Chronic pain can become the problem itself. Pain is always a problem but what happens when you have so much pain for so long that your body adapts to it? This is what happens with chronic or persistent pain. Your body creates new nerve pathways that make the pain a near permanent feature. This is called allodynia.
If you suffer an injury like a bad back or neck or even a sprained ankle it usually gets better within a week or two. If, however, the problem does not get better and the pain persists the nerves that carry the pain messages to the spinal cord and brain start to change. They begin to need less and less of a stimulus to trigger a pain message firing of to the brain. If this continues eventually the nerve starts firing by itself without any injury stimulus. People suffering from this complain that even normal stimuli cause extreme pain.
At Sundial we often see people who have had pain for years but on seeing a doctor are told that nothing is wrong. X-rays or MRI scan show nothing. They know something is wrong because they are not making it up and it jolly well hurts. On hearing about persistent pain syndromes like allodynia they are often quite pleased. At last, a diagnosis.
Solution for chronic pain
Fortunately there is often a solution to this sort of chronic pain. Pain-killers can help, but often people have been taking these for years with little long-term relief. Talking therapies like CBT can help as often the depression that goes along with ongoing pain can aggravate the symptoms. Physical therapies like chiropractic and physiotherapy can also help.
In chronic low back pain for instance manipulating the previously injured joint, the ones that were damaged in the first place, can often bring useful relief. It is thought that the treatment does this by firing the movement sensors in the muscles and other soft tissues which send messages into the spinal cord and brain in a similar way to the pain sensors. This seems to have a calming effect on the pain messages so the pain diminishes.
Exercises can also have a similar effect. A physio will advise what exercise are best to do and what level intensity to start at. Start at too advanced a level and you may not improve at all. Indeed you can overwhelm the nerves themselves leading to a worsening of the discomfort. The exercises will be carefully planned to gradually improve your strength and flexibility and so stimulate the nerves in the correct way to damp down the chronic pain messages and restore a pain-free life.
Other treatments that may help include acupuncture or laser therapy. They can be used in conjunction with other treatments. Indeed, mosh people need several approaches all at once to get relief. Even so it can take months to feel significant benefit.
If you would like an assessment here at Sundial to see if we can help your chronic pain, then give us a call – we’d love to help.
If you want to see a video of one of the leading experts in the field talking about allodynia then click below. His clear explanation of the science behind it is the best I have seen.
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