Probably the most important question when dealing with musculoskeletal pain is:
"Can you remember a period of time when you did not have the pain?”
Another example of a great question to ask yourself is:
“Are there periods of time during the days or weeks when the pain is not present?”
The reason for these questions is simple and the answers can be broken down into two categories; Structural vs. Non-structural pain.
Examples of Structural pain include things like broken bones, torn muscles, infections and some forms of cancer. When dealing with a Structural deficiency, the pain will be consistent in frequency, especially when overloaded during movement, and will seemingly always be present.
That is why the previous question is so important.
If you are experiencing moments during the day, or days during the week, when the pain is NOT present then there is a higher likelihood that you are dealing with Non-structural pain.
Often clients will experience flare ups in a previous area of complaint after going without symptoms for months or even years. This is a big clue that you are experiencing Non-structural pain; and examples would include things like an over-sensitized nervous system or oxygen deficiency in the muscles/ligaments/tendons due to chronic tension. In both of those examples, it is still possible to have pain that is seemingly constant, especially when aggravated during a flare up.
However, if you and your doctor have ruled out any serious pathologies like those listed above as Structural pain, then there is a very good chance that the pain is Non-structural in nature.
A simple metaphor for the two situations can be described like this:
A broken screen on your phone is an example of a Structural problem, while a phone that is beginning to slow down and overheat due to prolonged use is an example of a Non-structural problem.
Which one sounds more like you?