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The impact of pain

Published on 2016-08-15

  • The impact of pain

When we’re in pain, we know it, sometimes it’s temporary and sometimes it is a continuous pain that blights our life.

Recently I have come across articles and books discussing the neurological impact on pain, the theories have been around a while but it has recently come back onto my radar. Basically, from what I can gather we have a pain, and we’re talking an on-going, the Dr can’t help kind of pain, but our nervous system becomes over sensitive to the pain so although the pain is there and there is an issue, we perceive the pain as more debilitating allowing it to have a huge impact on our life.

Take away the focus of the pain, so for example concentrate on something else then the intensity of the pain is almost forgotten. I noted this with my late mother-in-law, severe osteoporosis combined with bad posture meant she suffered constant back pain. Sometimes that pain was so acute she was almost in tears, but take away the focus, watching her sons laughing and joking with her, she moved better and appeared in less discomfort even if for just a couple of hours. This is because she wasn’t just sat in her chair concentrating on her pain.

There has been research on the effects of meditation on pain to investigate whether it is more effective than pain killers, looking at the areas of the brain that register pain and the level of activity in that part of the brain during a meditation exercise has shown reduced activity. Meditation is focusing the mind elsewhere, but for some people the idea of slowing the mind and meditating is just not something that they would do.

But we all have some patients that are in constant pain, some live with it admirably but they are possibly already aware that fully concentrating on something else for a while means they don’t notice the pain so much.

Others, maybe it’s a different attitude to the way we live our lives, and when we are tired or if we are run down it is very difficult to switch off from our screaming nerves, I appreciate that, but sometimes we have to train the person to train their minds or indeed look at other aspects of their health which may have an impact on pain. As therapists trained to deal with the physical aspects of pain it is part of our remit to advise our patients but at the end of the day it is up to the patient whether they listen or not.

 An interesting little book that is well worth considering,  Pain is really strange