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What is normal pain?

What is pain? A textbook definition calls it a physical discomfort caused by injury or illness.

Normal pain is usually associated with a strenuous activity. Normal pain can be muscle stiffness and soreness after intense physical activity. It can also manifest itself as stiffness and soreness during exercise under stressful conditions, like humidity, heat, dehydration, or fatigue. It can occur when we start a new exercise or return to an activity after becoming deconditioned to the activity (think running after surgery and months of recovery-not going to be the most comfortable) Normal pain occurs during exercise or afterwards, and can be eased with rest, stretching, or ice/heat. Normal pain eventually goes away.

But pain is not always an indicator of illness or injury. When pushing ourselves, it can be difficult to judge whether our pain has a specific cause, or if it is just a result of all the activity that we perform. Complicating matters, most of us go from sitting 8-10 hours a day to being physically very active for 1-3 hours a day for that daily workout.

Pain is like an alarm system. Sometimes the alarm goes off because someone is breaking in and causing harm, and sometimes it is that we entered the wrong code too many times. Sometimes pain is alerting us to a very real injury or event, sometimes it’s alerting us to a potential injury or event, just like the alarm in your house. An example of keying in the wrong code too many times can be stressors that cause our pain to be provoked. Being dehydrated, lacking nutrients, fatigue, and mental stress from work or home life can provoke pain that is “normal”.

Abnormal pain often exists as persistent pain, pain every day, tingling, numbness, loss of sensation, or pain that cannot be changed with rest or movement.

Do not be scared by abnormal pain, but get it checked out. A simple visit to your local physical therapist is a great way to help ease your concern and get you back to living a pain free life.