Understanding how pain works in the body can be a game changer in how we support our clients and patients. According to current research, understanding some of the mechanisms involved in the pain response has been shown to decrease the amount of pain a person feels.
Our nervous system is an extremely complex and robust network that responds to both internal and external stimuli and provides us with feedback so we can make adjustments where and when necessary. Unfortunately, the messages we receive are not always completely understood and we are sometimes left guessing what they mean and how we should respond. One of those messages is chronic pain.
We often hear ourselves and others describe pain like there is physical damage to our body; there must be, otherwise we wouldn’t feel it, right? Wrong. If there is an acute injury, our body initiates an inflammatory response and, as a result, we often feel pain or discomfort. However, central sensitization produces pain hypersensitivity by changing the sensory response and results in plasticity of the somatosensory nervous system in response to activity, inflammation, and neural injury. This means we could be feeling pain in a previously injured area even though there is no damage.
Chronic pain is a major health concern that affects one in three Americans and costs the U.S. economy $635 billion dollars each year. It is well worth the time and effort to become more familiar with how pain works, whether for the economic change it can create or that in how we move and feel every day.