Chronic Pain

12 May
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Chronic Pain

Chronic pain affects your life and everything you do.  

Not only does it cause disability and greatly affect what you want to do with your life – it can even have a negative impact on your brain.

How does chronic pain affect the brain?

In a state of prolonged pain the brain has difficulty focusing, learning, and growing.

In this same state the brain will also be more irritable, frustrated, and angry.

This state will cause an inability to adapt to life’s events and continuously lead to a worsening state of health.

The amount of “negative” or “painful” information flooding the brain is referred to as nociceptive input.  Nociceptive input from the body through the nervous system puts the brain in a stressed state called a sympathetic state.  In a sympathetic or stressed state your body is not healing!  This is very bad in the long term for the body and the brain and has been shown to shrink the brain!

Here is a 2004 clinical study showing that Chronic pain shrinks the brain: The Brain in Chronic CRPS Pain: Abnormal Gray-White Matter Interactions in Emotional and Autonomic Regions

Chronic Pain = a Shrinking Brain

chronic pain and the brain example

Once you realize that this is happening it is imperative that all efforts are made to counteract the shrinking brain!  As a Chiropractor I work with countless people in chronic pain and help them work towards healing, function, and growing their brains.

Here is a PDF information article on prolonged pain and its impact on the brain.  Chronic Pain Affects the Brain PDF.

Can Chiropractic help with chronic pain?

Chiropractic care has so much to offer people suffering with chronic pain.

It directly addresses the mechanics of how the body moves with natural means, lessening the negative compounding impact of numbing drugs or chemicals (chemicals can also shrink the brain).

Also, when Chiropractic adjustments help to get the spine moving it sends positive feedback to the brain through the nerves, which competes with the negative pain the brain is so accustomed to.

The brain needs this positive input in order the grow, change, adapt, and heal.

Once you get the momentum moving in the proper direction away from ill-health, people are constantly amazed at how much sweeter life is.

If you know anyone that is suffering with pain, help them start making action steps towards better health with Chiropractic Now.  Their body and brain depend on it.

Here to help you work away from chronic pain and a shrinking brain,

Dr. Callum Peever – Chiropractor in Mississauga at Erin Mills Optimum Health

The Brain adapts to injuries

The following 2018 research review concludes with the following which can help us understand more regarding the changes in the brain when experiencing spinal injuries:

Association Between Sensorimotor Impairments and Functional Brain Changes in Patients With Low Back Pain: A Critical Review.

“This review revealed the presence of functional brain changes associated with sensorimotor behavior and at rest in patients with long-lasting low back pain compared to healthy subjects.  Patients with low back pain demonstrated decreased sensorimotor-evoked brain activation and a reorganized lumbar spine representation in brain regions involved in higher-order sensory processing and motor control compared to healthy subjects.  These results could support behavioral findings of a disturbed body schema of the trunk, reduced lumbosacral tactile and proprioceptive acuity, impaired sensorimotor performance and postural control deficits in low back pain.  Additionally, patients with low back pain showed widespread increases in brain activation during non-nociceptive external as well as bodily-induced stimuli in regions of the so-called “pain-matrix”.  In the past, these findings were often interpreted as abnormal pain processing in low back pain.  However, findings of this review support an urgent need to reinterpret these results.  Specifically, they may indicate that patients with long-lasting low back pain are over-responsive to sensory inputs that potentially signal danger to the body, thereby inducing maladaptive, over-generalized motor responses to protect the spine.  Hence, functional brain changes associated with sensorimotor behavior may lead to (recurrences of) low back pain.”

This research review summarized many research findings and as always with respect to the brain…can leave you with more questions than answers.  The more we learn about the brain the more we realize how important the brain is with respect to our lives. 

My take away points from the critical review is that when a person is experiencing back pain, their brain is interpreting the information from the spine, muscles, disc, and ligaments and deciding how to manage with it.  People all experience and interpret the pain differently, and not all spine injuries are the same, but the brain does adapt and change with respect to the injury.  The brain will then adapt or compensate for the current injury by using other input to still allow you to balance and walk (ankle reflexes and proprioception instead of relying on the low spine proprioception).  The brain will also remember the injury it experienced and be hyper reactive to any new information it receives from that injured site.  This creates a quick ability to protect the spine from potentially dangerous situations, which may not have been worrying before.  The brain learns and adapts to your life depending on its experiences, for better and for worse.

Through caring for people who unfortunately have experienced low back pain that has become chronic in nature or recurrent, it is very important to recognize the brain – spine connection, and the changes that have taken place.  Just like these changes have occured due to the injury, the brain can change again in a positive manner with time as well.  It can learn to trust the spine again.

Proper spinal hygiene habits are very important as you start to trust your spine again.  Habits take time to create, as you need to create new routines and new brain pathways to change the old negative ones.  Chiropractors can help you work towards this.

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