What Type is Your Pain?
By Dr. Mark Wiley
Pain is no joking matter… but neither is it something to describe vaguely.
If I had to name the first reason why some people experience faster pain relief than others, I would say it’s because of “specifics.” By this I mean how specifically one is able to describe their pain or condition to a practitioner—or to themselves.
Challenges for healthcare practitioners and take-charge pain relief seekers arise when non-specific words are used to describe symptoms of their condition. Because the specifics are always what we need. General adjectives like “painful” and “hurting” just don’t give enough insight into what you may actually be suffering. And the type of pain points the way to the type of treatment best used to alleviate it.
For faster results you must come to know your pain by “examining” it. Take some time to “feel” it or “listen” to it or “fully experience” it without a distracted mind. Of course, there are many types and causes of pain and stiffness. To give you a hand, let me describe seven of the most common. I sincerely hope this list will better help you understand your own pain… and thus be better equipped to find a reliable therapy.
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Inflammation: This generally occurs around the joints, and involves stasis (a slowing or stoppage) of fluids (water retention) or reaction to stimuli (sprain or strain). Inflammation can be caused by heat syndromes, blood count changes and fluid deficiencies.
Swelling: This generally occurs around the ankles or wrists, but can also occur on the face or any part of the body. Its symptom is stasis or collection of fluids leading to puffyness. The area may be either hot and reddish or cold and whitish… depending on whether the swelling is due to heat or cold.
Numbness and Tingling: This is caused by a lack of circulation in the body. It will occur when blood flow is deficient either from an external obstruction, or from some anemic or biological blood deficiency. External causes can be from compressed nerves from the spine, from holding a limb in a fixed position too long, or from sleeping on or resting against a limb for an extended period of time.
Heaviness and Stiffness: These are characterized by a dull and nagging sensation in the body. It’s an achy feeling that is made worse by cold and damp weather and when circulation in slow… such as in the morning hours. It mostly affects the joints, neck and back, and is often temporarily relieved by hot showers or baths, where blood is able to circulate better.
Distending and Throbbing Pain: These types of pain are like something is pushing from the inside out. It’s a pressing and exploding pain that tends to beat in tandem with the pulse. It is mostly caused by qi or energy stagnation, wherein energy is moving but going nowhere—except up and down in one location. Thus, you get a fixed pain that throbs and causes distension of an area.
Stabbing Pain: This type of pain is caused either by blood stasis or both qi (energy) and blood stasis (sluggishness). Since blood promotes energy, and energy is the motive force behind blood, stabbing pain generally includes problems with both. Think about a muscle spasm in the neck or shoulders that feel worse on pressure.
Dull Lingering Pain: This type of pain is not so severe, yet it doesn’t seem to go away. Migraine sufferers and sciatica sufferers generally describe a dull pain that lingers after their acute symptoms have subsided. Dull pains tend to become worse with exhaustion and when hunger is present, as the body is weakening and the pain tolerance system is low. Dull pain is cause by a general deficiency of energy and/or blood, such as follows a lingering illness or injury.
I really hope these descriptions of pain types and their general causes will be useful the next time you try to understand your own trouble and need to find a product or program to help it, or when attempting to describe your condition as specifically as possible to your health care provider.
So now it’s up to you. For your own sake, no more vague generalities. Leave those to the poets and the artists!
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Updated: May 12,2011