Chronic Pain and Stress
Image via Amy McTigue
I see it often in my practice, where people come in are they are in chronic pain and they have been told that there is no obvious reason or cause. Which is incredibly frustrating, especially when you are in that much pain. It would almost be kinder for the practitioner/doctor/specialist to just say “I don’t know” but then egos are involved and that’s never an easy thing, particularly when health is involved.
But its not “all in your head”. Something simple may have been overlooked. Let me explain.
- The accepted definition of pain is that;
“it is an unpleasant emotional experience CAUSED by the activation of pain receptors”.
So there are two parts here;
a) emotional &
b) activation of pain receptors.
- In my experience the less people know or understand about the pain receptors the more they focus on the emotion, or “all in your head” diagnosis.
- Pain receptors are activated by temperature (hot or cold), pressure (twisting, tortion or compression) and chemical (e.g. lactic acid, histamines, inflammatory chemicals).
- Fibrous or soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, attachments of muscles to bone, called periosteum and scar tissue, is capable of maintaining an inflammation (which produces inflammatory chemicals) long after the cause has ceased to exist.
In other words, “soft tissue has memory”. The problem is that no X-ray, MRI or blood test will show this unless it has really reached an extreme. But hat doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
So here is the model I have been working with for 25 years. “chronic pain is caused by soft tissue lesions( which can persist for many years after an “injury, strain, or trauma”). Soft tissue lesions are defined as tear or damage that causes activation of the pain receptors, resulting in chronic pain”.
The aim of a treatment is to reduce those things which activate the pain receptors, which could include reducing pressure and inflammatory chemicals.
I have developed a stress model that consists of 5 stresses (more on this in a future post) which provides an excellent framework for understanding and treating chronic pain, and actually achieving wellness.
I am not going to pretend that I get 100% success. If anyone promises you that about anything, let alone health, don’t believe them. Some problems are very difficult, but some are surprisingly simple to treat.
Before you try to fix something you need to know what the problem is.
A good start is to sleep well, breathe well and eat well. I am going to write some more blog posts exploring this. Stay tuned!