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We know that pain is something that most of us experience at some point in our lives. We know it can be debilitating, and we often want to do whatever we can to make it go away. But what do we really know about pain? What are its causes, and how can we best deal with it? In this blog post, we’ll explore what scientists have learned about pain over the years, and offer some tips on how you can manage your own pain more effectively.
For the past 2 ½ years, I have had a copy of the January 2020 issue of National Geographic on my desk. The reason? Because this particular issue addresses pain, a topic I talk about and listen about every day in my practice. I specialize in working with client who experience chronic pain. Mostly pelvic pain, but when it comes to chronic pain, rarely is it conveniently contained to one area of the body.
What is Chronic Pain?
According to the National Geographic article, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. live with chronic pain, that is 1 in 6 people. Chronic pain is defined as pain that has lasted longer than 3 months, and usually past when soft tissue damage would have been healed. Chronic pain can be caused by cancer, diabetes, neurological illness, and many other diagnoses we know very little about. Regardless of the cause, chronic pain causes disruptions to lives, relationships, jobs and our ability to pursue happiness.
How is Chronic Pain different from Acute Pain?
Acute pain is considered a sensation that is a result of an injury or disease. This sensation helps to create a remembered experience for the brain, helping us reduce the risk of injury by creating an alarm system. The classic “hot stove” example illustrates this nicely. Touching a hot stove results in burning our fingertips (soft tissue damage) and a pain sensation. The brain remembers this, and in the future, we are more hesitant around hot stoves.
For people with chronic pain, the pain is still very much present even after the original trauma to the body has been resolved. It would be as if you touched a hot stove, your fingertips healed from the burn, but the pain sensation is very much still present. Viewing chronic pain as a disease can help lead to research into more effective treatment options.
Treating Chronic Pain
Researching pain and treatment options was basically nonexistent for decades and with limited or virtually no options, doctors prescribed opioids to address the increasing number of patients who were reporting chronic pain.According to the National Geographic article, by 2017, about 1.7 million Americans were struggling with a substance abuse disorder due to being prescribed opioids. With about 130 people dying from an opioid overdose everyday.
Opioids work by minimizing pain, but also increasing pleasurable feelings within the body, which can result in the body developing a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance means the body needs higher and higher doses to trigger the pleasurable feelings. Resulting in abuse and addiction.
Opioids were created to mimic a natural occurring process that already happens inside our bodies. As mentioned above, the pain sensation is our brain’s way to ensure our future survival. Constant soft-tissue damage is not good for our species’s survival. When we experience the pain sensation, the brain begins to release endorphins and other opioids produced in our own bodies that helps to reduce the amount of pain we perceive.
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.