Neuroplasticity and Pain Relief
Pain is one of the most common human experiences. It affects every aspect of our lives: from how we feel physically, mentally or emotionally to how we live our daily life. For many years scientists have been trying to understand why some people experience less pain than others, while other people are able to cope with painful situations without any problems. One hypothesis suggests that different parts of the nervous system may respond differently when it comes to dealing with pain.
The pain response is influenced by several factors such as genetics, age, gender and health status. There are also environmental factors like stressors and medications that can affect the way we perceive pain. However, there is no single factor that explains all cases of chronic pain. Some people seem to be resistant to the effects of physical stimuli (e.g., heat) while others seem to react better to these same stimuli (e.g., cold).
In general, pain is thought to be caused by damage to the body’s central nervous system. Damage occurs when nerve cells become damaged or die due to various causes including injury, disease and aging. When these cells die they release chemicals called neurotransmitters into the bloodstream which then travel throughout the body causing changes in how nerves function. These chemical reactions cause changes in how our bodies respond to pain.
Pain signals can either be blocked, dulled or amplified. The brain uses these signals to decide how we should react to pain. Just as some people respond well to painful stimuli and don’t feel much pain, others can’t stand the smallest pin prick and feel immense pain. The differences between pain responses are influenced by several factors (e.g., depression, anxiety, personality, previous experiences with pain etc.) and it is this interaction of factors that is called pain perception.
Pain and Your Brain
Pain affects every organ in your body. Pain is a very complex experience that can be difficult to describe or even understand. It can be hard to believe that something as intangible as pain can cause you so much suffering but the reality is this: the brain is the most important tool we have to stay alive. It protects us in many ways and one of these ways is by preventing us from doing things that cause damage to our bodies.
Pain is your brain’s way of telling you that something is wrong with your body. It is there to make you aware that a particular part of your body is being put at risk and if you don’t take some sort of action then this risk may cause serious consequences.
One helpful strategy to manage pain is to break it down into smaller pieces, so that it’s not so overwhelming. Pain comes in many forms and each form causes different suffering for the sufferer. For example, if you are experiencing a back pain it may be helpful to separate the pain into three groups: emotional, mental and physical.
The Emotional Pain
Pain is not just an experience of the body but also of the mind. Emotional pain can make you feel distressed, hopeless or even desperate. This type of pain usually causes feelings of loss, sadness or frustration. You may feel like you’re in a very dark place and that nothing can make you happy anymore.
Emotional pain usually has a strong effect on your mental state and your ability to think clearly. If you’re experiencing a lot of emotional pain then you may feel exhausted or distracted. It can be very difficult to focus on other tasks because your thoughts just keep drifting back to the event that caused your pain.
The Mental Pain
Mental pain is often described as the experience of feeling sick, dizzy or faint. You may also feel like you’re unable to focus on anything else except the pain you’re experiencing.
The Physical Pain
Physical pain can be described as the most obvious and intense type of pain. It’s the pain that causes you to shout out or wince when you accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer. This type of pain is usually sharp and localized to a particular part of the body. Other times, it can feel like a throbbing or burning sensation.
The intensity can range anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to completely excruciating.
Even though the physical pain is the most obvious to you and other people, it can sometimes be the easiest one to handle. This is because your body reacts in a certain way such as flinching or crying out when you’re in pain. These physical responses to pain can help detract your mind from focusing on it and can give you something else to concentrate on.
The Physical Pain
When most people think of pain, they usually are referring to physical pain rather than emotional or mental pain. This type of pain is usually easy to spot as it causes reactions in your body like crying out or jumping away from the source of pain. Your brain is very good at telling you when something is causing physical discomfort in your body.
Managing Your Pain
In order to manage your pain, you first need to break it down into the different types. Think about why you’re feeling a particular type of pain and try to come up with ways that you can make this pain easier to handle. Some common ways include distraction techniques like listening to music or meditation.
One of the most important things to do is not to ignore the pain.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Analgesia for children with acute abdominal pain: a cautious move to improved pain management by FD Armstrong – Pediatrics, 2005 – Am Acad Pediatrics
Low back strengthening for the prevention and treatment of low back pain by DM Carpenter, BW Nelson – … and science in …, 1999 – p130925.mittwaldserver.info
Treat your own back by R McKenzie, P Van Wijmen – 1985 – preview.keyanmi.com
Clinical pain assessment: from bedside to better treatment by G Wasner, R Baron – Nature Reviews Neurology, 2009 – nature.com
Acupuncture for pain relief in labour: a systematic review and meta‐analysis by SH Cho, H Lee, E Ernst – BJOG: An International Journal of …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library
PURLs: More isn’t better with acute low back pain treatment by K Frazer, J Stevermer – The Journal of family practice, 2016 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov