Pain is an unfortunate fact of life. People experience pain when they are ill or suffer from an injury. Pain is a warning that there is something wrong. It serves to discourage us from doing things that are likely to cause damage and it makes us want to rest when we are ill. Pain is not enjoyable, but it is important. Understanding the causes of pain is useful for keeping us in tune with our bodies.
There are many causes of pain. Let’s take a look at ten unexpected causes of pain, and what we can do about them.
Were you jealous of the people at school who liked to show off being double-jointed? That jealousy may have been misplaced. Many people who are double jointed are at greater risk of joint dislocations, pain, and stiffness.1 It’s not all fun!
Inflammatory diseases such as arthritis can be quite painful and distressing to cope with. Inflammation is a broad and general response which can be good in certain circumstances, but which has a role to play in chronic pain as well.2 Many people cope with inflammatory-related pain by changing their diets or by using essential oils that contain cinnamon and turmeric (found in the Healthy blend) to reduce the inflammatory response.
Doctors are not entirely sure what causes cramps. It is known that people are more likely to get them if they are dehydrated while exercising and that people who are taking certain medications are more likely to cramp as well. If cramp strikes, the best thing to do is stretch the affected muscle, and drink some water.
Trapped nerves are a common problem. Most people will know someone who has had the “pinched nerve” that causes pain and tingling, but there are other types of nerve entrapment which are less obvious and less well-known. Peripheral neuropathy is a form of nerve entrapment which can cause general “pain,” but without an obvious cause. It is frequently associated with diabetes, lymphoma and other conditions.3
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Often, people who are suffering from peripheral neuropathy struggle to get a diagnosis because the pain is not obviously “nerve-related.”
If you are diabetic, be sure to keep up with your check-ups, follow a healthy diet, and take any medication you are prescribed, because peripheral neuropathy can lead to serious complications if not managed correctly.
Rebound headaches are a common issue. People who take painkillers for prolonged periods and then try to stop taking the painkillers may find that they suffer from a “rebound headache” when they stop.4 This is not the same as medication withdrawal, but it is a sign of medication misuse. So, next time you’re getting a bit of a stress headache, try to relax with a Happy diffuser or a breath of Zen before you reach for some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Do your bit to fight against medication overuse.
Claudication is the medical term for impaired blood flow. Claudication pain is often experienced in the legs during exercise and can be a warning sign of a more serious condition. If you are suffering from pain in your lower legs, thighs or buttocks that starts when walking, then goes away when you rest, seek advice from a doctor.5
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome is a little understood form of pain which can sometimes occur after an injury. It is thought to be related to damage to the peripheral and central nervous system or a “malfunction” of the nerves after an injury. Sometimes, it will go away on its own but in other cases, it can persist and be quite debilitating.6
Being deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, in particular, vitamin D and magnesium can contribute to pain or at the very least the perception of it. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with aches and fatigue and with a lower pain threshold.7
Studies show that supplementing vitamin D can provide some pain relief for those who are deficient in it. Unfortunately, supplementation does not help those who are already getting adequate levels of the nutrient.
Some people become more sensitive to pain after they have been in pain for a while. Effectively, chronic pain can make other things feel more painful.8 People who suffer from chronic pain are often advised to find ways of reducing their stress levels and practicing self-care to manage the pain, to avoid a spiral where their pain affects their quality of life, which sensitizes them to more pain, and so on.
One mantra that physiotherapists often repeat is that the site of the pain is not always the source of the pain. A bad shoulder could actually be caused by pain in the neck, for example. Back pain can be caused by tight hamstrings. This is part of the reason why medical professionals don’t like to diagnose people online. It is important to see the patient, be able to feel for tension and look for bruises or swelling, to watch them move, and to ask them detailed questions about their medical histories.
Pain that is caused by one thing but felt in another area of the body is known as referred pain. In some cases, pain referral is quite predictable. For example, one of the first signs of a heart attack is a pain in the jaw.9 Doctors are trained to recognize when a particular symptom could be a warning sign of an unrelated issue. This is another reason why someone who is experiencing sudden and unexplained pain of any kind should seek medical advice.
Pain is not pleasant, but it is a useful function of the body. With the right strategies to ease pain and to reduce it, you can take the feedback that your body is giving you and manage pain successfully, looking after yourself and maintaining a good quality of life in the long term.
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