This is the second part of the previous post addressing pain and how we can change it.
Chronic pain can affect all aspects of our lives. Work. Sleep. Relationships. Our self view.
But guess what...pain can be changed, with the power of you mind and the team around you.
Your Brain on Pain For many years, it was thought that pain was either physical (easy to figure out and physically treat) or psychological (all in your head, see a therapist)
But we know better now! Pain has 2 components: Sensory nerve signals that come from the body and analysis/interpretation of these signals by the brain. When a nerve detects danger, it sends a signal to the brain. Your brain then takes this signal and takes into account all factors before deciding if and how much pain you will feel. So not only do we need to treat the physical damage, if there is any, we need to address the nerves and the brain!
Brain Chemicals Can Turn Off Pain If you were running away from a bear while hiking, and stepped on a sharp rock or twig. You wouldn't feel it. Why? Because your brain is focused on survival, and has the ability to shut out anything that distracts it from keep you alive. For pain, this system is called DESCENDING INHIBITION . The brain releases chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline among others. We can thank the rostroventeal medulla and periaqueductal gray areas of the brain for this! These chemicals, or neurotransmitters, block the nerves in the body from sending the messages signalling damage.
The Bad Guy
Where descending inhibition can be the saviour for helping heal chronic pain, there is something called DESCENDING FACILITATION. The brain releases chemicals like cholecystokinin, that increase the pain.
When this happens too often, the nerves can undergo actual physical chance and become oversensitive for a long time. It can make little things hurt more, or something that's healed keep on hurting. Things that can impact this system include genetics and anticipation of pain.
Perception Can Change Pain
The brain decides if a touch or any other input is received as good or bad Studies have shown that the exact same stimulus can be handled with less discomfort just by the environment and language around it. When the brain interprets a signal as threatening, we tend to get pain. But if we can train it to interpret signals as NOT threatening, it releases chemicals to dampen pain messaging. So language and how we perceive a stimulus! And can change our pain!
How Do You Think About Pain?
How you understand and think about your pain can affect how it feels. When you think negatively and perceive threat, your body releases cholecystokinin and cranks up the volume in your pain
Studies have shown when there are positive, reassuring education around a pain episodes, we actually feel LESS PAIN Do you think you're broken, fragile or damaged?
Do you think more pain means more tissue damage? Do you think imaging is the be all end all of explaining your condition? Do you think movement is dangerous?
All of these can impact your pain and function. Reframing and developing an understanding of your condition and treatment are imperative. Not only can your chiropractor do this, but a trained psychologist can be an amazing resource.