CONQUERING PAIN
OFFGRID|Issue 39
A Better Understanding of How to Manage Discomfort
Dr. David Miller

Did you ever think that Sigmund Freud would be found in the pages of RECOIL OFFGRID? Freud is often cited as the originator of the pleasure/pain principle. This principle suggests that we’re born into pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. The problem is that we don’t always have control over pain. And when it comes to pain, there can be all kinds of shades of gray as to how it feels and how we respond to it. Our mindset is probably the most important factor in dealing with both acute and chronic pain. Tools, such as medication, are also helpful in easing pain.

The Psychology of Pain

Everyone handles pain differently. Pain has both a physical component and an emotional component.

Physical pain can be different from one individual to the next because of our different genetic makeups. The emotional component also varies based on past experiences associated with pain. The patient’s perspective of their experience is different than my perception of their pain. This is what makes treatment of pain difficult as a physician.

I think that understanding the patient and their past experiences is the key to understanding how they handle pain. Some people will be tough as nails and work through pain and injury to complete their mission. Others will crumple on simple tasks, because they don’t mentally handle their pain well. About half of the treatment of pain is listening and understanding the patient’s perception of what the pain is and how it debilitates them. The other half of treatment is creating a plan that gives the person hope for a better tomorrow.

In order to work through pain, it takes some mental fortitude on the patient’s part and some words of encouragement from everyone else. Understand that there’s a difference between pain and injury. Pain is something you can mentally work through and overcome temporarily to complete your mission. Focus on anything besides what’s causing the pain, and you’ll succeed. Take one step at a time. Sing one song at a time. Pick a landmark ahead and focus on reaching that goal. Pain will want to draw you back to giving in to it, but fight on. However, an injury may need to be addressed before continuing on with the mission. Maybe you lacerated your leg on a rock, and it needs attention. Maybe you fell and broke a bone. Perhaps you need to fashion a splint (check out Dr. Joe Alton’s article “Medical Improvisations” in Issue 36 of RECOIL OFFGRID). Treat the injury to the best of your ability.

Inflammation

We almost all recognize inflammatory pain. That throbbing, aching sensation that limits mobility, especially in a joint, can happen in any scenario. When an injury occurs to tissue, the body increases blood flow to the area. The blood carries cells from your immune system to help repair any damage. The area of concern becomes red and warm to touch due to the increased blood flow. Along with the blood comes increased swelling, from the by-product of what the inflammatory mediators are doing to the affected tissue. The pain comes not only from the injury and damaged tissue, but also from the swelling within the tissue. This is your body’s way of trying to keep you from further injury by making you limit your activity.

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