There are many different factors that can contribute to chronic pain. The one that’s played the most significant role in my own life involves the concept of neuroplasticity– the idea that the nervous system can start working differently over time, in response to the things it experiences.
When someone goes through a particularly painful or traumatic event, his or her nervous system can be changed by that experience, and become more sensitive to pain. The medical term for this is central sensitization, and it generally occurs after someone has suffered a traumatic physical event (some estimates say it happens about 10% of the time).
The good news is that there are ways to reverse this process. Research has shown that when you teach people with chronic pain about how the nervous system works, that alone can actually have an effect in reducing their level of pain. This is because the person is able to step back a little bit and realize that although his or her nervous system is spinning out of control, the pain he or she is experiencing is not necessarily correlated with physical injury. This was definitely true in my case– I finally met a great physical therapist who taught me not to fear the pain so much, which in turn helped to break the cycle I was caught in.
I am starting this blog to share what I have learned with others. If you are in pain, there is hope. I hope what I’m writing here can help you in some way.
For more, check out:
- Understanding pain as your body’s alarm system
- Understanding pain as an overprotective friend
- Four types of pain– Dr. Jay Joshi
- Some chronic pain terms– useful and otherwise
- The best TED talk ever: Elliot Krane on the mystery of chronic pain
- What is central sensitization?
- The nervous system and chronic pain
- Central sensitization in chronic pain (from Paul Ingraham at PainScience.com)
- Central Sensitivity Syndromes
- What I really want you to know about how central sensitization has impacted my own life
- Learning about central sensitization: the power of naming, and the future of pain treatment: Reasons to be optimistic as awareness grows
- Violins and enhanced sensory maps
- How to talk about pain: central hypersensitivity
- Let’s give this a whirl: explaining a scientific article in plain English (the article in question is “Central Sensitization: A Generator of Pain Hypersensitivity by Central Neural Plasticity” by Alban Latremoliere and Clifford J. Woolf).
My personal experience:
How I developed central sensitization: a series of posts that takes you back to my high school days, running for the cross-country and track teams and pushing my body to the absolute limit.