THE FACTS BEHIND CHRONIC PAIN
As previously mentioned in my last blog when the brain perceives you are in danger it calls upon many systems in its response to this discerned threat including:
- The muscular system- run away, fight
- The sympathetic system-increase heart rate, sweat
- The immune system –promote healing, sensitise neurons
- The endocrine system-reduce gut and reproductive activity
Together all these systems work together to get you out of trouble creating a pain experience, or motor experience or a stress experience.
When we initially injure our tissues we go through an immediate inflammatory response. This initial inflammation is to be appreciated as the body’s immune and rebuilding cells are directed to the injured body area. Give thanks, muchas gracias! Often pain is experienced here as the chemicals involved in inflammation can sensitise the nerve endings in the area, causing a barrage of messages to be delivered to the brain. However, as the healing process continues the pain levels should drop as the inflammation subsides and the tissues heal.
Pain nearly always involves something going on in the tissues! Therefore, managing the tissues involved will help you manage your pain. Understanding the processes behind the pain experience in both the brain and the tissues will provide you will enormous control in your pain experience. When pain persists past the natural healing time of the tissues we can say with certainty that the brain has concluded that a threat continues and that you still need protection and consequently pain. The central nervous system is highly adaptive and will respond to the demands it is placed under. If continued messages from a damaged, inflamed, scarred or weak tissue continue arriving, the brain gets more tuned to that zone and better at listening. It’s the continuous influx of messages that can lead to the brain ‘over-listening’ to that area and in turn over responding.
When this happens you can become aware of more pain in areas that just hurt a little before, or areas that didn’t previously hurt at all now have started to hurt. Rather than calmly supervising the operations on the ground floor the brain has now become a hyper-vigilant boss micromanaging every movement in that sector. The pain persists, spreads, perhaps worsens and now even small movements can become painful. This is an indication that the alarm system can become faulty.
This enchanced sensitivity of the alarm system is nearly always a feature of ongoing pain. Due to this increase in sensitivity in the tissues, the brain is now acting on faulty information and is no longer receiving accurate information about what is going on in the tissues and so the brain perceives that there is more danger in the tissues than is actually the case. As a results the brains responses such as thoughts, beliefs, immune, muscular, endocrine are amplified and exaggerated. Oh my! At this stage brain in attempt to look out for you makes those body parts harder to use….does this sound familiar to you?
For fear of over-informing I will leave you to digest the above information and in my next blog I will explore further changes that can occur in the brain during chronic pain. As before, be a friend and tag a friend who you feel will benefit from further understanding the processes involved in the pain experience! For further information or to book an appointment with Dee, contact us at Personal Health on 416 4002.