What is chronic pain? We know what acute pain is right? You slice your finger with a knife or sprain your ankle tripping off a curb – your brain figures out immediately that something is wrong. The injury causes pain, and something is transmitted to your brain that makes you react. The pain has a purpose – a job. You go get stitches or wrap your ankle and limp or use crutches for a few days, and the pain subsides. You go back to your normal life.
But what if something painful happens to you and the pain does not go away? It becomes “chronic”. Chronic pain is pain without purpose. It is pain that is no longer giving your brain useful information. So why do we have it? It clearly exists! Just ask anyone with chronic pain and they will tell you emphatically that their pain exists. In the explanation lies the ability for us to lessen and even sometimes rid ourselves of our chronic pain.
The brain is so complex and there is so much about it we don’t understand. Why do placebos work 50% of the time? How can someone have major surgery under hypnosis anesthesia? These things seem unbelievable or even crazy, but they are true and they happen. It is about belief, and the brain’s response to belief.
All pain comes from the brain. The brain receives signals from the peripheral nervous system, and has to decide how to react. If something bad has happened, the brain sends signals that you are in danger, and all kinds of inflammatory chemicals and neurotransmitters are released. You then respond appropriately! Sometimes the brain has to decide between multiple dangers. This is what happens when a soldier has a limb blown off but is able – without pain!!! – to get him or herself to safety. A blown off limb is potentially deadly, but staying in place and dealing with it is even more deadly.
Our brains and our bodies are immensely complex systems that first and foremost want balance. When it comes to chronic pain, something in that system has come off balance, and for long enough that it keeps the brain in the pain cycle. There are many alternative and complementary medicine practices that have shown to greatly help in creating that equilibrium the body is looking for.
For more information please contact Dr. Amy Kossoff to set up a consultation.