Why do we feel Chronic pain?
Pain protects you from a harmful stimulus, but what happens when pain becomes chronic? In this blog you can find all you need to know about acute and chronic pain and the most effective treatments available. So, let´s start…
What is pain?
Pain is the way your body tells you that something is wrong, and you need to do something about it, view more here.
What could be wrong? you have been exposed to a dangerous stimulus, for example fire, skin cut or damage, a broken bone, an injured or strained muscle. Pain allows your body to react in order to prevent further damage. You can think about how your body processes pain as a cycle of stimulation: transmission, recognition, localisation and awareness.
The biology of pain
We feel pain when specific nerves called nociceptors detect tissue damage and transmit this information about it along the spinal cord to the brain (where the information is processed). The specific part of the brain where this stimulus is processed is called the Thalamus.
Several things can stimulate your nerve endings, some examples include: injury, inflammation, impact, stress, chemical or fire burns, etc.
Your brain performs two vital functions. First, it tells your conscious mind that something is wrong in one part of your body (where the stimulus originated). Then, it transmits that message back to that part of your body, so you can be aware of the damage and do something. This all happens so quickly, it is a matter of microseconds and feels immediate.
That is to say, if you touch a hot surface it will send a message through the spinal cord and cause an immediate contraction of your muscles. This action will make you pull the hand away from the hot surface, limiting further damage. Same will happen to stimulus like cold or heat, blunt trauma, incorrect position, inappropriately stretched muscle, or any other cause.
Why does pain last longer than the initial stimulus?
In a few words, it is a protection mechanism that alerts you that something is hurting you and as long as that stimulus persists you continue feeling pain. Finally, your brain will make your conscious mind and body aware of the location of the pain and it will stop after the stimulus is no longer there or after treating the damage.
Types of pain
There are two types:
Acute pain is usually an intense and short-lived pain. It alerts you that there is an injury or localised tissue damage. Treating the underlying injury usually makes you feel better.
Acute pain triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, as a result you may also experience faster heartbeats and breathing rates.
In addition, acute pain is also divided in 3 types:
- Somatic pain: you may feel a superficial pain on the skin or the soft tissues just below the skin.
- Visceral pain: it originates in your internal organs and the linings of cavities in your body.
- Referred pain: you may experience visceral pain at a location other than the source of tissue damage. For example, people often experience shoulder pain during a heart attack
Chronic pain is a persistent pain that lasts longer than three months. It can drastically change your life. Sometimes it is caused by a physical problem, for example a slipped disc . On the other hand, it can also occur with no clear cause, it’s what we know as primary pain.
A survey made for the BBC News of over 4,000 adults aged 16-75 , suggests that a quarter of people in the UK are living with chronic pain, an often hidden and misunderstood condition.
Let’s check some facts about chronic pain:
- Chronic pain lasts far longer than acute pain.
- In some cases it has no cure just treatments to deal with it.
- It could be mild or severe.
- It can be continuous like arthritis, fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome.
- There is also intermittent pain like migraines. Intermittent pain occurs on repeated occasions but stops between flares.
- The fight-or-flight reactions eventually stop because the sympathetic nervous system that triggers these reactions adapts to the pain stimulus.
- Primary chronic pain- the pain is not caused by other conditions but the pain itself.
- Secondary chronic pain- tends to be caused by another condition, for example, arthritis, endometriosis, cancer, etc.
Severe cases of chronic pain can make you pause your normal activities for very long periods of time or even make you stop them completely, for example: work, social relationships, independence, etc.
What are the treatments available for pain and chronic pain?
Treatment depends on the type of pain you have; next you will find the most common treatments:
Conventional treatments for pain:
- Antibiotics, when the cause of pain is an infection.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -are over-the-counter analgesics suitable for minor acute pains, such as headaches, light sprains, and backaches.
- Opioids are only prescribed by doctors. They use these drugs for the most extreme acute pains, such as those that result from surgery, burns, cancer, and bone fractures.
Effective alternative treatments for chronic pain
Your therapist will use a wide range of controlled relaxation techniques to relieve your pain, each case is different, so every treatment is tailor made. Massage helps decompress the nerve impingement in tight muscles . It helps relieve pain by manipulating the tension areas. In addition, It reduces stress, one of the main causes of pain nowadays.
Helps restore normal movement due to misalignment and decompress nerve impingement, relieving pain at the same time.
Helps stabilise weak areas and restore normal movement with guided exercises while relieving pain.
Your therapist inserts very fine needles at specific pressure points to reduce pain and help loosen up the tissue and decompress the nerve impingement in tight muscles.
We hope this information is useful for you. If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us 3 mins away from Angel station in Islington. We are always happy to help. If you like this blog, please share!