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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — The brain’s effect on pain

by DR. WAYNE M. FICHTER JR./Natural Spine Solutions
| October 27, 2021 1:00 AM

New research in neuroscience shows a strong connection between your brain’s adaptability and your perception of physical or emotional pain. This ability of the brain to change and adapted is called neuroplasticity. Everyone experiences helpful neuroplasticity every day, where our nervous system learns and adapts. Riding a bike, driving home or even brushing our teeth are a few examples of helpful neuroplasticity. Your brain adapts to routine things which allows the nervous system to free up the brain, so it is available to do other tasks. Unfortunately, there is also a downside to neuroplasticity, and persistent pain is a prime example. In this situation, neuroplasticity makes the brain and nervous system ultra-sensitive and hyperactive to otherwise normal sensations and activities. Normal everyday tasks become painful even when they shouldn’t be. Certain triggers, like psychological or physical stress can often trigger this unwanted neuroplasticity, which can lead to persistent pain.

There are two types of pain: peripheral pain and centralized pain. Peripheral pain is an aching pain that you feel locally, and centralized pain is more complicated type of pain facilitated by the brain and spinal cord. In peripheral pain (such as stubbing your toe), the brain produces alarm signals warning us of damage to our body. This is a helpful alarm that is designed to protect us, even if it is painful it become important. For example, touching a hot stove, your brain remembers it is going to hurt. However, in people with persistent or chronic pain, the brain and nervous system can go into hyper-drive and both the nervous system and immune system are involved. During this process the nervous system and immune system release chemicals which increase the number of connections and number of signals flying around in the brain and spinal cord. This results in pain being felt during activities and movements that should not normally provoke pain. Pain can even be felt by thoughts alone and the pain may even spread to other parts of the body.

In people with centralized pain or referred to as chronic pain, their alarm keeps on ringing and memories of pain can persist long after the original cause of the pain has healed. This explains how people can experience pain when an X-ray or MRI looks normal, or why a person with an amputated leg feels phantom pain. I’ve seen were pain itself can soon become a major focus of our attention. The more we focus on our pain, especially if we feel the pain is harmful, the more pain dominates our thinking and our lives. With chronic pain, it’s almost as if the more we don’t want pain, the more the brain calls our attention to it. The more we learn about centralized pain, that the more we see it with other conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic low back, chronic headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, persistent pain after surgery, and irritable bowel syndrome. Besides chronic pain, the unwanted effects of unhelpful neuroplasticity may include: withdrawing from activities like work or sports, poor sleep, low energy levels, low mood, negative thoughts, increased stress and sickness behaviors. Remember these responses are not anyway your fault but are very unhelpful when trying to recover from chronic pain, so it is very important to seek professional help to address these issues. Classically doctors, treat peripheral pain with medications to decrease inflammation however these medications don’t do a great job working in the central nervous system. Learning stress management techniques, chiropractic, cold laser therapy, and nutrition supplementation may be more effective treatments to consider if you are suffering with chronic pain. Visit our website for more information at www.naturalspinesolutions.com.

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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene. For more information, please contact us at 208-966-4425.

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