There are many different factors that can contribute to chronic pain. The one that has 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 to about 10% of people who’ve been through such an event).
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:
- What is central sensitization?
- The nervous system and chronic pain
- Central sensitization in chronic pain (from Paul Ingraham at PainScience.com)
- Understanding pain as your body’s alarm system
- Understanding pain as an overprotective friend
- Some chronic pain terms– useful and otherwise
- TED Talks: Elliot Krane on the mystery of chronic pain
- Violins and enhanced sensory maps