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Pain is weird (and spiders suck).

Pain is incredibly effective in alerting us to threats and it is an integral survival mechanism . But pain is not always useful or indicative of tissue damage.

A while back I was down the coast and excited to be heading out for a surf. As I stepped out onto the reef, and prepared to jump into the surf, I felt a sharp pain in my left calf. It was intense, but only lasted a few seconds.

I had a good surf – which by my kook standards doesn’t mean much – and forgot about the calf incident.

Later, as I was showering and removing my wetsuit, I noticed a dead spider wash out of the left leg of my wetsuit and down the drain. I put two and two together, but it did not hurt, so I mostly forgot about it.

However, a few days later I noticed my calf was itchy, red and swollen. I went to the doc and he diagnosed it as cellulitis and prescribed antibiotics and topical steroids. The whole thing resolved quickly.

A short time later, I donned the wetsuit again and was walking out along the beach to surf. I was with a mate and we were laughing about something and pumped to be getting into the ocean.  Suddenly, I felt another pang of pain in the left calf. ‘Surely not?! What are the odds? Must be a spiders nest in my wetsuit!’ I rolled up the wetsuit leg and could not find anything. There was no spider or evidence of any threat.

This time nothing else eventuated and I was left a bit perplexed. Interestingly, this happened another time surfing, and again, I was not consciously thinking about spiders.

Pain is an unpleasant experience urging us to protect ourselves from a perceived threat (real or not). Mostly it is a helpful response, like if we break a bone. When a spider bites you, pain is also a useful alarm bell. I think that had I actually seen the spider biting me, I would have experienced more ongoing pain at the time. But without that visual input of a scary spider, there was not enough credible evidence for my brain to produce ongoing protective pain.

Yet later my brain associated wetsuit/surfing with danger and the need to protect the left calf. Through some predictive mechanism it produced another protective pain response. Associative memory is used to make future predictions. It’s pretty cool but sometimes it produces unhelpful responses. This time around there was no spider bite, or credible threat, and yet I still experienced pain.

Chronic, or persistent pain, is another example of the body producing unhelpful pain. Although the pain is real and debilitating, it is not necessarily useful because it does not correspond to current tissue damage or a genuine threat.

The causes of chronic pain are complex and not fully understood. However, a better understanding of one’s pain underpins chronic pain management and treatment.

The moral of the story is that pain is weird. And that spiders suck.

Frequently Asked Questions

Osteopaths are primary healthcare providers which means that no referral is necessary. If your treatment is being covered by WorkSafe, TAC or DVA, you will require a referral to ensure that your costs are covered.

We are able to treat WorkSafe, TAC, EPC and DVA patients, however you will require a referral from your GP. For TAC and WorkSafe patients we will also require your claim number and date of injury.

We are covered by private health funds via extras cover. Exact details will vary depending on the individual fund and level of cover. We do have a Hicaps machine which enables you to claim health fund payments on the spot.

For medicare rebates you must qualify for an EPC plan. You will need to discuss this with your GP, and a referral is necessary.

Yes, please bring in any X-ray, CT or MRI scan results you may have. If you have a report for these scans, make sure you bring this along as well.

During your first consultation your osteopath will ask questions about your problem and symptoms. They may also ask questions about your medical history, any medications you are taking or other factors that may not appear to be directly related to your problem. If your medical condition changes during the course of your osteopathic treatment, you should tell your osteopath.

Your osteopath may ask about any recent X-rays, scans or test results that you may have.

Depending on the area of your body requiring treatment, your osteopath may ask you to undress to your underwear. It’s important that you feel comfortable, so you may want to wear loose pants or bring a pair of shorts to change into.

Next, your osteopath will conduct a full osteopathic examination and if necessary, clinical tests. This may involve diagnostic, orthopaedic or neurological tests, postural assessments and activities or exercises, which will help determine how best to manage your condition.

The examination may include passive and active movements, such as the osteopath lifting your arms or legs. As part of the examination, you may also be asked to bend over or stand in your underwear. Be sure to wear comfortable, flexible and appropriate underwear.

As osteopathy takes a holistic approach to treatment, your practitioner may look at other parts of your body, as well as the area that is troubling you. For example, if you have a sore knee, your osteopath may also look at your ankle, pelvis and back.

Your osteopath may also provide education and advice to help you manage your condition between treatments. This may include giving you exercises to do at home or work.

Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy, so hands-on treatment may include massage, stretching, repetitive movements, mobilisation and/or manipulation. Most osteopathic treatment is gentle and should not cause undue discomfort. If your injuries do require hands-on treatment of painful and tender areas, your osteopath will exercise care to make you as comfortable as possible.

Some people experience mild soreness for a day or two after treatment, similar to that felt after mild exercise. If this soreness persists or increases significantly, call your osteopath to discuss your concerns.

Your initial consultation may last up to one hour. This will enable your osteopath to take a thorough history, examine and treat you. Follow-up treatments are usually shorter. Depending on your condition, they can take 30-40 minutes.

Generally you would expect to see some changes in your symptoms after one or two visits; however, some long-term or chronic conditions may require a longer course or more frequent treatment. If you have any concerns, your osteopath will be happy to discuss these with you.

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