Pain, discomfort, stiffness, or any other negative signals you are feeling are your bodys way of communicating with you. Every second your brain is performing millions of diagnostic checks to monitor the status of your body and its systems. Much like the onboard computers in todays modern cars, these checks are to make sure everything is operating normally and optimally, and will alert us if something is wrong.
In a car, a check engine or oil or gas light will go on, telling us to either gas up or bring our car in for some service. In our body, we will experience pain, stiffness, swelling, etc, telling us we are injured or have performed an activity that aggravated a pre existing issue unknown to us.
The obvious reaction to a gas light going on would be to get gas very soon before you stall. A check engine light is less obvious, with the car seemingly running normally and the alert being uninformative. However, it is common sense that this alert is telling us something is wrong and should be diagnosed by a service center so the problem does not become a bigger issue or damage the car in any way.
Pain and severe swelling from an injury, like a sprained ankle or broken bone is obvious just like the gas light in your car. We know what caused it, the pain is instantaneous, and moving the area is difficult or impossible. We know to get care ASAP.
However, pain is commonly insidious. This means that the source or cause of the pain is not known, or not obvious, but evident none the less. It may be difficult to know what to do about this type of chronic pain, because there may not be obvious swelling, or the area of pain is vague, or there is nothing "broken" to fix. This type of situation requires a professional to "diagnose" the problem much like the car service center connecting your car to a computer to diagnose the check engine light. You may not know what the source of the problem is but you know something is wrong because you do not feel right. So just as you would take car of your expensive car, you should do the same for your most valuable possession, your body.
These symptoms are never meaningless. You will not feel pain if nothing is wrong. Pain can become chronic if the issue is not addressed and corrected or treated. Even mild pain is not "normal". Many people experience aching or stiffness in their joints and state: "oh everyone has some aches and pains, it is just normal pain, or I slept wrong". Yes many people COMMONLY have complaints; but this is far from NORMAL.
As a chiropractor, most of my day consists of trying to interpret or translate the language of your brains pain alarm system to figure out the source or cause of the problem. It is never simple. Sometimes the source of the problem is far from the location of pain, as the body is a complex web of connections and compensations that may have been developing over years before we even started feeling the symptoms. Many times we do not even feel the pain symptoms while problems are slowly developing.
The simple idea is this:
Listen to your body. Your brain is trying to tell you something. If you ignore it, your brain will try harder to get your attention, which eventually means more severe symptoms.
At some point, if ignored long enough, your brain will take matters into its own hands and totally shut down your body for a period of time so you have no choice but to rest or get help. This is the classic "my back went out and I cant move" scenario. No it was not tying your shoe that injured your back and caused a spasm. It was probably years developing, with the person ignoring the milder symptoms over and over, and finally that particular day, your brain had enough. By that time irreversible damage may have occurred.
Do not wait for that day. Listen to your body. Even getting checked before you develop pain would be the optimal time to correct silent bio-mechanical problems before they rear their ugly heads. Get help from a professional who is fluent in the "language of pain". Chiropractic can help to translate the signals and correct the cause and turn off your "Check Engine" light before your car(body) is broken for good.