How big is your protective buffer?

Pain doesn't just happen after you're hurt,it's also there to stop you hurting yourself!

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Angie Clerc-Hawke - General ManagerPublished on 01 December 2019

Professor Lorimer Moseley delivered Musculoskeletal Australia’s annual Koadlow Lecture in 2019. He talked about “Pain, the Brain and your Amazing Protectormeter.” There was a lot of critical information in that to help people move towards recovery from persisting pain. We’ve asked some of our expert clinicians and researchers (who are part of the 2019 Rural Outreach Tour in Tasmania) to add some more details to the short video clips, so you can fully understand the reason these concepts are so important for people in pain.

Watch the video below and read the post written by Physiotherapist, Jack Behne. Jack is returning for a second tour, back for more training, riding and teaching in 2019. He has written about his experiences on the 2018 Tour here, and read below as he expands on Professor Moseley's information in the video about pain as a protector.

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We often think of pain as an alarm signalling damage to the body. Injury. Boom! Pain...simple, right?

Maybe not. We have all felt pain at times where there is no injury - this isn’t some nervous system quirk we only observe in the lab. Have you ever been out in the cold and banged your knuckles? Or stubbed a toe and momentarily lost the ability to walk or use clean language? Or even the other way around - have you ever noticed bruises or cuts that you don’t recall receiving?

In the clinic, we see many cases where people are suffering tremendously without clear or identifiable damage to their body. This may include widespread pain like fibromyalgia, headaches, or even a lot of back pain. If viewed from the notion that pain requires some kind of harm or lesion to the body, these people’s pain seems perplexing. They may have been told it’s ‘psychological’, all due to stress, or worse: implied that it’s all made up.

So if injury doesn’t match that well with pain, what does?

As you may have read in Melanie’s piece we can barely survive without pain looking out for us, and that overall, Pain is a Protector. I’m not going to rehash everything in those wonderful blog posts so please have a read.


Staying Safe and Healthy

If we’re wondering what this all has to do with buffers though, all we have to do is ask: how good a protector is pain if it only occurs once we’re injured?

Think about our other wonderful protective responses. It would be silly to start feeling hungry after we’ve started experiencing the effects of malnutrition and starvation. If you hold your breath (and are not some kind of fish), you will notice the overwhelming desire to need to breathe well before you pass out from lack of oxygen. And in an ideal system, you get an urge to pee well before your bladder explodes. Hopefully.

So it stands to reason that pain kicks in before we do harm. It gives us leeway to take action to keep ourselves safe. But how much wiggle room should we have? How big a buffer is appropriate? This is where it may get a little tricky...

The best thing is that we have excellent research that tells us that just understanding about protective buffers reduces them! I hope that either make your head spin, or start to feel a little better, because knowing about buffers gives you a good dose of hope that your pain CAN change.

All our riders on the Rural Outreach Tour pay their way for the ride, take a week off work AND we make them fundraise to support the Local Pain Educator Program. Jack's almost made it to the $3000 target we set for each of the riders, and if you liked this post, you can add your donation to his account.

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Angie Clerc-HawkeDecember 01 2019

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