In Anna Kernina, the famous novel by Leo Tolstoy, it is written that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. This is the case with backs and back pain. When our back’s happy and there is no pain, we’re all alike; no one is really concerned that much about their back health. But when pain is present, it’s very personal and very unique.
As we’re all aware, pain is a signal that something is wrong. But what? The sources of back pain are countless and each one is complex and difficult to diagnose.
This can result in frustration, which can certainly aggravate the pain. Stress. Frustration. Pain. Lack of sleep. Depression. It quickly turns into a vicious, depressing circle. Despite this, the more quickly we resolve the pain, the more effectively our bodies can heal.
A good perception of pain in general and mapping yours accurately puts you a step forward on the path towards healing. It directs you towards options which are more appropriate to your pain and your unique needs.
Sudden vs. Long-Lasting Pain
Back pain can come on suddenly or slowly increase in intensity over a period of hours or days. What distinguishes chronic (long-lasting) from acute (sudden, short-term) pain is duration. The intensity may be the same but acute pain will subside in time. It may take a few days or as much as a few weeks, but acute pain eventually leaves your body. Chronic pain stays.
The longer pain stays, the more damage it can do to the quality of your life and your nervous system. The experience of intense and chronic pain can make your nervous system hypersensitive, so that even small bumps, bruises, and stressors can create disproportionately troublesome pain. That’s why it’s especially important to nip pain in the bud.
Your approach to pain is an important element in the healing process. Some people allow pain to develop in their head. They focus on it; it becomes all they think of. They take up a defeatist mentality which results in depression. If your body is using valuable resources on pain, it has less to use on healing. You shouldn’t grin and bear it. Instead, work to reduce pain and you’ll speed up healing.
Where It Hurts and What It Feels Like
It’s painful to sit. It’s painful to stand. It’s painful when you walk. You’re unable to even tie your shoelace. Your life is being controlled by the pain. All you want is some relief.
Increasing your accuracy about where what the pain is like will allow you to fight it. A numeric scale is often used by clinicians to understand how severe this pain is. Again, your pain is unique to you. Be truthful as to what you’re feeling. Consider factors such as the intensity, sensation, and location. The below chart can be used to help you. A score of 10, indicates incredibly severe pain, and should be exceptionally debilitating. It’s rare for most people.
Keep a Pain Journal
Pick up a notebook and use it to track your pain. If you can, keep it with you and make notes throughout the day.
The more consistently and accurately you add to your journal, the better. Each time you make an entry, keep the following in mind. Note the date and time each time too.
- The intensity of pain on a scale of 0 to 10, using the chart earlier as a guide.
- Were you doing, thinking, or consuming something prior to the start of the pain?
- Does the pain increase or decrease in severity when you walk?
- Define your emotional condition at the time of pain.
- Where does it hurt?
- What’s the sensation like? Is it tingling, burning, sharp, dull, throbbing, achy, or something else?
- Is there something which makes it better?
- Is there something which makes it worse?
Using these criteria will allow you to pinpoint the source. They will also show you when you don’t hurt, which can be very instructive once your treatments have started.
Lastly, your journal is an excellent place to jot down health-care provider notes and contact information. Include who is most helpful in your pain reduction journey, and take note of who isn’t helping you and why. This will allow you to address your concerns with them or find help elsewhere.