Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks or a long time after the

injury has healed.

Chronic pain represents a malfunction in the brain's pain processing systems. The

pain signals take detours into areas of the brain involved with emotion, attention

and perception of danger and can cause gray matter to atrophy. That may explain

why some chronic pain sufferers lose some cognitive ability.


More than 116 million American adults—one-third of the population—struggle

with chronic pain, and many are inadequately treated, according to a report by the

Institute of Medicine in July, 2011

Yet abuse of pain medication is rampant. Annual deaths due to overdoses of

painkillers quadrupled, to 14,800, between 1998 and 2008, according to the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The painkiller Vicodin is now the

most prescribed drug in the U.S. Opioids are getting approval for usage.


"There is a growing recognition that drugs are only part of the solution and that

people who live with chronic pain have to develop a strategy that calls upon

some inner resources," says Josephine Briggs, director of national Center for

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which has funded much of

the research into alternative approaches to pain relief.

How we think about pain is how we feel the pain.


Neuroscientists are reaching this conclusion as they use the scanning technologies

to see how the brain processes pain.

That is the principle behind many mind-body approaches to chronic pain that are

proving effective in clinical trials.

Some are as old as meditation, hypnosis and tai chi, while others are far more

high tech. In studies at Stanford University's Neuroscience and Pain Lab, subjects

can watch their own brains react to pain in real-time and learn to control their

response—much like building up a muscle.


When subjects focused on something distracting instead of the pain, they

had more activity in the higher-thinking parts of their brains. When they "re-
evaluated" their pain emotionally—"Yes, my back hurts, but I won't let that stop

me"—they had more activity in the deep brain structures that process emotion.

Either way, they were able to ease their own pain significantly, according to a

study in the journal Anesthesiology in October, 2011.


When we go to Gym and workout, or take part in a marathon, and our muscles

are sore, we interpret it as positive and say we worked hard or we had a good

workout. But, persons with chronic pain like fibromyalgia are getting similar pain

signals, but they experience them very differently, especially if they fear they will

never get better.


"The mind is like an onion. The outer layer, or conscious mind, deals with

intelligence, reality, and logic. The inner mind is concerned with emotion,

imagination, and memory, as well as the autonomic nervous system which

automatically controls our internal organs (i.e., how we breathe, send oxygen to

our blood cells, or walk without using the conscious mind.) The internal mind is

on autopilot, reacting to the dictates of the pleasure principle. It seeks pleasure and

avoids pain" (Warren, 2003, pp. 175-6).


We are all carrying the baggage (I like to call it a black bag), from our past

experience and we use that information to make projections about what we expect

to happen in the future.


According to Gestalt theory, string theory and Pythagoras, we make connections

to past events of pain associated with emotion and link them. We link all the pain

episodes though they are separated by many days, months are years and link them

and draw a conclusion we are always in pain. The dysfunction "feeds on itself,

like a record player just giving you back what you record on it, only many fold,

more every time another pain episode happens. “You get into a vicious cycle of

more pain, more anxiety, more fear, and more depression. We need to interrupt

that cycle."


We need to break that chain. Integrative/holistic modalities help us do just that.


Diagrammatic​ Representa​tion of how brain processes pain


Pain, Digrammatic representation of how mind processes pain, JPEG (2)

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