One of the things we do is to ask patients to describe what their pain or discomfort feels like. This is difficult for all of us – we can feel lots of different sensations as well as straightforward neck or back pain. There can be dull aches, twinges and grumbles all the way to sharp shooting pains.
Nerve pains and muscle pains manifest in different ways – a muscle pain is often described as ‘a trapped nerve’ because that is exactly what it feels like. Pain is not the only symptom we have. There can be a variety of different feelings, from pins and needles to feelings of heaviness or burning, from a bruise-like sensitivity to vague numbness.
How do you describe what you feel? One patient described the discomfort in her knee as ‘like having corn flakes in the joint’. Another called her pain by different colours, so that a bad pain (‘red’ pain) improved to become an ‘orange-yellow’ pain.
Another complication is that pain can be felt in a different part of the body away from where the trouble is. Problems in the shoulder can manifest as arm pain or headache or mid-back pain. And again, pain often moves from one side to the other. An uncomfortable left-sided back pain can suddenly move to the right, so that you wonder if you were mistaken at first or if you are completely falling apart. The answer is no to both – that is just the nature of the beast.
At Devonshire Osteopaths we try and allow patients enough time when we meet to describe what their discomfort feels like – we find that is the best way to begin to sort the problem.