What Causes Pain? How Can We Reduce It?

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What causes pain?

In this blog by Marian Kirk, PT, we’ll look at what causes pain in humans, and what we can do to reduce and manage it.

Pain is produced by the brain when the brain perceives a threat. Pain does not automatically happen after an injury. For example, if you sprain your ankle, the nerves in your ankle send a message to your brain. If you are walking across the street and a bus is quickly coming towards you, your brain will focus on the threat of the bus and ignore the message from your ankle. While you are getting out of the way of the bus, you will be unaware of your ankle sprain and will not feel any pain. Once you are safely on the sidewalk and your brain no longer perceives a threat from the bus, your brain will cause you to feel pain in your ankle and allow you to take care of your ankle. 

When you experience pain for a longer period of time, the pain can start taking over your life. Many people become less physically and socially active and more stressed. If you are afraid that moving your back could hurt you, then you may stop doing activities that you enjoy like bowling or dancing. People often become isolated and depressed. How do you get your life back?

Research shows that you can slowly build up your activity level even if you have pain. If you begin with gentle aerobic exercise like walking, you will find that you can gradually increase the time and length of your walking. Aerobic exercise stimulates your brain to release specialized hormones (endorphins) into your bloodstream. The “runners’ high” give people a feeling of well-being and decreases their stress level. Whenever we are stressed or “uptight”, our muscles tend to tighten up and can cause more discomfort so less stress helps the tight muscles to relax.

We hope this blog has given you some additional insight into what causes pain, and how best to reduce it. Do you have a lingering injury causing you pain? Contact the team at REHAB AT WORK today to see if physical therapy might be the next step for you. You can also refer someone if they need services.


Louw A., Puentedura EJ, ZimneyK., Diener I., Schmidt S., “Know Pain, Know Gain? A perspective Pain Neuroscience Education in Physical Therapy. J Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy Mar 2016; 46(3):131-134

Louw A., Puentedura E., Schmidt S., Zimney K. “Pain Neuroscience Education Vol 2. Minneapolis, MN:OPTP; 2018

Marian Kirk

Marian Kirk

“I believe in taking an active approach with an emphasis on home exercises and patient education to give people the tools to improve. I do not subscribe to only one theoretical approach or method to treat all people. Instead, I use many of the different techniques currently prevalent in Physical Therapy."

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