Pain has become a worldwide epidemic, affecting more people than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined. Much too often, I see simple acute injuries with a normal pain response turn into weeks, months or even years of chronic persistent pain syndromes, even when the initial acute injury has long been healed. A good amount of research suggests that if we take the time to explain to people how pain works, we may be able to decrease the chance that acute pain turns into a chronic condition. Sounds simple enough right? Not really, because pain is a super complex neuroimmunological response. Scientists conduct extensive research on this topic with the latest technology at their disposal, and still struggle to fully grasp it. As such, it would be unreasonable to expect a "lay person" to understand it. Therefore, it is important to find ways to convey these complex mechanisms in simple terms for patients to comprehend.
One of my favorite analogies to use when explaining pain is to have a person understand that there is no "Pain Pathway." It is not as simple as pain moving from your herniated disc, up your back and finally telling your brain "hey that disc is hurting!". Pain is always an output of the brain, and therefore the brain has to decide whether the information that it is gathering from your body and mind is dangerous enough to give you pain at that particular moment.
Consider the difference between the old landline telephone system and the internet. That is the difference between how we think of pain and how pain really is.
How We Think Pain Works: Telephone
Here is a Picture of the old landline phone system that we had for many years. This represents how most of us think pain works. You dial a phone number that is connected by a wire, which travels up the telephone pole to the telephone company, who then redirects it to the person you are calling. There is a direct line that connects the caller and the person receiving the call. In this model one can just cut a wire and the signal will not work. We sometimes think the same way about pain. If we can just cut out this herniated disc or just screw in a plate, it will get rid of the pain signals. What we find is that it isn't that simple - and in many cases there is no finding on X-ray or MRI that helps explain the pain someone may be experiencing.
How Pain Really Works: Internet
This model shows a simplified version of how the internet works. There are many components that have to work together very quickly in order for you to be reading this article right now. There isn't one connection that drives the whole process but a variety of separate processes that combine their efforts in order for something to happen.
Knowledge Is The Greatest Weapon Against Chronic Pain
Studies show that Pain Neuroscience Education delivered in a way that a patient can easily relate to and grasp, along with other techniques like Graded Motor Imagery followed by a gradual return to meaningful activities and exercise can significantly help with the suffering of chronic pain conditions.
If you or someone you know has been suffering with a chronic pain condition and is interested in a FREE CONSULTATION please contact me.
Dr. Eugene Katsnelson PT, DPT is the owner and therapist at Precision Physical Therapy in Fair Lawn, NJ. He has traveled around the country to learn from the leaders in treatment of chronic pain. Eugene's approach involves a thorough physical therapy evaluation while working with the patient to guide them through the difficult and complicated journey of our medical system. He works to establish a strong and reliable support network for the patient in order to get the best results possible.