SCIATICA: WHAT IS PAIN?

Posted on December 9, 2009, under Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers.

Something that all of us experience at times, pain is essentially a warning that your body sends to you to let you know that something is amiss. While we tend to think of the pain we feel as being the problem, it is more often merely a signal intended to draw our attention.

Demonstrating this through a fairly obvious example, you’ll feel pain when you touch something that is too hot – the pain in that case causing you to withdraw your hand before further damage is done. In instances like this one, pain serves a very useful function.

Back pain and sciatica, unpleasant though they can be, also fulfil a similar purpose, in effect sending one or more of the following messages:

You’ve overdone things and subjected your back to greater demands than it can cope with comfortably.

Stop whatever it is that you’re doing, it’s causing harm.

There’s an underlying problem somewhere that needs attention (the message sent by sciatica is a bit confusing in this regard as it first draws attention to where the pain is felt, in the buttocks, legs, wherever, rather than to the area where the cause of it resides).

You’re being reminded that you’re susceptible to back problems and you’d be well-advised to treat your spine more considerately in the future.

While pain that alerts you to a situation that needs your attention is indeed useful, there are also many instances where pain appears to be of no purpose, or at least not obviously so. Typical of this are many chronic – that is long-lasting or ongoing – pains for which there is no obvious explanation, other than perhaps that they’re due to part of the nervous system failing to operate properly and as such may/could be considered as ‘false alarms’.

It’s also worth noting that valuable though pain is as a warning sign, its severity is by no means always directly related to the seriousness of the underlying cause. For example, migraines are notorious for causing excruciating pain, yet apart from that may present little risk to overall health. On the other hand, some extremely serious diseases are marked by little or even no pain, especially in their early stages.

Although the severity of sciatica and other pain symptoms related to back problems are usually a fairly good indication of how bad the problem is at that moment, it isn’t always so. Many factors influence how strongly a given individual perceives and reacts to pain, so it’s perfectly possible that two patients with back problems of equal severity may experience widely varying degrees of pain.

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