Forget About the Ache

By: Dr. Luigi Nalli

Through my series of articles I have done my best to educate about what pain is and how various healthcare professionals go about its management. The problem with this is that the focus has been ‘pain’ and the key to a person managing their pain is to ‘not focus on it’. As I have alluded to many times, pain is a physical phenomenon and a psychological one.

When a child first learns to ride a bike, they must practice and with enough trials they will develop the skill to pedal and keep two wheels balanced. With continued practice this motor skill will become automatic and they will know how to ride a bike without any active thought. Pain develops the same way.

Let’s use the example of low back pain. Assume a person begins to experience low back pain from an initial injury, like lifting a box the wrong way. Now assume the issue is not managed immediately and the person continues to feel pain. If experienced over an extended time a neural pathway will develop. This neural pathway is equivalent to the automatic ability to ride a bike. The pain was so “practiced” that it became automatic.

The simple point to remember here is that focusing on pain will only help to make that pain ‘automatic’. Now, I am not suggesting you should always ignore your pain; rather listen to your body’s pain. Present it to a healthcare professional and once they have recommended a management strategy follow through with that plan and then forget about focusing on the pain.

When any good healthcare professional is treating a patient for a pain related complaint they will often not focus on the pain but rather on more important factors like motion and function. Pain is often secondary to problems, like reduced motion of a joint. Thus working on the primary issue (motion of the joint) and improving that issue will subsequently help manage the secondary issue (pain).

Forgetting about the pain you’re experiencing is not a simple task and not one that will happen automatically. Practice not thinking about pain by distracting yourself with any activity that occupies your mind. The benefits of this will not be apparent over night, but over continued practice you may be able to ‘automatically’ forget the pain!

Dr. Luigi Nalli is a licensed Chiropractor with a special interest in pain management. He is a graduate of both the University of Toronto and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and has further certifications from McMaster University. He is also the Clinical Director of Humber Family Chiropractic, Rehabilitation & Wellness, a multidisciplinary clinic with dozens of healthcare professionals dedicated to pain management and overall wellness. The centre’s main office is located directly across from William Osler’s Etobicoke General Hospital and is open 7 days a week. To contact Dr. Nalli or book an appointment at the clinic, please call 416-744-7900 or email