Pain is a Protector

Project Physio will be running pain education workshops. Skip to the bottom for details! 

Pain is still a mystery to many of us, and misconceptions about what it is, how it works and its purpose is prevalent even amongst healthcare providers. Fortunately, pain science has come a long way and we're much better at explaining what's happening in our body when we experience pain.  

One of the more important concepts to remember is that pain is a protector. It's meant to warn you of a potential danger to your body. It's not, however, a good indicator of whether or not tissue harm has occurred to your body. Check out my latest video for an example! 

For you ice climbers, I'm sure you'll be familiar with the following example. Picture yourself on a WI 4 route, nearing the top and fighting a mad pump. This is the longest ice route you've done so far! You manage to sink your axe over the lip and let out a holler as you pull through and stand up victoriously. You drop your axes and take a deep breath, reflecting on how psyched you are on completing your hardest climb yet - a personal best.

You slowly start to feel an ache build in your hands, and it quickly progresses to a debilitating pain so agonizing you let out another yelp. It progresses to a scream and soon enough you're on your knees yelling at the top of your lungs. It feels like your hands are in a hydraulic press, and the pressure is building excruciatingly slow, squeezing your hands to pulp. There's nothing you can do about it. It continues to build, and build, and build until finally you start to dry heave, then vomit all over the ice you just climbed. That's right, you've just experienced the screaming barfies.

After a few minutes the pain subsides and you have full function of your hands again. Unless you were also frostbitten, there's a slim chance you've caused any lasting harm. That being said, you'll never forget that pain. 

In this example, the pain was a result of blood flow returning to the nerves in your hands and fingers. The nerve endings responsible for transmitting "harm" signals to your brain we're triggered as they were reawakened with fresh blood. Screaming barfies provide a good example of how you can experience significant pain without lasting tissue harm. 

Project Physio will be running Pain Education Workshops aimed at demystifying pain myths and providing you with novel tools for pain management. We've partnered with Kavanagh Danaher, Registered Dietitian, and Danielle Berman, Social Worker, to help make this a comprehensive workshop. It's designed for anyone keen on learning more about pain, whether you have a fresh injury, or are struggling with managing chronic pain. 

Details of the workshop are below. Please RSVP to or by calling 604.243.1634. Space is limited! 

When: April 29th, 2017 from 9am - 12pm

Where: Ground Up Climbing Gym 

Price: by donation 

On the Docket: 

  • Understanding pain and its neurophysiology
  • Chronic pain and the altered nervous system

  • How our thoughts and emotions affect our pain 

  • Our diet's role in pain and recovery

  • Management strategies

  1. Movement through persistent pain

  2. Pacing and graded exposure

  3. Mindfulness

  4. Visualization

  5. Accessing the virtual body

  6. Assessing and managing diet