Understanding Chronic Pain: Unveiling Hidden Causes

I see it often in my practice, where people come in and are in chronic pain, told there is no apparent 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 say, “I don’t know”.

But it’s not “all in your head”. Something simple may have been overlooked. Let me explain.

  1. 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.
  2. In my experience, the less people know or understand the pain receptors, the more they focus on the emotion or “all in your head” diagnosis.
  3. Pain receptors are activated by temperature (hot or cold), pressure (twisting, torsion or compression) and chemicals (e.g. lactic acid, histamines, inflammatory chemicals).
  4. Fibrous or soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, attachments of muscles to bone and scar tissue) can maintain inflammation. Inflammation can produce 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 reached an extreme. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Dr. Mark Donohoe. The post continues after the audio.

My approach to chronic pain

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 tears or damage that cause activation of the pain receptors, resulting in chronic pain.

Treatment aims to reduce those things which activate the pain receptors. This could include reducing pressure and inflammatory chemicals. I have developed a stress model that consists of 5 stresses which provides an excellent framework for understanding and treating chronic pain. This framework also supports 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 challenging, but some are surprisingly simple to treat.

Before trying to fix something, you need to know the problem.

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! I also explore these issues more in my book A Life Less Stressed, which you can order here.