Phantom Pain

This is a common phenomenon for people who are new to exercising, and its not often talked about.

People will experience specific pain in a muscle or joint, but they are not injured, the pain is usually mild, & it often goes away with time.

Why does this happen?

Here is a big idea to ponder:

Pain is an output of the Brain. It is a 100% brain generated experience.

We often associate pain as a natural response to something being “damaged”, but weirdly enough this is not what pain is.

The brain has the ability to completely override the pain experience, & pain itself is not reliable.

You can experience trauma without pain, & experience pain with no real trauma.

You can also experience “pain” that is WORSE than the cause, the pain itself becomes the problem.

Pain is NOT objective.

How you experience pain is influenced by your personal/cultural/conceptual/psychological expectations about pain.

What is Pain?

You can condition someone to be resistant to pain by telling them they are tough and have a high pain tolerance, and what they are doing wont hurt

You can also do the opposite, and make them highly susceptible 

Pain demands an explanation though. People always want answers as to WHY something hurts.

“I dont know” is frustrating. It has to be SOMETHING

This demand for explanation leads to a lot of theorizing. We have a preference for linear cause and effect…. 

And we bias towards physical/kinetic/mechanical explanations

-Your back hurts because this muscle is damaged

-Your elbow hurts because this tendon is strained

Simple explanations, and often pain is physical and based within specific tissue(s)

But sometimes its NOT 

This take me to the “phantom pain” phenomenon.

I noticed when I first began training clients years ago, I could heavily influence their perceived soreness/pain expectations by simply telling them that DOMS was not a big deal, it would go away, it meant they were getting stronger.

This mental reassurance changed their attitudes toward the training experience.

I realized many people view themselves as being fragile, and pain is catastrophic signal that something must be WRONG.

Most people don’t think of themselves as being physically tough, its uncommon.

Phantom Pain is theorized to be the brain basically misbehaving and creating a pain sensation where the is no trauma

@CombatTherapist correctly suggested Central Sensitization.

Your nervous system/brain has gotten new stimulus/information, and is not sure what to do with it

Phantom pain generally happens with Novice individuals.

People who are athletes and have trained physically for long periods of time, they generally have a much more accurate perception of pain. Their brains 3D body map is more data rich and wired than a noob.

This said, telling someone “nothing is wrong, your brain made it up” is not particularly helpful.

Language is mental programming.

The pain you are experiencing is a normal experience, your body is learning how to heal, it will likely go away in a few days

That is helpful. 

Pain science is fascinating.
All credit goes to @PainSci , the Painscience.com blog is invaluable, highly recommend reading.

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