We now offer the BIO MAT and Sunlighten Sauna therapies to help with chronic pain. Therefore, we thought we would also research and offer useful information for pain and pain management – as we stumble across shareable content. This article from Riordan Clinic offers some really insightful information that we thought you might enjoy.
Original Article | Riordan Clinic – How to Naturally Manage Pain
PAIN!! Just the sound of it can invoke a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling. For as much as we know about pain and ways to mediate it, it is still somewhat elusive and mysterious. What is it that causes the experience of pain? And more importantly, how do we control it? This is the million dollar question.
Pain is the most common symptom for which Americans seek medical care. Painkillers are some of the most heavily used and abused prescriptions on the market. According to IMS Health, it is estimated that 92 million prescriptions are written per year for narcotic painkillers alone. These medications have a long list of side effects, most notably the propensity for addiction. according to the CDC, nonmedical misuse of prescription narcotic painkillers costs those who are insured about $72.5 billion per year in health care costs. Narcotics are only one classification of painkillers. Patients are also prescribed corticosteroids, antidepressants and anticonvulsants for pain, as well as having a myriad of over-the-counter options. All of these carry with them the burden of unwanted side effects.
The Price of Pain
The burden of the cost of pain on our society is overwhelming. According to Gatskin & Richard (2011), the combined health care and lost productivity costs due to chronic pain per year are between $560 billion and $635 billion. This ranks pain as more expensive than heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Not only does pain cost us through direct health care costs, but also in missed work, decreased productivity, decreased quality of life and increased numbers of Americans dependent upon disability. The number one reason for longterm disability is arthritis and other musculoskeletal complaints, including low back pain and hip pain.
No Pain, No Pain
Pain is a necessary evil. Acute pain is a communication that an action is needed. Pain is sensed by the body by peripheral nociceptors that communicate that message in ascending pathways to the brainstem and higher cortical structures. Whether it’s removing your hand from a hot stove or resting after an acute sprain injury, our body uses pain to communicate a message. Different types of pain communicate different messages. Generally speaking, the following are some of the messages our pain is telling us:
- Nerve pain—burning, tingling, numb, shooting, usually follows a dermatome pattern
- Muscular pain—dull, achy, sharp with movement, relieved with rest, can be reproduced by touching/moving the area involved
- Visceral pain—diffuse, nauseating, constant, sometimes refers to muscular structures and is unrelieved with rest
- Joint pain/arthritis—sharp, localized, constant, reproduced with movement of the joint, associated swelling and redness of the joint
The point at which pain becomes pathological is when it turns chronic. Traditional definitions of chronic pain have a duration of at least 3–6 months and extend beyond a reasonable period where healing should take place. Chronic pain can be caused by an ongoing insult such as degenerative arthritis, chronic inflammation and/or a chronic infection. However, chronic pain can also persist in the absence of an insulting injury. It is thought that chronic pain can be a malfunction at a few different points in a neural pathway.
Theories of Chronic Pain
One theory of chronic pain is that peripherally, persistent activation of nociceptive transmission can have a “wind up” effect. This leads to a lowering of the threshold for pain signals to be transmitted. This disruption of communication can lead to the development of patterns and more easily transmit the perception of pain signals. This would be like hitting your thumb over and over again with a hammer. The body learns to “expect” the pain and so all you would need to do is to start swinging the hammer toward your thumb and you would probably experience a degree of pain.
The newest research theorizes that chronic pain is more likely a byproduct of processing malfunctions in the brain. There is not one centralized area of the brain that perceives pain. This is why the perception of pain varies significantly from person-to-person. The path that pain signals take in the brain is largely based on learned behaviors and/or our genetic inheritance of2:
- coping skills
- stress management
- motivation and/or propensity for depression
MRI studies have shown that people who have chronic pain tend to have altered pathways for processing pain. If pain transmission in the brain was like a train, people who have chronic pain are on the local line. They are making more stops and integrating more information into their perception of pain. Also, the “extra stops” in the brain that their pain processing is taking are in the areas of the brain associated with emotional processing3. Therefore, people who are depressed or anxious could be connecting their pain to those feelings, which can alter their perception of pain.
Now this isn’t to say that all pain is a figment of the imagination, because it most definitely is not! Pain is a very real thing. What the central modulation of pain in the brain does is either turn up or turn down the volume of that pain. The ability to do that is largely based on a person’s emotional state.Text on the button