Pain and Inflammation: Your Body’s Message

At some point in your life, you’re going to experience pain. Maybe you’re already there and it’s something you struggle with every single day. Chronic pain is a symptom of a bigger problem. This article addresses pain and inflammation: Your body’s message.   The purpose is to increase your understanding of the pain and inflammation messages your body is sending and learn how you can help.

Important Note: I am not writing about severe, sudden onset, acute pain, such as chest pain, abdominal pain or injury-related pain. Nor am I writing about pain accompanied by numbness or weakness. These are true medical emergencies that require prompt attention and intervention by your health care provider.

When your body talks to you with a pain message, do you listen?

When your body talks to you with a pain message, do you listen?

The Automobile Analogy

If your family automobile developed an unusual clink, noise or grind, which would you do?

  • Crank up the radio loud enough to drown out the noise
  • With the proper knowledge and tools, repair it yourself and save some money
  • Find a trustworthy mechanic who won’t take your wallet to the cleaners
  • Ignore the problem until your automobile experiences a costly break down, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere
  • Get upset because of the inconvenience (even want to kick it?)
  • Repair it, whatever the cost, then commit to preventative maintenance

Automobiles can’t fix themselves but the human body has an amazing capacity to heal if you make the effort to eliminate problems early rather than continually make yourself numb with painkillers.

What Pain Really Means

Be glad your body is talking to you! It’s telling you the troops are engaged in combat and need reinforcements. Seriously though, pain is caused by inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s own combat team (immune system) defending you against foreign invaders (like bacteria) and its way of repairing damage.  You might notice redness, heat, swelling, or pain in a particular region of your body.

When your own troops are fighting to defend you and are calling for help, do you send help or do you gag and silence them?

Pain Relievers Silence the Message

When you consistently choose over the counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, it is the equivalent of pressing the “mute” button (silencing the troops) and ignoring the message. You may be muting the message, but the message isn’t going away. Inflammation that caused the pain never actually got fixed because you silenced the alarm.

Keep ignoring your body’s pain message and the troops will eventually grow weary fighting the battle alone.  Eventually your troops will lose the battle unless you listen and respond. The “breakdown” will occur unless you become a good listener to your own body’s pain messages. The timing will be inconvenient and the repair (if even possible) will be costly.

The Problem With Conventional “Remedies”

Every time you choose OTC pain medications, you are adding chemicals your body must break down and detoxify either through your liver (acetaminophen) or filter through your kidneys (ibuprofen).  If you move beyond OTC pain medications to stronger narcotics, your problem just got bigger.

It’s interesting that the Greek translation of the word narcotic actually means to make numb or cause stupor (lethargy, daze, insensibility). I doubt this is the way you want to experience your life!

Sooner or later, the same narcotics that silenced the pain message, no longer work and you require more and stronger ones to keep the pain message silent. (Addiction becomes a whole new problem.)

Over a period of time, as with chronic pain, this continual bombardment with chemicals only stresses your body further, possibly causing more harm.

In summary, you are losing the battle when you continually silence the messenger and are not addressing your body’s call for help.

Be sure to read:  

Pain:  Responding to Your Body’s Call For Help

A Nurse’s Perspective on Pain

Pam Baker, RN

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