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Issue 18: The Pain vs Your Brain

Have you ever wondered why you can almost ‘switch off’ your pain or ‘forget about it’? Keep reading.




We frequently meet patients in clinic that have been suffering with chronic pain for a while, decades even and a lot of the time when asked during their subjective history how often they experience pain, they say it’s ‘constant’ and ‘always there’.


Now this is often the case, but sometimes it’s not. Why is this?


A few months ago, we were scrolling and found a great quote that has ever since changed the way we speak to patients with chronic pain, and when we say it their answer is always, “that makes so much sense!”


“The orchestra of the brain. Chronic pain is like the orchestra in your brain has been playing the same tune over and over. It can no longer play a full repertoire of tune nor it can be creative, curious or seek new musical challenges.”


How amazing?


Chronic pain is very real. Sometimes the orchestra in someone’s brain has been playing this tune for so long that the individual cannot hear anything else. But over time, with the right help, we can help adjust this tune. Maybe take out a few of the instruments to make the tune sound a bit less negative, or change the key to make tune sound lighter and more positive.


Make much sense?


This negative orchestral tune can sometimes be the reasoning for someone to feel like they ‘forget’ about their pain. But we have to remember that pain is a cocktail of physiological and psychological responses and everyone is unique in the way they process it.


The ‘traditional’ pain cycle normally follows this format:


Pain → Guarding → Muscle Spasm & Inflammation → Restricted Mobility → Muscle Weakness → Loss of Normal Function → Anger, Frustration & Helplessness → Pain and so on.


In chronic cases, this cycle can become neutralized or muted and an adapted way of life can be formed often causing more harm than good by way of the patient becoming so used to it that their body adjusts and compensates so life can go on. Thing is though, this is never ideal.


The nerve type responsible for this is the C fibre, conveying chronic pain thus forcing our bodies to stop an activity causing symptoms like muscular spasms. Due to their size (small and thin) signals from the spinal cord are slow and dull. They are stimulated by triggers such as a heat, chemical and pressures.


So just to thicken on this layer with feelings of dullness, constant aching, anger and low moods, it’s a wonder it’s all linked!


With the painful cycle, plus the brain’s response to this signal it can really take time to ‘change the tune’ that you hear but there is hope.


A lot of the time, if the patient has been suffering for a while the treatment process can be multifactorial – but there is always something we can do to help manage life and make it more comfortable.


If this post helped something click in your mind and you’d like to do something about it then get in touch with us as we’d love to help you change. Book an Initial Consultation today!

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