Pain is a useful tool our body provides to keep us out of harm’s way and to deal with an injury. Nonetheless, once the incident has passed, many people continue to experience the disruptive sensation of pain despite its lack of usefulness. Why does the perception of pain linger for many, and how can we treat it without disabling and addictive drugs? The most recent January 2020 National Geographic Magazine explored this exciting topic, and I will briefly summarize their findings here. My goal is to help readers understand the pain and to seek nonharmful, adequate pain control treatment where possible. Acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic can help.
Pain is a full-body experience involving not only the region of injury but many other connected pathways. For instance, when you prick your finger, nociceptor neurons (pain receptors) fire and transmit the pan response along nerve axons in the arm through bony vertebrae into the spinal cord. Impulses ascend to the brain and delivered in succession to various parts of the brain: the somatosensory region identifies the source and intensity of the pain, the anterior cortex connects an emotional response to the illness such as anxiety or depression, and the prefrontal cortex blunts the pain experience. Input from the vagus nerve and the gut affects interpretation and response, too. Whole-body treatments such as we use at Acupractic Natural Healing Center seek to heel on many levels in large part because pain is so multifaceted.
The individual response to a painful stimulus varies due to the many pathways involved in the pain arch. Additionally, a person’s emotional temperament and their relationship to their healthcare provider influence their pain response and level of perceived discomfort. If a patient feels understood, they tend to feel better. Additionally, the gut-brain connection is increasingly recognized to have a tremendous impact on pain- what we eat, how we digest things, and the presence of certain bacteria in our digestive tract all affect pain.
Since their blessed discovery in the late 1800s, medications to block pain enabled sufferers relief from disabling pain. Many of the new pills, however, had their problematic side effects in part because they blocked normal body reactions. Long and even short term usage of pain medication have proven problematic to many with side effects such as GI distress, mental confusion, numbness, and addiction. While researchers seek new methods of pain control, doctors scratch their heads to understand the best route to take to help people in pain.
Discoveries include VR, or Virtual Reality wherein users are submerged in a virtual world to combat pain during surgical procedures and even on their own at home. Another technique called Deep Brain Stimulation involves the implantation of electrodes brain tissue areas responsible for pain response transmission. Results thus far are intriguing and may lead the way for better future pain treatment. Studies involving acupuncture, too, have shown the enormous potential of this ancient pain remedy.
Pain is complex- it is not just `in our heads`, and each of us deserves adequate, empowering pain control. At Acupractic, Dr. Oskardmay strives to understand the source of your pain and help your body reduce it using alternative methods, including massage, chiropractic, acupuncture treatment. She has helped thousands of Triangle Residents since 1995 control their pain naturally.