Pain is a very complex problem. It’s also such a common problem that every person on the planet will at some point in their life suffer its consequences, perhaps only a little, but for some unlucky souls, it will be life-changing for the worse.
There are many factors that can affect the severity and longevity of the pain which is suffered. Many of those factors are in our individual control, so the good news is that each of us has the potential to dial in pain relief and reduce the impact of pain on our lives.
In this series of blogs, I will take you on a journey to help you gain a better understanding of pain and its causes so that you will be able to reduce its consequences on your quality of life.
My Qualifications In Pain Relief
For me, the study of the cause and treatment of pain has been a lifelong journey. As a child I witnessed first-hand the suffering caused by long term severe pain when my mother was bedridden for years with back pain. My childhood also came to an abrupt end when I was handed many of the responsibilities and duties my mother could no longer fulfil.
Needless to say, this episode was life-changing for me and it embedded an irreversible need to seek a better understanding of pain and more effective ways to treat those suffering pain. It started a lifelong journey that I am still on to this day. A journey that has taken me to many places around the world and given me the great fortune of working with experts in their fields.
At the outset, I had observed first-hand the inability of our western medical knowledge to effectively deal with severe pain and I thus vowed I would never restrict myself to the boundaries of western medicine alone. Why would I? After all, we all know that the best way to improve is to seek out those who excel. Thus my outlook has always been broad rather than narrow, inclusive rather than exclusive.
As a result of this approach, I will take you to places that perhaps you had not imagined, introducing factors that you would never have considered. I am highly qualified in western medical methods and only too aware of how it has, or in many cases has not improved over the last 40 years in dealing with severe pain. I thus make no apology for introducing ideas and concepts not considered by many of my peers.
However, I would forever regret not communicating my knowledge on pain relief to you and at the same time potentially leaving you to suffer more than needed. Ultimately it is then up to each of you how you choose your own future pain relief journey.
Why do we feel pain?
Pain is a normal human experience and we need it to survive. Pain is nature’s warning system which is designed to protect us. Pain is the symptom and not the cause of a problem.
When someone brings us bad news, we don’t shoot the messenger, do we? No, instead, we listen to what the messenger has to say, and then we go and find the real cause of the problem. It is exactly the same thing when it comes to pain. It is only trying to warn us that there is a problem, and it is up to us to seek out the true reason behind that pain. Where is the pain coming from and why? You can’t put a fire out if you don’t know where the fire is. Pain is no different.
Chronic pain has more to do with sensitive nerves and how your brain processes your lifestyle than the injury itself
Pain signals are sent to the brain for processing through the nervous system. Some nerves send control signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Others send signals from the body to the brain for feedback and processing. Each of us has around 45 miles of nerves connecting all our body parts to the spinal cord, so that provides a lot of opportunities for pain signals to be sent to the brain. The brain has to decide how to express that pain signal and that expression can vary wildly from one individual to the next.
As an example, I have seen patients with bone on bone contact in their knees and yet feel almost no pain, whereas others with far better cartilage cover suffer severely.
Our perception of pain is related to everything we are experiencing in our lives at that time. When we move better, eat better, are happier and less stressed, we minimise the pain we feel.
One secret to conquering pain is to find out what you have too much or too little of. It’s all about balance, and any disruption in the delicate balance of your body can be a strong contender for the root cause of your painful life.
If pain is suffered for too long, typically more than 3 months, the brain can hardwire it in. One reason chronic, or long-term, the pain has increased is that there has been too much focus on the localised injury and not enough on the significant contribution made by the nervous system and brain. In so doing, we have allowed the pain to be locked in the brain and no amount of localised treatment of where the pain is perceived to be felt will make any difference. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for perceived pain to be felt when the cause of the pain is in a different part of the body.
An extreme example of locked in pain is when it has been caused by an emotional trauma many years earlier and often from as early as childhood. This trauma has caused a locked-in physical condition which expresses itself as never-ending pain. The trauma and pain are intertwined so tightly that both have to be released at the same time.
I have witnessed first-hand many such situations where the release of a muscle locked in spasm caused an emotional outflow and replay of the emotional trauma which was the root cause of the problem. This emotional venting led to a release from pain suffered sometimes 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years!
To summarise this necessarily brief introduction to why we feel pain, it should be clear that assessing pain is not a simple matter if the intention is to get to the root cause.
In my next blog in this series Your Pain Relief Plan Part 2 I will discuss the consequences of ageing and the differences between acute and chronic pain and why these need very different treatment protocols.