The 5 Types Of Pain – Part 1

The 5 Types Of Pain - Part 1

Back Pain

Biomechanical Pain 

Prefer to listen? Podcast 1 :

As you are probably aware, there is more than one type of musculoskeletal pain.

Learning which you have is a vital step towards healing. Drawing out these distinctions can even be a make or break issue.

If you have a pain that only requires a quick fix, understanding it yourself is not so important. Getting a filling is a good example of this – it only requires that you open your mouth wide and be brave for half an hour or so.

Resolving a stubborn pain is like wanting to go from chronically unfit to consistently fit though. Professional help and support is needed along the way, but all fitness journeys also require learning. If you want resolution of your stubborn pain – this principle of learning must be obeyed.

Permanently resolving your pain will take more Irish luck than you most likely possess – if you aren’t sure what type it is.

Luckily, most people find that various pain types can be easily understood when they are clearly explained. Some pains do however take a little more explanation than others – because they are conceptually less familiar to us.

If you have stubborn pain in a muscle, joint, nerve or your soft tissues – it’s highly likely to be biomechanical pain.

Biomechanical pain is caused by factors relating to movement and posture.

If you understand the repetitive strain concept, you already know exactly what biomechanical pain is.

Biomechanical pain is caused by repetition of movements or positions that your body doesn’t like. It is pain that develops over time.

Your body can do a huge amount of work.

Partly because it’s tough, and partly through endless repair and regeneration.

But your body also has limits that must be respected. Biomechanical pain is your body letting you know these limits are being exceeded.

Biomechanical pain can be caused by too much movement (overuse) – by not enough movement (immobility) – or by faulty movement (inefficiency).

Specific causes of biomechanical pain include

– poor postural habits

– repetitive work tasks

– being a couch potato

– old unrehabilitated injuries

– flat feet

– high arches

– being heavy-footed

– overtraining – undertraining

– bad training habits

– occupational overuse

– wrong footwear

– strange walking habits

– strange sleeping positions

– obesity – too much sitting

– too much driving

– stressy jaw clenching

– stressy postures

– teeth grinding

– depressive postures

– self-consciousness about being tall or having large breasts

– environment.

There are two kinds of biomechanical pain. Understanding their similarities and differences is super important!

Simple Biomechanical Pain 

You notice your lower back starts to feel stiff in the mornings, just until the shower warms you up.

At first, you don’t think much of it, but you become slightly more concerned when it doesn’t go away.

You continue in this state of mild concern for about six months, but you don’t get around to having it looked at.

Then one day, you get a hot jab of scary pain while you’re moving boxes in your garage.

You feel it in the exact spot that’s been stiff in the mornings. Then gradually over the course of the day, it locks up. You are extremely stiff, to the point where you feel like your walk has become a waddle.

You are woken the following morning by a knife of pain, triggered by you shifting your position in bed.

You don’t need to open your eyes to know you are in deep trouble, you can feel it. It takes you 15 agonising minutes to get out of bed.

Once you are finally up there is less pain, but you can’t stand straight, you are walking like a 95-year-old, and you can’t even take yourself to the toilet.

You have never experienced pain like it.

You go to the chiropractor who takes an x-ray (which is completely clear) and she performs some tests. It turns out your sacroiliac joint has locked. She explains that it has been building over some time, which makes sense to you because of how you have been feeling.

She suspects it has been caused by a combination of flat feet and lack of exercise. You knew you had flat feet and you haven’t been to the gym in 2 years, so it seems entirely possible.

She suggests a course of treatment, and you are back to ‘normal’ within 3 weeks.

After 8 weeks she has you back to feeling good in the mornings too. She gives you some insoles for your shoes and suggests a check-up in 6 months.

If your tissues are exposed to repetitive strain, unhealthy reactions may eventually start to occur. These physical reactions can be viewed from 2 perspectives, depending on how closely you look at them…

A ‘hands-on’ look at simple biomechanical pain reveals changes like – muscle weakness, muscle imbalances, muscle spasms, joint stiffness, postural alterations & flat feet.

A ‘microscope’ look at simple biomechanical pain reveals changes like – inflammation, tight muscle fibrils, microscopic scar tissue, adhesions, microscopic damage to collagen cells & fluid congestion.

The wisest way to view all of these physical reactions is as warning signs; of potential trouble further down the track.  Which is of course how we should also view stubborn pain patterns in the body – as warnings!

It is incredibly hard to know what the real numbers are with biomechanical pain.

What I can tell you, is that in many healthcare settings you might see one hundred cases of simple biomechanical pain, before you see any of the other types of pain.

With the possible exception of ‘complex biomechanical pain’ which we will explore in the next section of this article.


Prefer to listen? Podcast 2:

As we discussed in part 1 of this article – Biomechanical Pain is caused by repetition of movements or positions that your body doesn’t like. It is pain that develops over time.

Biomechanical pain can be caused by too much movement (overuse) – by not enough movement (immobility) – or by faulty movement (inefficiency).

In the previous section we looked at Simple Biomechanical Pain, now let’s look at its Evil Twin –  Complex Biomechanical Pain.

Complex Biomechanical Pain 

You always knew you had slightly dodgy knees!

If your body grumbled about overtraining – it would always be the knees that grumbled the loudest, especially the right one. Occasionally they would both feel stiff for a week or more.

Over time you also found yourself becoming more reluctant to do the longer runs.

You turn 45, and noticing that you aren’t quite as lean and mean as you were; you decide to give CrossFit a try. It turns out that you love it; but your knees don’t feel the same way.

Eight gloriously savage weeks of killer CrossFit sessions later, your right knee is feeling stiff almost constantly. It even starts making a small cracking noise with certain movements.

After 10 weeks of CrossFit, your knee emits a sharp catching pain every time you bend it, and you find that you are starting to limp.

Cutting a long story short, your physio immediately suspects a meniscus tear: it is confirmed and ends up needing keyhole surgery.

The surgery works really well. It leaves you pain-free, but the knee feels very weak.

Your physio explains that the whole leg on the ‘bad side’ has been weaker for a long time – which is how the meniscus became frayed and eventually torn. On top of that, you’ve now also had 3 months of pain and surgery – it’s become even weaker. There is serious work to do!

After 6 months of strength exercises and regular physio for the weak leg, you make a cautious and humble CrossFit comeback. Twice a week instead of four times a week.

This is a classic complex biomechanical pain scenario.

Long-standing weakness in the leg caused wear & tear in the meniscus. Then a sudden increase in workload bought the long-standing situation to a head.

Complex biomechanical pain is caused by repetitive movement the body can’t handle. If your simple biomechanical issues are bad enough – the strain may eventually cause complications.

Or put simply…

simple biomechanical pain + time + severity = complex biomechanical pain

The most well-known complication in complex biomechanical pain is wear and tear to joint cartilage. Other changes can include bursitis, cartilage tears, disc herniation, scar tissue, meniscus tears, tendon tears, rotator cuff tears & stress fractures.

The damage in complex biomechanical pain is often mistaken for true injuries, by patients and doctors alike.

It’s entirely possible that you have had an ‘injury’ that was really wear and tear to a tendon or a muscle that finally gave way. Many of us have.

The nuances that separate simple & complex biomechanical pain, and how they connect to topics like injury are often brushed over in our society.

This can be problematic because it frequently robs us of the ability to work on prevention.

Identifying patterns that may later lead to complications is the key to preventing pain and tissue damage.

Complex biomechanical pain is extremely common. Especially in people who have had pain for a long time, people who have a history of injuries and people who have certain genetic tendencies.

If you aren’t sure what type of pain you have I suggest you give us a call to make an appointment. We can usually determine what the exact problem is, and work together on a treatment and rehabilitation plan to get you moving and pain free again.

Call us on 04 385 6446 now!

Check out Part 2 of the series by CLICKING HERE

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