Pain comes in many varieties—mental, emotional, physical—the list is practically endless.
One of the most frustrating and debilitating forms of pain is chronic pain.
According to a 2011 report released by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, around 100 million Americans struggle with chronic pain. This figure tops the combined number of people who suffer from cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Unlike acute pain, which lasts for a few hours or days, chronic pain can go on for months—even years—and may, or may not, have a physical cause. Even when the pain does have a traceable explanation (i.e. a torn ligament, or broken bone), discomfort can still persist, long after the injury has fully healed.
Because it often lacks a visible source, chronic pain can be difficult to treat, and its symptoms are often dismissed as being, “imaginary,” or “all in the head.”
The mind-body pain connection
All pain originates in the brain.
When you brush up against the side of the oven, the pain center in your brain is triggered, and a series of nervous system responses eventually results in the searing burn on your arm. But, it isn’t your arm that hurts—it’s your brain. You feel the discomfort in your arm because of the connection that was generated between your mind and your body.
Once a mind-body pain link has been created, it never really goes away and can be re-activated.
“Chronic pain is not something you imagine—it’s an activation of a real mental pathway. It’s as if a switch in your brain gets flipped on and the pain is there,” says David Hanscom, M.D., a spinal surgeon and author of, “Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain.”
Read on to discover how to re-program your pain circuits…