This post is the fourth in a series of 4 posts about chronic pain.
To read the other posts in the series use the links below:
Genes and Pain Signaling
There are people who don’t feel any pain. Women who can give birth without discomfort during delivery. A 10 year old boy who could push daggers into his body without hesitating due to anticipating pain. Studies into this group of people discovered a mutation in a gene called SCN9A, a gene that scientists know is involved in pain signaling. The SCN9A gene makes a protein that helps transmit pain messages to the spinal cord. This protein is labeled Nav1.7. The mutation in SCN9A results in a malformed Nav1.7 which causes the pain messages to not be forwarded to the brain.
The opposite can also happen, in which the Nav1.7 protein allows too much information to be sent to the brain, leading to some people to experience a burning sensation on their hands, feet, and face, and is known as man-on-fire syndrome. Learning that Nav1.7 is basically the gate keeper of pain messages being sent to the brain has helped researchers focus on developing new pain medications.
VR as a Pain Treatment
There is new research that suggests people can experience reduced pain while playing a virtual reality (VR) game during surgery, minimizing the need for anesthesia. Another study into VR shows that it can help regulate the body’s responses to pain and improve mood. In general, research has shown that distractions and calming environments increase our tolerance to pain sensations
Venom as a Pain Treatment
Other researchers are collecting venom from some of the world’s deadliest animals, hoping to find a replace opioids as a pain treatment. A drug for chronic pain, Ziconotide, was derived from the venom of the cone snail.
Talk Therapy as a Pain Treatment
Knowing that how we perceive pain and our emotions connected to that pain can influence the pain sensation, research suggests the placebo effect highlights that the pain sensation isn’t just about physical injury, but our expectation, fear and anxiety that comes along with pain that influences how we perceive the sensation. Mental health approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Theory (CBT) helps patients challenge their automatic labels and meanings they place on pain sensations.
Most of the research for this post came out of the January 2020 issue of National Geographic.
Any information provided about medical matters is purely educational and the author is not a medical professional and is not recommending any specific intervention for any specific person or giving medical advice. Please consult your own medical provider for information about your own situation
This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not create any type of therapeutic relationship. For specific assistance, please consult your own medical and/or mental health provider.