Imagine a world where no one would believe you were pregnant until you had gone into labor. People would shrug off the morning sickness and changes to your body as normal. You would be told that gaining weight is expected as you age, and body aches and pains are something we all go through. Perhaps you would begin to believe you were exaggerating your symptoms and willingly take pills to suppress the discomfort you feel. That feeling of vindication and relief felt when you are finally rushed to the hospital only lasts a moment as you begin to wonder: Were all those months of gaslighting really necessary?
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. When you encounter lights and sirens on the road, you can determine if it’s an ambulance or a tow truck because they have different signals. In your body, there are signals to help you understand which of the following types of pain you have: nociceptive, neuropathic or nociplastic.
In English, we describe these pains as sharp, dull and achy; burning, shooting, stabbing; or electric shock-like pain. Nociceptive pain can be temporarily buffered with pain medication but does not typically do much for pain from the other categories. This is particularly disheartening when you have neuropathic pain where even a gentle touch can be agonizing.
Pain is not the only sensation your body feels. We feel touch and whether something is soft or scratchy. Temperature, pressure, vibration, equilibrium, vision, hearing, hunger and arousal are all signals sent between the body and the brain. Our brain holds onto all of this information. After it is evaluated, anything outside of the normal range is sent to the conscious mind for further instruction.
Sensations from the muscles and skin are pretty easy to understand, but what about the inklings from everywhere else?
The body can be thought of as two groups, visceral and musculoskeletal. Visceral pain represents a major clinical problem for many reasons. Problems with the organs are often subtle and hard to clearly describe. You may feel tired, wired, panicky or cry for no reason. Your body may change its size or shape. Your skin, hair and nails may become thicker, thinner or take on a new hue. These are all flashing lights that are your body’s signals that something needs attention.
Did you brush off that 5 pounds you gained over the holidays as normal, or did you consider if it’s your liver, thyroid or stress level that needs some attention? Routine bloodwork is a great place to start but doesn’t give a full picture of broken metabolism. When your body stops functioning the way it should, the prudent thing to do is to find out why and correct it. Once pain becomes an everyday occurrence, the road back to health is often full of potholes.
Recognize and respond to your pain with Charleston Health.
Visit charlestonhealth.org for more information.