If your pain has a chemical component, it is more likely to improve with medication. This type of pain occurs when chemicals are released in the injured body part, and it includes inflammation. One way to know if your pain is chemical is if it is CONSTANT. This means you have pain throughout every day and it never goes away, no matter what position you are in. It may increase and decrease some, but it is always present. Chemical pain is not changeable with movement. Typically chemical pain occurs in response to a traumatic injury or repetitive stress on that tissue over an extended period of time. If you have swelling from a new injury, your pain clearly has a chemical component. This type of pain may last for a short or long time, depending on the cause.
The other type of pain you may have is mechanical pain. Mechanical pain improves and worsens depending on your movements and positions. If sitting down eliminates your pain, your pain is more mechanical and likely is not chemical. You fit into the mechanical pain category if you can identify specific activities that remove your pain, such as standing up, walking around, lying down, or stretching. Similarly, you know the specific activities that initiate your pain, such as standing, walking for 5 minutes, bending down, reaching a certain way, or lifting an object. For mechanical pain, moving a joint one way makes it feel worse yet moving it the opposite way decreases the pain. With time, as you find the symptoms improving, your overall joint movement also improves. If you have mechanical pain, it is less likely to respond to chemical treatment (medicine).
PHYSICAL THERAPY VS. PAIN MEDICINE:
It is possible for constant pain to be chemical or mechanical. But if your pain is not constant, you can rule out the chemical component! In that case, find a good Physical Therapist near you! If you suspect both components of pain, you may benefit from both medicine and Physical Therapy.
A new injury will have a chemical/inflammatory component for several days-weeks but as the healing process occurs, the constant pain will decrease so that it is no longer constant. Then the pain will occur mostly with movement of that tissue. If it is stressed excessively during that time (too much exercise or movement), it may cause more inflammation. It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions after a new injury. If you do not know when/how to start moving the body part after an injury, you would benefit from Physical Therapy.
Remember that these are not the only components of pain. Be sure to consult your physician about your pain so he/she can assess and diagnose the problem and refer you wherever is most appropriate for treatment.
Source: McKenzie R, May S. The Human Extremities: Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy. 2000: Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd, pages 61-72.