For many people who suffer from chronic back pain, traditional treatments leave them unsatisfied and even worse, still in pain. Physical therapy, injections, drugs and even surgeries offer temporary relief at best, and often more pain and debilitation. However, as more and more patients are searching for effective treatments for chronic pain, and more is becoming understand about the brain and nervous system’s role in pain and pain management, the power of the brain is being harnessed to give real relief to the thousands of people who suffer each day.
While pain seems like a simple concept, there are actually different types of pain and by understanding the characteristics of pain is the important first step to finding effective treatments. When thinking of pain that comes from an injury, inflammation or disease, the culprit is typically acute pain. Acute pain is temporary in nature, fading as the root cause of the pain is healed. Chronic pain is far less predictable, often lasting for weeks, months or even years. While chronic pain can be linked to certain diseases, the root cause of chronic pain may also have no discernible cause, making it both mysterious and hard to treat.
However, while there is no doubt that many people experience chronic pain due to underlying medical causes, high-stress environments also contribute to pain. Pain is created in the brain. The brain is set to ensure safety and survival. When you feel stressed, your brain engages in the ‘fight or flight’ mode, sending a burst of energy to help you either stand your ground or flee from impending danger, which is a highly evolved human response… until it works against us. Sometimes, the perceived threat or physical injury can cause pain as the signal that the body needs protecting. In addition, high-stress situations lead to the release of the hormone cortisol. Chronic cortisol elevation can lead to weight-gain, migraine headaches and yes, back pain. Understanding how the brain reacts to stress is the key to reducing stress and, in turn, the physical responses to it that include pain.
“Chronic pain is a complex sensory and emotional experience that varies widely between people depending on the context and meaning of the pain and the psychological state of the person. Cognitive and emotional factors have a critically important influence on pain perception and these relationships lie in the connectivity of brain regions controlling pain perception, attention or expectation, and emotional states. Imaging studies have confirmed that activity of afferent and descending pain pathways are altered by attentional state, positive emotions, and negative emotions among many other factors unrelated to the pain stimulus itself. There are now numerous studies that demonstrate that patients with chronic pain have alterations in brain regions involved in cognitive and emotional modulation of pain. This complex interplay may explain why patients with long-term chronic pain develop anxiety and depression, but also why those with cognitive distortion and psychological distress are at increased risk for chronic pain and central amplification of pain.”
In other words, to find the best treatment for chronic back pain, start by examining the brain and you will be on your way to effective treatments and long-term relief.
If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain and would like to learn how Chiropractic Neurology can help you, please contact the team at Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center today. We look forward to hearing from you.