Author: Justine Cosman, PT, DPT : Doctor of Physical Therapy, Business Owner, Associate Professor, and Blog Contributor. Explores common client questions and helps find solutions for every day functional health concerns, and then some. Loves empowering others, seeking adventure, and learning every day. Learn more about Justine on Google+.
No matter your age, aches and pains can take the joy out of life’s activities. Whether it’s sore knees after taking a job, or a stiff back while getting out of bed, determining the true cause of the pain can seem frustrating if not impossible. Since pain is the body’s response to a wide variety of stimuli, it is important to pay careful consideration to a variety of factors. By listening to your body, and making sure not to aggravate it further, you can determine where your pain is coming from.
How Long Have You Been In Pain?
When it comes to diagnosing your pain, it is helpful to categorize it into two different categories: acute and chronic. Acute pain is often characterized by its short duration and sudden onset. Typically considered to be any pain that lasts less than three months, it can be the result of an injury or other traumatic event. Acute pain will also generally resolve itself as the tissues begin to heal over time.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, can persist for years. When this type of pain is caused by damaged bodily tissue, it is called nociceptive pain. On the other hand, neuropathic pain is the result of damage to the nerves themselves. It often feels heavy, or as if the location of the pain is burning or numb.
Is the Pain Localized?
The next step in determining the cause of your pain is by pinpointing its location. Where and over what percentage of your body feels the discomfort can provide pivotal clues in the identification of its root cause. Pain felt over a large swath of the body is likely due to a muscle strain or inflammation. This is usually the result of an injury sustained during physical activity, such as weightlifting or playing a sport. If the pain can be pinpointed to a specific location on the body, it can be due to nerve damage or a simple bruise. This is why physical therapists will ask other questions to acquire more information such as "do you experience numbness or tingling along with your pain?" Information like this can help a provider identify what type of tissue may be causing the pain.
It’s important to note, that although back pain is often something mechanical in nature (muscle, ligament, tendon, discs) its location can also signify a larger issue with bodily organs such as the kidneys. If your pain is associated with other symptoms such as blood in the urine or facial swelling due to fluid retention, see a doctor immediately in order to assess the cause.
When is the Pain at Its Worst?
Not all pain is uniform. A muscle bruise will experience its greatest amount of pain when under duress, while lower back pain may not be present unless sitting or standing in a specific way. With regards to the latter, pain that is the worst upon waking up and is accompanied by a numbness or tingling down the leg is very likely due to an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. If the pain appears after prolonged periods of standing and walking, it can be attributed to muscle fatigue along the spinal column.
Extreme pain can leave you feeling like things will never get better. Fortunately, there is hope. Visit us for a consultation today, and begin your journey on the road to recovery.