Empowering Your Partner in Chronic Pain

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About Pain

Chronic pain affects an estimated 86 million American adults to some degree. (1)

To learn more about this, watch this video. It talks about how all pain is caused in the brain, and how we all have “No Pain” pathways that can be turned on by knowledge, control, and confidence.

What is pain?

Pain is an extremely complex mechanism, involving many areas of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves and chemicals in the body. 

Pain is an uncomfortable sensation in the body that makes us want to stop and change what we are doing  in some way.

footimages-2

You just stubbed your toe.  What happens next?

Your brain is the main hub that is connected to nerves that supply all the tissues in your body.

These nerves act as the eyes of the brain, on alert for danger.

If something is too hot, too cold, or applies too much pressure (such as when your toe connected with the table leg just now)  these nerves send a message to the brain that states: “Danger, produce pain!”

The brain then collects data

on the sensations in your toe and puts it together with data from the past and other information it has collected about you:

brainimages-2Cognitive data

your thoughts and feelings about pain experiences you’ve had before; your expectations about pain.

Sensory data

what you hear, think and see at the time of the incident.

Your cultural beliefs and norms

about pain.

Next, the brain tells you what TO DO:

Sit down and get off your painful toe.

Get some ice.

Take ibuprofen.

And the brain tells you what NOT TO DO: (2)

Don’t walk on that toe.

Don’t go near that table leg.

Don’t put on a shoe.

Types of Pain

Acute pain

Happens suddenly and is often of sharp quality, such as a cut, burn, or a broken bone.

Neuropathic pain

Pain caused by nerve injury or disease, such as a nerve severed in an accident, or multiple sclerosis, or diabetic nerve pain.

Central (neurogenic) pain

Pain that arises from something wrong in the brain or central nervous system, such as pain arising from a stroke or fibromyalgia.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t go away for weeks months or years, even after the initial injury is healed, because the pain signals remain active.

Physically, it can lead to reduced mobility, loss of appetite, lck of energy, loss of muscle mass and tone, and reduced flexibility. There are also adverse effects from reduced activity, such as weight gain, increased risk of blood clots in the legs, and many others.

Emotionally, there is often depression, hopelessness, fear of the future, anger at the losses, fear of increased pain, and loss of the ability to do the things they used to enjoy.

Idiopathic pain

This big word simply means that there is no known cause of the pain.

Some people suffer pain when there is no disease, no physical cause, or any injury. (3)

(1) “Ten daily habits to ease chronic pain.” Web MD. Reviewed by Melinda Ratini. Jan. 3. 2017. Accessed Feb 9, 2017. Online http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ss/slideshow-pain-tips
(2) “What is pain and what is happening when we feel it?” The Explainer. November 18, 2015 2:11 pm EST. Accessed Feb 10, 2017. Online http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-pain-and-what-is-happening-when-we-feel-it-49040
(3) “Acute vs. chronic pain.” Cleveland Clinic Foundation. 1995-2015. Accessed Feb. 10, 2017. Online http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/acute-vs-chronic-pain
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