When we launched our website back in 2014, one of our first articles, called Understanding Pain, gave an overview of how pain affects people both physically and emotionally. Because of the prevalence of pain, we’ve decided it’s time to revisit and expand on the topic for our Introductory Series.
The Canadian Pain Resource Centre estimates that chronic pain affects 20% of Canadians. One of the top reasons that people decide to try light therapy is because of chronic pain; but in order to relieve pain, it’s important to understand what pain is and what causes it.
Types of Pain
It is generally accepted that there are two types of pain:
Acute Pain – Acute pain can be indicative of an injury. The pain can be intense, but short-lived. When the injury heals, the pain usually goes away.
Chronic Pain – When acute pain persists beyond healing of the original injury, it then becomes chronic pain. The pain can be mild, or intense/severe.
Depending on where or how the pain is felt, it can be classified as either Nociceptive Pain, or Non-Nociceptive, or Neuropathic Pain.
Nociceptive Pain is caused by damage or injury. Nociceptors are the nerves which sense and respond to pain. They signal injury, impending injury, or irritation. The pain is usually localized and constant, and is treated very well by traditional painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
Non-Nociceptive Pain, or Neuropathic pain, is the result of an injury or malfunction in the nervous system, where the way that the nerves send pain signals to the brain is affected. There are many causes of Neuropathic pain, and traditional pain relievers don’t usually help Neuropathic pain very much.
Managing pain can be challenging, but determining the type and class of pain can make it easier. Nociceptive pain responds very well to typical painkillers, and usually resolves itself once the injury heals. Treating Neuropathic pain will be more complicated, as there typically is no defining cause.
Using light therapy is very helpful when managing both classes of pain. Clinical-strength light therapy systems have been scientifically proven to prompt the body to naturally increase its production of Nitric Oxide from the hemoglobin. Nitric Oxide is a very powerful vasodilator (increases circulation). When you increase circulation to an area, you increase the nutrients to that area, allowing the tissue to heal faster.
Nitric Oxide is a neurotransmitter that tells the brain to shut off the pain alarm. It also has the same molecular structure as morphine, making it your body’s own natural pain-reliever – without the narcotic side effects.
This increase in circulation and release of Nitric Oxide, make light therapy a very effective modality for healing Acute & Nociceptive pain. But what about the more difficult Neuropathic pain? Several studies have shown that light therapy may actually be more effective at treating Chronic & Neuropathic pain. The reason, again, lies with the release of Nitric Oxide. When dealing with Neuropathic pain, the problem often lies within the nervous system, more specifically, the body’s inability to regulate the Autonomic Nervous System.
As mentioned above, Nitric Oxide is a neurotransmitter; it plays a key role in the body’s switch between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems. By telling the brain to shut off the pain alarm, it also signals that it is time to switch from the Sympathetic Stress Response to the Parasympathetic Relaxation Response.
The mind and body work together; we have an emotional response to everything – including pain. When we feel physical pain, it is often accompanied by feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness. These emotions then trigger the Sympathetic Stress Response further. In our last post in this Introductory Series, we covered the Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous Systems, where we learned that the more the Sympathetic Nervous System is triggered, the more sensitive it becomes. So the more pain you feel, the more pain you can feel. When you decrease the frequency of Sympathetic Stress Responses, the easier it becomes to manage pain.
For more tips on decreasing your Stress load, check out this article. And be sure to watch for the next article in our Introductory Series.
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Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be construed as such. Light devices are not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. If you have a disease or illness, consult with your physician or health care provider prior to using any light device. Use only as directed by manufacturer.