problematic, allowing the body to sink in too deeply without adequate support. This may put increased pressure on the joints or cause the body to favour a sleeping position that twists the joints unnecessarily during the night.
If you wake up sore after a night of restless sleep, your mattress might not always be to blame. Our sleeping positions also have a role to play in getting a good night’s sleep.
Although there isn’t a particular position that takes the cake when it comes to pain management, there are some general tips that may help to support your body while you’re asleep:
Remember, if you have any concerns about your pain or your sleep, a visit your doctor is the best way to get a correct diagnosis and tailored management options.
Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only may regular physical activity help us to maintain a healthy weight, it also contributes to improving and maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, joint mobility, posture, and balance.
Exercise may also reduce stress, support sleep and relieve muscle tension, all of which may support the body in recovery and repair.
However, before you begin any new exercise routine, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about the best exercises for you. Discuss incorporating a mix of flexibility, strength training and cardio activities with them, as this is generally considered the most beneficial and well-rounded approach (32).
To help reduce the risk of injury, it’s best to start a new exercise routine slowly and build up the intensity gradually.
If you’re new to exercise or have recently recovered from an injury, it may be beneficial to engage in low-impact exercise. Some examples of low-impact activities include:
If you experience pain during any of these activities, it is best to stop and talk to your doctor or physiotherapist.
If you wish to exercise with mild joint or muscle pain, your first point of call must be a doctor or physiotherapist to develop an exercise routine that’s tailored to your individual needs.
Once they have established a suitable regime for you, some other general tips to keep in mind are:
Stop all activity if you experience any pain while exercising and seek the advice of a health professional.
Often simply referred to as ‘Arnica’, Arnica montana is a flowering mountain herb that’s native to the mountains of central Europe.
Arnica is one of the best-known homeopathic remedies and there are many ways to use it.
In homeopathic medicine, it may be used externally in the form of creams and gels or taken internally in the form of tablets, pilules or an oral spray.
Importantly, Arnica may only be used as a homeopathic medicine when taken internally, as herbal preparations of Arnica are toxic to the human body. When taken as an internal homeopathic medicine, Arnica is traditionally used to reduce bruising, swelling and support recovery after local trauma.
Homeopathic Arnica may be used after surgery when taken internally in the form of tablets, pilules or an oral spray, as it is traditionally used to help relieve bruising and inflammation. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any medicines you wish to use before or after surgery.
When applied externally as a cream or gel, Arnica is traditionally used in homeopathic medicine to relieve joint inflammation and swelling, support bruise healing, and reduce muscle pain, strain and soreness (33-34).
The information provided in reference to this ingredient is general in nature and provided as information only. Any product specific therapeutic claims for this ingredient are linked to specific dosage requirements based on evidence of traditional or scientific nature.
There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to managing mild pain, including:
Every now and then life’s wear and tear, overdoing it at the gym, or an accidental bump may lead to mild pain. And, although it may be an uncomfortable or irritating experience, it’s important to remember than many soft tissue injuries are short-lived.
However, if you have any concerns about your pain or if your symptoms persist, worsen or change unexpectedly, make an important to see your doctor.
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