Feeling pain is an experience we have all shared. In sports and athletics, pain can prevent us from doing the activities that bring us health and joy (and as you probably know, such activities are occasionally the cause of pain).
Although most people have experienced acute pain from accidents and injuries, many athletes also struggle with chronic pain.
So what's the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute pain is commonly experienced in sports and athletics by way of sprains, breaks, and dislocations, and is typically handled by a medical professional (especially pain from severe acute injuries) immediately following the acute event.
Chronic pain is a longstanding pain that has lasted for several weeks, months, or years. A few common characteristics of chronic pain include: pain that has lingered long after an injury is considered “healed” (e.g., pain in the ankle you sprained years ago), pain that you can’t attribute to a single cause or event (e.g., recurring pain in your low back that is aggravated by many different activities), and pain that can “move” from one spot to another (e.g., pain that starts in the neck and “spreads” to the shoulders).
The experience of chronic pain varies widely across individuals – your chronic pain may exhibit one or all of the characteristics listed (and possibly other symptoms not mentioned here).
Chronic pain is a complicated topic, and there is great debate among health and wellness professionals about its exact cause.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do on our own to reduce our experience of chronic pain.
One of my favorite exercises for dealing with chronic pain is called The Felt Sense.
If you'd like to try this exercise, all you'll need is a couple of minutes. This exercise can be done any time, anywhere. Follow along in my latest video: Explore your Felt Sense to Reduce Chronic Pain.
The Felt Sense exercise asks the body to focus on sensation. This awakens our body's nerves that may be confused, rattled, or out of practice.
Once we connect with a sensation in our body, the Felt Sense asks the brain to describe those sensations with objectivity and accuracy. Because the brain is responsible for generating pain signals (not the body!), we are teaching the brain to make more honest and accurate interpretations of the information it receives from the body.
Though bringing a conscious focus to our areas of pain might sound scary, we must approach this exercise with curiosity rather than fear. As we learn to bring a playful and mindful focus to our bodily sensations, we discover the richness of sensation that lies beneath the surface of pain.