The Progression of Pain

So often our bodies send us subtle signals that something is out of sorts, and more times than not, we humans don’t listen until our bodies scream at us via injury.

I share this not to make you feel bad for not listening in the first place, many of us don’t know what signals to take seriously until it’s too late.  This is where the “Progression of Pain” sequence comes into play.  

The Progression of Pain is a sequence that lays out the sensations that are felt at different stages of soft tissue damage.  I learned this many years ago from one of my former Acupuncturists, Tai Chi and Thai on the Table instructor, Tony Zayner, and I share it with you as a guide so you can learn to listen to your body more effectively.  Here it goes:

Healthy -> Tickle -> Itch -> Sore -> Pain -> Numbness -> Death of Tissue -> Scar Tissue

When your soft tissue (i.e. fascia, muscles, tendons, etc) are in a healthy state, there are no compromising symptoms felt.  Once the tissue starts to experience any compromise, it can start to tickle and if pressed upon can feel uncomfortable and make you laugh.  If the tickle tissue damage is not addressed (through stretching, massage or the like), you can expect it to feel like a deep itch that you can’t access merely on the surface of your skin.  From there, if still not addressed at this point, the tissue can feel sore, then outright pain, eventually numb, and then onto the “death” of the tissue that’s characterized as scar tissue.

Obviously, you don’t want to get to the point of dealing with scar tissue, as scar tissue can spread underneath the surface of the skin, affecting even the most healthy tissue.  Not to mention that once soft tissue turns into scar tissue, there’s no going back, as the scar tissue can only be reorganized and stretched, not necessarily brought back to healthy tissue that has a free-flowing supply of blood that is necessary for soft tissue health and healing (which is not abundant in scar tissue ).  

So the next time, you feel a deep tickle sensation underneath the surface of your skin, please don’t blow it off.  Do yourself a favor and address it at your next session with me or at home on the foam roller or via stretching.  You could be saving yourself from a world of pain and even soft tissue death! 

Photo by Andrew Stamm

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