7. Pain

Pain in one form or another is something that everyone has to endure occasionally. The pain itself is not particularly dangerous, but is rather a form of information from structures in the body that have been affected or damaged in some way demanding your attention. It is a signal for you to stop and try to understand what the cause of that pain is, and to reflect on how you should act in order to feel better and get rid of, or handle, the pain. The reaction to the experience of pain depends primarily on the brain’s interpretation of it.

This interpretation is based on previous experience of pain and the body’s ability to handle it. It is also based on your knowledge of pain and your own experience in being able to handle it. Your frame of mind – whether you are happy, sad, angry or irritated – as well as the demands and stress around you, and the state of your social support, etc., are all examples of other factors that are important for the experience and interpretation of pain. Since pain has a high mental priority, and is something we all try to avoid for the sake of our survival, our interpretation of pain is very often more or less automatic. As such, it is an interpretation that is not based on facts or rational thought, but is rather an emotional reaction to the brain’s conceptions and imagination. The interpretation can then involve, for example, that the area experiencing pain should be held motionless in order not to aggravate it. The consequence of this is often worsened circulation, however, and thus often a subsequent increase of pain. It can also mean that the experience of pain begins a process of anxiety regarding the future, for example whether the pain in question is chronic, implying that it may be impossible to ever make music again. If, however, you have knowledge regarding how to treat the pain, if you trust in your own ability to handle and affect it, and you believe that it is temporary and not something that will last forever, your interpretation will be more rational and manageable. In this case, pain does not need to be a large problem, rather something that can instead pass quite quickly.

Reasons for pain

It is not unusual for someone who uses his or her body for specific tasks on a daily basis for pain to arise at certain times – often when particularly high demands are being placed on the body with little chance for recovery. When mental demands increase, a certain increase in muscle tension also occurs automatically. If there is pain during the activity in question, even more tension will arise to protect or defend against the pain. If this is allowed to continue for a while, it can easily cause compensatory – and in time dysfunctional – muscle activity, both in terms of the muscles involved in the movement and also how much power is used in the movement. There is a risk of then placing too much strain on the body without being conscious of how this changes the body’s stress levels. When an injury has already become established, muscular capacity is affected within only a few days and certain muscles also then become weaker. Other muscles take over and dominate the physical activity, and the balance between the functions of different muscles is also changed, which can perpetuate the pain.

Pain can also be a source of increased anxiety and stress, causing the body to defend itself by becoming even more tense, creating a vicious circle.

Different ways to avoid pain

  1. If pain is prolonged and takes the form of a dull ache, try to work out how the injury arose. If you can find the reason, it will be easier to decide on necessary changes. This is crucial for releasing muscle tensions in the body, and thus relearning what the body needs to do to counteract injury. When an injury has already become established, muscular capacity is quickly affected, bringing about a weakening of certain musculature as a result. The imbalance that arises often results in the pain persisting. To regain full capacity, specific training advice is often required. This is often a question of training the body’s stability and strength through special courses of movements or exercises. Developing adequate stamina is also important.
  2. Try the exercises without adding any weight, in order to re-stimulate circulation in the muscles. Feel free to make somewhat larger movements, and also in the opposite direction in relation to the movements you normally make while playing. Such exercises for the circulation are rarely overly strenuous for the body.
  3. What effects have the pains had, i.e. how can you take care of the “injury” and adapt your goals to your current health?
  4. Cold and warmth can alleviate some of the pain, but this will usually not solve the cause of the pain.
  5. Both physical and psychological aspects of your recovery are important.

Common types of pain

Stiffness after exercise

This pain occurs after temporary overstraining, and usually recovers within a day or two. This kind of stiffness arises when the muscle is used for a long time without resting, if the muscle has to work in a stretched position for a long time, or when the musculature is not used to much exercise. The muscle can feel tender the next day as you start to use it again, but it is usually a discomfort that disappears after a short while. This kind of pain does not result in any change of consistency or size in the muscle or tendon.

Preventative tips and suggestions for treatment

  • Build up the time you play successively if you have had a long time away from playing, for example after a holiday. Begin with 5–15 minutes at a time, which you can do several times during the day.
  • Warm up the musculature for several minutes before you practise.
  • Take regular breaks, for example 1–2 minutes every 30–40 minutes.
  • End the practice session with exercises to stimulate the circulation and stretching, which will also improve your circulation and the recovery of the structures.
  • Consider also the extent of mental tension involved.

Inflammation

When the muscles feel swollen and tender, this is telling you that there is an injury that is repairing itself with inflammation. The injury could have arisen in the tissue, for example if irritants, which are created during muscle use, remain in the muscle and cannot get out.

This can occur if the muscle is forced to continue working for a long time without the chance of recovery. Inflammation can also occur depending on the joint and muscle positions adopted for the specific activity. An unfavourable joint position occurring often and in combination with a great deal of power during the activity for a long time increases the risk for inflammation. The result can be a swollen muscle and tenderness in the actual body of the muscle or in the muscular attachment. The pain will not disappear immediately, but usually requires rest for anything from one to several weeks.

Preventative tips and suggestions for treatment

  • Try to become aware of the strain placed on the body’s joints and muscles in respect to position, time and power, and also based on the different working positions being used.
  • Practise with relaxed, stable standing and sitting positions. If it is difficult to find the optimal position, contact someone who can assist you.
  • Radically minimise the time you play to begin with, and take breaks every ten minutes.
  • Often specific exercises are needed to regain full functionality of the injured musculature.
  • Make movements to stimulate the circulation during the break, and also stretch the musculature in question.
  • It is fine to exercise other parts of the body not affected by the inflammation.

Diffuse pain

Diffuse pain can be felt here and there all over the body. It often occurs as a consequence of pain in a single, specific area of the body being ignored, and then “spreading” to the areas around. It can also occasionally arise due to long-term muscle tension combined with high levels of stress with too little time to recover.

A mental tension that is far too high and recurrent can also be significant for the occurrence of diffuse pain.

Preventative tips and suggestions for treatment

  • Pay attention to your mental health, and consider whether demands and resources are adequately balanced. The brain works more efficiently if it is allowed occasional breaks and can change focus; it is also good if you can feel relaxed as you perform the tasks in question.
  • Adopt well-structured and well-planned mealtimes (3 times per day) and sleep (6–9 hours per night).
  • Physical activity is also useful. Train the body as a whole with, for example, a daily walk of 30–40 minutes in order to allow the body and mind to relax.
  • Contact a physiotherapist or similar physical therapist, because specific training and/or massage therapy are usually required to rid yourself of such problems.

Radiating pain

Radiating pain in a certain part of the body depends on the nerves being affected. It could be a matter of a tense and swollen muscle or tendon pressing against a nerve, resulting from the muscle having been overstrained, causing it to tense and swell. This often occurs in the nerves around the wrists, which results in radiating pain in the hands and fingers. Problems can also arise due to trapped nerves in the vicinity of the shoulder joint.

Preventative tips and suggestions for treatment

  • Try to become aware of the strain placed on the body’s joints and muscles in respect to position, time and power, and also based on the different working positions being used.
  • Try to move the part of the body in question in an area that is not afflicted by pain in order to maintain the circulation.