Back pain – Only in your head, or for “real”? Part 2

Mike Dahlström
Written by Mike Dahlström

Back and neck pain are two ailments that cost society and the individual tremendously each year. Financially for sure, but also mentally, socially and psychologically. Pain is a physical phenomenon, but is this the whole truth? Can we blame all kinds of pain on physical components?

In the last article I touched on the phenomenon of muscular imbalance and how such a misalignment can cause pain. I also tried to illustrate how important it is how we feel mentally, how well our life is functioning on all levels. The pain phenomenon is much greater than we can ever understand.

Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong but it doesn’t tell us what is wrong, only that something is not functioning as it should. There are actually four categories of pain – Neurogenic, Nociceptive, Idiopathic and Mental.
This is only one form of categorising pain, we can classify or catalogue pain as well, and it looks something like this: Pain is either physical or mental/psychological. An example of physical pain is a sprained ankle. A psychological/mental pain can occur for example due to depression or if you are discontented with your job or your relationship, or if you’re afraid of loneliness.

What’s the significance you might ask yourself?  Well, the treatment differs drastically depending whether the pain is of physical or psychological/mental origin.

Heat or cold

How are we to differentiate whether the pain is of a physical or mental origin? Should we apply heat or cold? If you sprain your ankle, do you apply ice or a warm wheat pillow to ease the pain? Ice, of course.
If you have low back pain, do you put ice or a warm wheat pillow on the area to relieve the pain? Usually the answer is…… a warm wheat pillow. This is how easy it is to differentiate whether the origin, or root cause, of your pain is of physical or psychological descent. Notice the little word root cause. It is very likely that it’s your low back muscles that signal the pain. That low back pain is only the symptom. The underlying cause, or root cause, can still be of psychological or mental origin. We have a root cause and a triggering situation (raking leaves, shoveling snow), and there is a huge difference in the two events.

Symptoms, trigger, cause and root cause.