Pain and discomfort are two sensations that we often encounter in our daily lives. However, many people use these terms interchangeably, when in fact, they are distinct experiences. When we were children, we used words like “bad, stupid, ugly” and the ever mom-favorite “I don’t like it” because we had minimized vocabulary to describe what we were REALLY experiencing.
The average person — stress aside — doesn’t live with chronic physical handicaps. Thus when they experience plastic surgery, their ability to convey what they’re feeling all gets lumped into a low level vocabulary generalization of “it hurts”— as if all “hurt” reception is the same. Understanding the difference between pain and discomfort can help us better communicate our experiences to others and make more informed decisions about how to manage them.
Pain can be defined as a physical or emotional sensation that is unpleasant and often associated with tissue damage (surgery creates a lot of tissue damage. Like… A LOT). It can be a cute or chronic and can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Pain is often associated with injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions, such as headaches, arthritis, or cancer. The experience of pain can be debilitating and affect an individual's quality of life. Pain is normal, especially after surgery— but it quickly fades into discomfort.
Discomfort, on the other hand, is a more general term that refers to a feeling of physical or emotional unease. It is often associated with situations that are unfamiliar, unpleasant, or mildly irritating, such as sitting in an uncomfortable chair or wearing shoes that don't fit properly. Discomfort is typically less intense than pain, and while it may be unpleasant, it is not usually debilitating.
One of the key differences between pain and discomfort is the underlying cause. Pain is often associated with tissue damage or injury, while discomfort can be caused by a variety of factors, including physical or emotional stress, poor posture, or environmental factors. Pain is often a signal that something is wrong and requires attention to fix the source, while discomfort is more of feedback that a situation is less than ideal.
Another key difference between pain and discomfort is the intensity of the experience. Pain is typically more intense than discomfort and can range from mild to severe. It can be sharp, dull, burning, or throbbing, and is often accompanied by other physical symptoms, such as swelling, redness, or stiffness. Discomfort, on the other hand, is usually a milder sensation (pain evolves) that is more diffuse and less focused. One of those “it all just hurts”— thats discomfort.
The reason it matters is pain sends us into fight or flight mode releasing a surge of hormones into the bodies that aren’t helpful when it’s a normal response to temporary trauma.
Imagine someone puts a gun to your or a loved ones head. The sheer terror that would flood your body. Or imagine how you would respond to dropping a piano on your foot. Painful right?! You NEED to react! But fast forward 20 days… is the level of hurt the same? It is if you tell your brain it is. The difference between the two is what your brain receives— if you tell it you’re dying, it will believe you; and chemically respond accordingly.
While pain and discomfort are different experiences, they are both subjective and can vary from person to person. For example, what one person may experience as mild discomfort, another may experience as intense pain. The perception of pain and discomfort can also be influenced by individual factors such as age, gender, cultural background, and prior hurt experiences.
Managing pain and discomfort often requires different approaches. Pain management typically involves treating the underlying cause of the pain, such as medication, physical therapy, or surgery. Discomfort, on the other hand, is managed through simple lifestyle changes, such as improving posture, breathing, moving, self massaging, changing footwear, or adjusting the temperature or lighting in a room. When you are able to properly identify? You can also properly respond to any stimuli.
In some cases, pain and discomfort may be interconnected, with one exacerbating the other. For example, chronic pain can lead to feelings of discomfort, such as fatigue or sleep disturbances. In turn, discomfort can increase sensitivity to pain, making it feel more intense than it actually is. Understanding the relationship between pain and discomfort can help individuals better manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. Because at the end of the day, after any surgery procedure-but especially plastic surgery, post the procedure? It is all mental.
Tip on improving mental strength:
🧠 Do you brain exercises a few times a week.
🧘🏾♀️ Start learning how to meditate and connect with your source energy BEFORE surgery.
✍🏾 Write down your thoughts, sometimes things are easier to sort through; we also cannot believe everything we think. Learn to question “is this true, and how do I know it’s true?”
💆🏾♀️ Expect to be in stream discomfort in advance, don’t mis-label your trauma if you don’t have to.
About the author
International massage therapist who’s career has evolved from sports massage, to oncology massage, to leading the industry in postOperative care and body contouring, specifically pertaining to plastic surgery. Tai is the owner of Taime out Massage Studios and a Tributo partner.