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When is pain an injury

There is a difference between injury (ie tissue disruption) and tissue stress!

Pain is like an alarm, it is a sensation to tell you something is not quite right and to act on it. It is there to stop you from hurting yourself but also to alert you if structural damage (ie an injury) as occurred.

How do you tell if pain is just the alarm or if an actual injury has occurred? Especially if it’s something inside the body we cannot see?

The big key is there an increase in pain when more load is placed on the area, such walking after rolling your ankle.

If there is an increase in pain when more stress is placed on the area, then it is more likely there is damage to a structure that will be required to heal. This would be an injury.

However, if the pain comes on gradually or in a specific position or posture and you are still able to “push through the pain”, then it is unlikely that there is structural damage. You still experience pain due your alarm telling you that you are approaching your tissue capacity.

The approach to addressing these is completely different, generally an injury needs to be off-loaded (bracing, taping, modifying lifestyle etc) to allow the healing process to occur, while pain that comes on gradually doesn’t need to be offloaded to such a degree, usually modification of activity, addressing movement dysfunction and lifestyle modifications allows the stressed area to settle down.


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