top of page

Paradox of Pain

The Paradox of Pain: Avoidance May Lead to Greater Suffering.

Physical pain, an intrinsic part of the human experience, serves as a crucial signal of injury or potential harm. However, the instinct to avoid pain at all costs can paradoxically lead to greater suffering. This paradox is especially evident in the realm of physical activity versus inactivity. While exercise may cause discomfort and soreness, the lack of movement can foster chronic pain and heightened sensitivity.

Choose your Discomfort

Engaging in physical activity can result in discomfort or muscle soreness, especially if the activity is new or intense. This phenomenon, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), arises from microscopic damage to muscle fibers. Though this pain can be unsettling, it is a natural part of the body's adaptation process, signaling repair and strengthening. Over time, regular physical activity enhances muscle function, flexibility, and resilience, reducing the likelihood of injury and long-term pain. In contrast, avoiding physical activity to escape discomfort leads to a different set of problems. Prolonged inactivity weakens muscles, reduces joint flexibility, and diminishes overall physical fitness. This degradation not only increases the risk of injury but also exacerbates conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders. Inactivity can also contribute to weight gain, which further strains the body and amplifies pain symptoms.

The Vicious Cycle of Inactivity

The relationship between inactivity and pain can be cyclical and self-perpetuating. When people avoid movement to prevent pain, they inadvertently foster the very conditions that cause pain to persist or worsen. Muscles that are not regularly engaged lose their strength and flexibility, making daily activities more difficult and increasing susceptibility to injury. This decline in physical capability can lead to more pain and further avoidance of activity, trapping individuals in a cycle of pain and inactivity. Moreover, the lack of movement can lead to poor circulation and increased stiffness, particularly in the joints and spine. Over time, this can result in conditions such as chronic low back pain or osteoarthritis, where the pain becomes more constant and debilitating, not due to the original discomfort but due to the body's deconditioning. It seems natural, that if you are in pain being active would make it worse.  Certainly for some acute injuries activity will be contraindicated for a period of time.  A planned progression of activity gradually increasing over time can reduce chronic pain.


Hypersensitivity and Chronic Pain

An often-overlooked consequence of avoiding physical pain is the development of hypersensitivity. When the body is consistently shielded from discomfort, the nervous system can become overly sensitive to pain signals. This heightened sensitivity, known as central sensitization, can cause individuals to perceive pain more intensely and in response to stimuli that would not normally be painful. In such cases, the body’s pain threshold lowers, and activities that were once manageable become sources of significant discomfort. This phenomenon can transform acute pain into chronic pain, where even minimal physical activity or minor injuries result in disproportionate pain responses. Thus, the effort to avoid pain can ultimately lead to a condition where pain is more pervasive and difficult to manage.

Disuse is its own abuse

The avoidance of physical pain, while instinctual, may lead to greater long-term suffering. Physical activity, though sometimes uncomfortable and accompanied by soreness, is essential for maintaining muscle strength, flexibility, and overall health. Inactivity, on the other hand, contributes to muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and chronic pain, creating a vicious cycle of pain avoidance and physical decline. Furthermore, avoiding discomfort can heighten sensitivity to pain, transforming minor aches into chronic issues. Embracing physical activity, despite its initial discomfort, is therefore crucial for mitigating long-term pain and promoting overall well-being. Remember, disuse is its own abuse.   Life will involve pain, things will be hard. Physical activity and strength training will involve discomfort, may involve pain and will at times be hard.  Physical Inactivity though easy initially, will be eventually be hard.   You get to choose your hard.

Reach out if you are ready to choose your hard 605-695-0496

10 views0 comments


bottom of page