Southwest Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Information Headquarters

Understanding Pain Part 3

Posted by Kale Isaacson on Dec 21, 2011 9:45:00 AM

PainSo let’s start today discussing INFLAMMATION after injury. Inflammation is a primitive defense mechanism that is essential for the tissue repair process. It is designed to hurt and it does. This is also a protective mechanism. Inflammation causes swelling. To make it simple, let’s call this swelling “inflammatory soup”.

Inflammatory soup directly sets off alarm bells and increases sensitivity also to protect the injured tissue. The swelling is just a by-product of the need to call in blood and other healing chemicals to the injured area.

Once there is inflammation, the brain is immediately interested. It begins asking the person all sorts of questions: Will my “Dancing With the Stars” career be over? Do you think I will need crutches? Will this require me to go to the hospital or just to the doctor? Will I end up like the guy on the Jerry Springer show? Then the “what if’s” may start: What if I cannot work this week? What if the pain gets worse? What if I have to have surgery? What if my insurance doesn’t cover this? What if it doesn’t get better? This is when it is important to remain as calm as you can. One cannot make any decisions until he has all the facts.

Now, let’s talk about tissue; inflammation occurs in one tissue or another. Muscle tissue is very red. This implies that it has an excellent blood supply. Blood is important because it carries Oxygen, and Oxygen just happens to be the “steak dinner” for every tissue and cell in our bodies. Because muscles are so red, they heal very fast because of the continuous Oxygen supply. Without Oxygen, nothing would heal.

Other tissues like tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, bone and cartilage are either white or a variation of white-yellow, etc. This implies that there is NOT a good supply of Oxygen to these tissues. Therefore, they heal at a much slower rate than a tissue like muscle. That is why joints have to be immobilized in a splint, brace or boot. This gives the white tissues a chance to heal before painful movement occurs. Once healing begins, then the brace or boot can be removed and Rehab can begin.So that’s it for this chapter in Understanding how pain works to both protect us and help us heal properly. Next time we will talk about how the Central Nervous system(the brain and spinal cord), and how it can give off altered or misleading signals and how to work around that. Cheers, Kale

Topics: health, injuries