Chronic pain is a complex, physiological process involving specialized sensory cells, nerves, your brain and spinal cord and a multitude of biochemical substances..
Chronic means the injury/damage/disease of the affected body region has gone through the normal stages of healing, but some degree of pain still remains. This can be due to incomplete healing, permanent physical damage to structures, continual re-injury/ aggravation of the area or even “imprinting” into the spinal cord where the central nervous system literally “memorizes” the pain signals, causing them to be ever-present.
Musculoskeletal conditions arising from trauma or gradual wear and tear dominate chronic pain cases (pain originating from bones, joints, muscles, soft tissues). Diseases affecting the nerves such as shingles, advanced diabetes, trigeminal neuralgia and other peripheral nerve diseases often become chronic in nature as well.
Research suggests that one’s conscious reaction to pain (how you respond to it) influences the severity of pain; that is, the perception of it. Someone who embraces his pain and defers to its presence out of excess fear or worry is less likely to improve than someone who resists giving in and “moves into” the pain by not focusing on it too much as he goes about doing what he desires. This strongly suggests that pain has both physiological (body) and psychological (mind) components to it, and therefore, treatment for it should incorporate methodologies that address both.
Treatment for chronic pain includes acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (aspirin, ibuprofen), anti-depressant drugs used “off label” for pain (amitriptyline, Cymbalta), anti-convulsant drugs used off-label for pain (Lyrica), corticosteroids (Prednisone) and opiate drugs (morphine, codeine). They work in different ways to decrease pain; some not fully understood. And, they all come with side effects, which differ from person to person.
TENS units and spinal cord stimulators are instruments used to block or interfere with pain signals as they travel through the central nervous system.
So between strong drugs with unpleasant and often dangerous side effects and devices designed to block pain, the medical options for treatment are disappointing. These interventions are not intended to cure the problem at its source, but rather interfere with its manifestation via chemical and electrical means.
For those who suffer from chronic pain, I would suggest they direct their attention to creating conditions in their bodies that optimize health. This may not “cure” chronic pain entirely, but a healthy body is in a much better position to heal and regenerate than one that is not.
- Your body is a community of interconnected, living cells that affect one another. For example, an intestinal cell and a muscle cell have a functional relationship. This cellular relationship can be influenced to reduce pain.
- Cells are the basic unit of the human body, and like the human body your cells consume food, breathe oxygen, perform work, burn energy stored in food and produce waste.
- What enters your body via your mouth, lungs and skin gets into all of your cells (with the exception of those substances that cannot cross the blood-brain barrier).
- Areas of chronic pain are where cells are in a state of distress. They may be producing inflammation, abnormally firing nerves, and/or not getting rid of their waste products properly.
- You can greatly influence the functional state of all your cells by what you think, what you eat and drink, and what you do with your body.
In a few weeks, I will be releasing a course on how to optimize your body to reduce chronic pain, which is centered on these five concepts. It is intended for those who suffer from some degree of chronic pain and have not had much success with medical interventions. As with all Optimal Body System courses, it will emphasize lifestyle modification and interventions that are within most peoples’ ability.