Chronic pain is a widespread problem affecting more individuals than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Despite significant advancements in medical treatments, why does it seem that chronic pain is increasing? It is crucial to recognize that pain manifests in different forms and affects individuals uniquely. Therefore, it's vital to personalize the approach to treating pain rather than putting patients on a "one size fits all" label. It is essential to know acute and chronic pain are different.
Acute pain arises from structural or tissue damage, like a sprained ankle, fracture, torn ligament or tendon, etc. When we get injured, our body jumps into action to protect us. It signals our brain, warning us to be extra cautious so we do not further hurt ourselves. Pain is a danger signal, a warning sign. Our incredible bodies work hard to heal any tissue damage or trauma we may have experienced. Within about three months, our body should be back on track. But what about when the pain persists long after our tissues have healed? This is where chronic pain comes in. The causes of chronic pain are complex and varied, but the latest research in neuroscience shows many factors at play, such as emotional and stress factors. So, while acute pain is a natural defense mechanism, chronic pain can be a stubborn foe requiring a more intricate approach.
Chronic pain is a serious issue that often stems from the central nervous system creating neural circuits, learned pain patterns, learned conditioned responses, and misinterpreted "danger" signals. An example is when someone has phantom pain, feeling pain in a limb that is no longer there. In centralized or neuroplastic pain, treatment should focus on rewiring how our brain processes pain. It is essential to realize that all pain is real! Pain is pain, no matter where it stems from.
Pain can also come from systemic inflammation in the body. With this, it is crucial to identify the root cause, which could be stress, autoimmune disease, dietary or gastrointestinal health, etc. Rather than just masking the pain, addressing the underlying issue is essential.
Pain is not always just a physical problem that surgery can solve. Remember, surgery will only help if it is a genuine structural issue (fracture, cancer,ect). Pain can stem from no physical injury but the hidden emotional trauma our subconscious holds onto. This means that the key to healing may not lie in a surgical operating room but in uncovering and addressing the root of the emotional trauma. Surgery may be an option for purely structural issues, but it won't relieve centralized pain, as research shows that most chronic pain is due to centralized pain. This is why some people still feel pain after surgery. Research suggests that 20 to 40 percent of back surgeries are not successful. It happens so frequently it is called failed back surgery syndrome.
The impact of stress goes well beyond mental strain; it can also take a toll on our physical health, If we suspect that stress is at the root of our discomfort, we need to calm our nervous system, tone down our fight-or-flight response, and retrain our brains not to see stress and pain as an imminent threat. After all, a little peace of mind can go a long way in promoting holistic wellness.
If you're dealing with a mechanical or structural issue, it's crucial to address it adequately. While manual therapies, stretching, medication, and biomedical intervention may help with acute emergency injuries. Chronic pain requires a more holistic approach. Not only should you consider treatments like acupuncture, gua sha, cupping, physical therapy, and massage, but also mind-body techniques such as pain reprocessing therapy, meditation, yoga, breathwork, and stress management. Acupuncture has earned its reputation for being immensely successful in treating chronic pain. Its ability to address both physical and emotional distress makes it stand out. An incredibly personalized form of treatment, acupuncture understands that everyone's body and mind function uniquely. So, the next time you're struggling with chronic pain, acupuncture may provide the relief you're seeking by restoring your physical and emotional wellness.