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Published on August 19, 2018

Pain University at LMH Health

Pain: Your body's message of danger

By Debbie Rico, LMH Health

Pain is a basic, individual, human experience. Yet, we all experience it differently. Two people can have similar medical histories, have the same surgery, and one person has pain for days after the surgery and the other has pain for years.

Without pain, how would we know to take a splinter out of our finger before it gets infected? How would we know when we break a bone? Pain motivates us to do something; to get help, to help take care of the problem and to help us stay safe in the future. Pain protects us from danger. Think of pain like danger messages.

Chronic pain is not normal

Our body does an incredible job of healing. For example, your ankle heals after a sprain. Your back heals after a disc injury. Your knee heals after surgery. But sometimes the danger messages will continue even after the body heals.

Your body still is interpreting signals as dangerous. You have scans and they are negative. Your x-rays are negative, your MRI is negative for any problems, you had your knee replaced, but yet you still have pain. Your body still tells you there is something wrong. Most likely, your body is giving you misinformation, resulting in chronic ankle, back or knee pain.

Danger messages: Turning the volume down or up

Your body has the power to shut down or amplify those danger messages. We have our own opioid (endogenous) system that is 60 times more powerful than any drug on the market.

Have you ever had a cut on your leg, you are bleeding, yet you do not know when or where it occurred? There is damage, but no pain. Our bodies have the amazing ability to shut pain down, suppress those danger messages using the endogenous opioid system, flooding our body with pain-relieving signals. We all have them. Some of us can harness them better than others.

Pain is individualized and it is very complex

Your pain is unique to you. This is based on:

  1. Genetics: “Thank you mom and dad for giving me this pain.”
  2. The amount of tissue damage that occurred at the time of your injury: A broken leg vs. an injured toenail.
  3. Your life experiences and how you learned to cope. “Now that I am hurt, what do I do? Will this pain ever go away, so that I can enjoy my life again?”

The more you learn, the more you own it, the better you will feel.


Pain University: Learn to change how you feel

You can change how you feel about your pain. You can harness the opioid system in your body and shut down the signals that are telling you there is a danger (pain). There are four main strategies for you to take control of your life and decrease your pain:

  • Understanding how pain works
  • Good sleep
  • Working towards goals
  • Movement

LMH Therapy Services will begin offering a six-week interactive educational series, Pain University, to patients suffering from chronic pain. These classes are individual and group treatments using the latest research-based pain neuroscience treatment materials. They are designed to empower the individual to help themselves without the use of opioids. People who take this class will gain the knowledge and skills to improve their quality of life.

The series will include six two-hour sessions and meet once a week. The start date is Wednesday, Oct. 3, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Topics range from discussing the root cause of pain; exploring safe ways to move and designing a home exercise program. Most sessions will take place in the LMH Therapy Services area on the second floor of the hospital. There is an exercise portion to the class, so participants will need to wear comfortable clothing including tennis shoes, and bring a water bottle.

Cost is $150 per person. If you have more questions please call 785-505-5840. Register online.

Pain University can be a first step in taking control of your life and begin enjoying life again. It works by understanding why you have ongoing pain. The more you understand why you hurt, the less pain you will have. Research shows the more you understand how to treat your pain, the less pain you will have and the more you move, the less pain you will have.


Debbie Rico DPT, LMH Health physical therapist, is a Certified Spinal Manual Therapist and Therapeutic Pain Specialist.

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