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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

May 1997

Pain - The Body's Warning Sign

By Rick Allen, DC

Ouch! Pain is the body's warning sign. Is it the pain of a cramp mentioned in last month's column? Is it just something that comes with age? Will it go away on its own or should you seek professional help? These are very broad questions which cannot be answered with certainty. There are whole semester courses for doctors on differential diagnosis, including determination of the causes of pain. Nevertheless, I'll try to give you some general guidelines which I hope will be helpful, especially for the pains commonly found when dancing.

Onset of Pain

The first differentiation is the onset of pain - acute or chronic? Generally, acute pain happens at the time of injury. If you twist your ankle, the cause of the acute pain is obvious. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is less easily defined. Often it occurs after exercise, such as an old foot injury which plagues you after dancing.

Location of Pain

Generally, the more localized the pain, the less serious the problem. For instance, local muscle soreness most likely indicates a mild strain which may heal in a few days. Localized, back pain happening for the first time from a mild acute strain falls in this category. Back pain radiating down the leg, as in sciatica, is more serious and probably requires professional diagnosis and treatment. To complicate matters, the place where you feel the pain may not be the site of the injury. That is, the pain may be referred from the injury. A common example of this is a subluxation of an upper rib. This can refer excruciating pain down the arm. If it is on the left side, it may even be incorrectly diagnosed as a heart attack!

Quality of Pain

The quality of the pain may give you a very good idea of the tissue injured:

Muscular pain is usually aching. Injury to a nerve may give a pain like an electric current or "searing" pain. Skeletal pain is sometimes described as "boring".

Modifying Factors

What makes the pain better or worse? Muscular injuries, such as strains, hurt more when the muscle is actively contracted. Injuries to ligaments, such as sprains, on the other hand, hurt even with passive movement. Bursitis, which is an inflammation of the bursa cushioning a joint, will usually show pin point pain with any movement of the involved joint.


Most importantly, is the pain changing rapidly for the worse? If so, expert treatment is needed quickly.


The aches and pains of old age are mostly due to inactivity. Our bodies are meant to move. If you exercise and stretch regularly, you will be much healthier and pain free. Take a yoga class, see your chiropractor or other natural care provider regularly, and keep on dancing.

If pain is a daily occurrence, something is wrong. Daily headaches are not normal. Often they are related to stress and poor posture with the head and chest slumped forward. Daily doses of aspirin or ibuprofen are not the answer. Correction of the underlying cause is.

NOTE: The idea for this month's column came from one of our readers. If you have a suggestion for a column, please pass it on to me.

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