Updated: Mar 12
Persisting or chronic musculoskeletal pain is a long-lasting pain in the bones, muscles, and joints that affects many people. However, not all cases of chronic musculoskeletal pain are due to significant tissue damage or injury. The development of chronic musculoskeletal pain can be influenced several factors, including peripheral sensitization, central sensitization, neuroplastic changes in the nervous system, and psychological factors.
Peripheral sensitization refers to increased sensitivity to pain signals at the site of the injury or following tissue damage. Central sensitization, on the other hand, refers to changes in the central nervous system that result in increased sensitivity to pain signals, even in the absence of tissue damage or injury. Neuroplastic changes refer to changes in the nervous system that result in the brain becoming more sensitive to pain signals over time.
Research over the past decades has also found that psychosocial factors highly influence the pain experience felt by some. When signals of actual or potential tissue damage/injury are processed by the brain, signals pass through an area called the 'limbic system' which is responsible for behavioural and emotional responses. The final pain experience felt by people is therefore highly influenced by their thoughts, feelings, emotions, beliefs, experiences, and other contextual factors specific to that persons life.
In simple terms, chronic musculoskeletal pain can be caused by many factors, not just damage or injury to the bones, muscles, and joints. Sometimes, the pain can persist even when there is no significant tissue damage or injury. This is why it is important to seek the help of a healthcare professional who can evaluate the cause of your chronic musculoskeletal pain and provide appropriate treatment options.
Not all cases of chronic musculoskeletal pain are a cause for concern and may not be due to significant tissue damage or injury. A range of physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of chronic musculoskeletal pain, and a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare provider is necessary to determine the underlying cause and inform an appropriate treatment plan. If you or someone you know is struggling with persisting musculoskeletal pain, feel free to get in touch via the clinic/contact tabs to arrange a consultation.
Rohil Chauhan is a Spinal Orthopedic-triage Physiotherapist working at the Auckland Spine Surgical Centre in a diagnostic role, alongside consulting spine specialists. He commonly assesses, diagnoses and manages the treatment of patients with spinal-related pain and various other sources of persisting pain. If you have been struggling with similar pains and would like an assessment and input, please get in touch via the Clinic tab to book an appointment to see him.