The musculoskeletal system is the most common source of pain. Bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints can all be sources of pain. Pain is a complex physiological and psychological process. In most cases, it is the body’s response to danger. No matter how you become injured, the body experiences pain, which results in protection of the injured tissue and forces attention to the injury. Most cases of acute pain following injury resolve over 6-12 weeks as the damaged tissues heal. Pain can also result from overuse injury of tissues, chronic poor posture (such as back pain) or disease states like arthritis, fibromyalgia or cancer.
In some cases, pain persists beyond the healing phase and a chronic pain state evolves. Pain no longer serves the purpose of protecting the injury and can create a vicious cycle of immobility, stiffness, weakness and disability. On-going pain like this is the world’s most costly health concern. It results in large health care costs, loss of work, disability payments and so on. Persistent pain also has a large social cost with those affected losing confidence, unable to work, often depressed and puts enormous stress on family relationships. Unhelpful treatments can even result in complications and worsening of the pain state.
Acute pain from injury and overuse relates to the particular tissues involved. For more information on overuse injury click here
Pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis is located to the involved joint. There are also other forms of arthritis that are inflammatory, and have features like multiple swollen joints, morning stiffness and may be associated with problems in skin, eyes, gut and other bodily systems. There may be a family history of these conditions, which are usually managed by a specialist Rheumatologist with medication and exercise. Fibromyalgia is a condition of pain in multiple musculoskeletal tissues that is not associated with direct tissue damage.
The nature of pain varies widely according to its cause.
Pain from acute injury relates to both the injured tissue and the inflammatory response to the injury:
- Pain with movement
- Throbbing sensation
- Associated with redness and swelling from inflammation
- Pain localised to the injured area
Pain from overuse varies with the tissues involved eg. tendon, bone stress fractures.
Pain that has become persistent has the following features:
- Burning quality
- Out of proportion with the injury
- Spreading in location
- Aggravated with minimal activity
- Associated with tingling, flushing, odd feelings
- Related to certain circumstances, feelings of stress or fear.
Treatment of pain varies with its cause. Most cases resolve naturally over a short period of time.
Pain can be treated with:
- Gentle movement
- Relative rest from irritating movements
Treatment of persistent pain may also include:
- Relaxation techniques
- Physiotherapy/exercise programs
- Sophisticated brain re-wiring techniques
Our Sports and Exercise Medicine Physicians are expertly placed to determine the cause of your pain, arrange any investigations that may be helpful and create a management plan.