I’ve just discovered this awesome talk on central sensitization by pain management physician Dr. Jay Joshi. It’s totally packed with information I want to share with you all– such as why it’s so hard to get help for central sensitization, and how ketamine infusion treatments can help. There’s so much here, though, that I thought I’d break it down into bite-sized information for you.
So, to start out, let’s look at what Dr. Joshi says are the four main types of pain. (For the purposes of this blog post, I’m actually jumping ahead to the 8:50 mark– later, we’ll come back to the beginning).
The four types:
- Central Sensitization
1. Nociceptive pain: pain that results from actual tissue damage, or potential tissue damage (like if you’re starting to bend a joint past its normal range of motion). It is “the common discomfort we have all experienced as a result of injury — a paper cut, a broken bone, or appendicitis, among other things.”
2. Neuropathic pain: involves physical damage to the nerves or the central nervous system itself. It can also occur when the person has a tumor that’s pressing upon a nerve.
3. Inflammatory Pain: Pain produced by the chemicals our body releases as part of the inflammatory or healing process. On a small scale, think of how a bruise swells up and is painful to the touch. This is because our body is sending special cells and chemical messengers to that part of our body in order to heal it– and also to make it painful, so that we know to protect the area. This is inflammatory pain, and it can also happen on a much larger scale with more serious injuries.
4. Central Sensitization: And here we are– the type of pain that’s most affected my life. It has to do with the concept of neuroplasticity: that the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) can change in response to the things it experiences.
When your body experiences a painful event or an injury, it learns from that experience, the same way it learns from anything. Practice makes perfect– when your brain gets enough practice at sending pain signals, it gets better at it gets better at it. In a way, this is for your protection– you learn and become more sensitive to performing the same kinds of actions or motions that may have caused this injury in the first place.
However, as a protective mechanism, central sensitization can sort of backfire. Eventually, we can reach a point where our nervous systems are trying to protect us too much, when we’re not really at risk of injury anymore.
So these are the four main types.
Unfortunately for those of us suffering from central sensitization, it’s the type of pain that doctors and other medical professionals know the least about.
As Dr. Joshi explains, “there are physicians who claim to be pain physicians… who are anesthesiologists… who don’t even understand it. And they’re teaching at major programs. It’s scary.”
Central sensitization is as real a type of pain as any of the other three. And, as Dr. Joshi says, if you’re going to be able to adequately treat pain as a doctor, you better be aware of all four categories.
Dr. Joshi also has some really great analogies which help to explain the phenomenon of central sensitization further. I’ll be elaborating on some of those in my next post.
I hope this was helpful!
Also: you may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with my blog’s format. I’ve honestly never truly been happy with the appearance of my blog, because I find my options are so limited with premade WordPress themes. I’m beginning to experiment a little (and even spend a little bit extra!) to try to get things right. If you have any thoughts or suggestions how improve the appearance of my blog, please let me know!