September 11, 2017


We all try to avoid pain once it arrives. What we really need to do is to understand what pain really is. When we understand the concept of pain as a physiologic process of healing, then we can truly understand how to heal. As a lifelong athlete, I believe that understanding pain is a key to a long life in athletics whether competitive or not.

What is pain?

When we sense pain, we are receiving advanced warning that damage to the physical nature of the body is occurring or has occurred. For most people this is self explanatory, yet how often do we not heed the signal. We press on after an injury because we do not have time to stop. We do not listen to our body and get help early when it is easiest to repair.

I think back to a shoulder injury that I sustained skiing in my early 20's. I never had it checked out and eventually after 6+ months, the pain subsided and I wrongly assumed that all things were healed.

Fast forward to a freak skiing accident a few years back where I landed on the same shoulder and damaged it further. This time, I had it evaluated. Diagnosis - grade 3 AC separation. Ugh! Interestingly, the pain was minimal despite the amount of damage compared to the 20 year old injury. What I surmised from this observation is that my body had already taken stock of the previous injury and had developed a decreased sense of pain because the problem had been compensated for in it's previous un repaired state. I.e. the damage was done. Just my hypothesis.

Children, on the other hand, instinctively know that pain is akin to a problem and that problem has to be dealt with. They cry out for help.

Let's take Sever's disease as an example. It is an inflammatory process in the heel related to overuse and tight tendons in young children. Those that run a lot are at greatest risk for this injury. They present with recurrent heel pain when running and afterward.

The solution to the problem is to rest, stretch and heal the injury. If one does not follow this course of action, the pain will worsen as your body screams at you to learn.

Here lies the key to all injuries. LISTEN to your body and the pain signals. If you attempt to medicate away a pain without understanding the root cause and ameliorating it, you are going to damage the tissue irreparably. This is not good.

Ask any retired NFL player how their body is holding up after neglecting the injuries over the years.

As a society, we have to take a serious pause right now. Pain is not the ENEMY. We do not need to take away pain, especially for children. Control it until the root cause is alleviated. Sure.

Pain needs to be a point of emphasis for cause and treatment. Find the root cause then offer physical therapy, accupuncture, chiropractic, massage and other modailities first with surgery and drugs as last resorts.

When children are young, we should embrace the learning opportunity that arises around pain. For example, when I have a patient with pain, I take the opportunity to search for causes of the imbalance that has set off the pain. There is always a starting point where the change of function occurred. This is usually the point that needs the most attention to repair the damage.

How and why are they suffering? Are there interventions that are available to prevent further damage and heal that which has occurred.

When your child is off or hurting in any way, stop yourself and ask why is this occurring. What has changed for them? Are they suffering from repetitive overuse injuries that are best ameliorated with stretching and reduced activity? Is the pain a warning sign of something greater like appendicitis or strep throat.

Pain is the clue that we need to stop, ask, listen and search for the etiology. When we effectively complete this task we are likely to be rewarded with a resolution that relieves the pain. Then we can safely avoid pain medications and chronic issues.

Be a listener as pain is the teacher,

Dr. M

PS Please do not take narcotics if you do not have to! If you have them at home now, get rid of them as soon as you can so that a loved one does not fall pray to trying them for "fun" and become another addiction statistic. At least securely lock them up if you must keep them.