When you have been in pain for so long, understandably, you may begin to wonder if it's all in your head. Or maybe a loved one or even another healthcare professional has suggested so. Whilst there is truth to this statement, if there is no context provided it can naturally start to cause concern. So in this week's blog, we are going to share some facts about pain. Whether you cut your finger or develop back pain, the aim is to help you understand how pain is experienced, as well as share 3 things you can do to start your healing journey. Is pain all in the head? We mentioned there is some truth to this statement because all pain is created in your brain. It’s like an alarm to let you know that something is not right, and therefore acts as a protective mechanism. This is especially helpful in the short term. Let’s imagine you cut your finger. It involves many processes, but to keep it simple, the sensory nerves in your finger that register pain identifies the cut and sends messages via your spinal cord to your brain. Your brain processes the information and creates the sensation of pain to encourage you to pull your finger away from the sharp object. The pain continues to prevent you from doing activities that are going to aggravate it, to allow the area to heal. This all happens within seconds, quite remarkable! And whilst pain is helpful in the short term like the example above, if the pain goes on for an extended period (beyond 3 months is termed chronic pain), in some cases the pain is no longer protective or informative, and that’s when it can become confusing and frustrating. Interestingly research has suggested that there doesn’t have to be damage to an area (like in the example of the cut finger) to create pain. In some cases, the brain perceives there is a threat, but there isn't. And even if there was an injury, the brain won’t always register it as pain1. As you can see, sometimes the communication between the body and the brain doesn't always match, which is why as chiropractors our primary focus is the spine. If the spine is not moving and functioning as well as it can, it has the potential to impact the accuracy of the brain knowing what is going on in the spine and body. There are other factors that can impact how we perceive pain too, such as past experiences and our emotions. It is important to note that just because pain is created in the brain and is ‘in the head’, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Where do you start if you are in pain? If you are currently struggling with pain, here are 3 things you can do to start your healing journey: 1. Consider if you need help If you have a small cut on your finger, it's unlikely that you will question if you need help. But if you do start to develop pain that is causing you concern, we would recommend that you seek help from the relevant healthcare provider as soon as possible. 2. Identify the cause Getting to the root cause of the issue will not only help to put your mind at rest but will also allow you to take the right steps to help your body heal. Our aim as a chiropractor is to do just that. Sometimes the symptom isn't always the cause of the issue. For example, someone may visit due to headaches, but following a detailed assessment, we find the problem originates from the neck. Focusing on the cause will create positive results and long-term change.
3. Support yourself Trying to stay positive and focusing on the things within your control, such as staying active and mobile, eating fresh and nutritious foods, drinking water, and prioritising your sleep, will provide the essential tools your body needs to function and heal. We know it can be easier said than done, and if we can support you with any of these areas please ask. Hopefully this information highlights how incredible the body is. We know it doesn't always feel like that when you are experiencing pain, which is why we would encourage you to reach out if we can be of any help. Not only do we want to help to reduce the pain, but also to get your body functioning at its best so you can do the things you enjoy long-term. References:
Coppieters, I., Meeus, M., Kregal, J., Caeyenberghs, K., De Pauw, R., Goubert, D., & Cagnie, B. (2016). Relations Between Brain Alterations and Clinical Pain Measures in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: A Systematic Review. The Journal Of Pain, 949-962. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27263992/
The content of this blog is for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.