Understanding Pain

“What is Pain?” Three little words that ask an incredibly complex question. The dictionary defines pain as “a distressing sensation in particular part of the body”. Yet, even the dictionary does not adequately help us understand pain. This is because pain is different for everyone.  It cannot be measured the same from one person to the next, as everyone’s pain thresholds are different. What is a mild annoyance to one may be excruciating pain to another.

While it may be difficult for some people to accept, especially those suffering from chronic pain, Pain really is a good thing. It is the body’s alarm system; it tells us that something is wrong or that something we are doing is dangerous. This alarm system is necessary for survival. So necessary, in fact, that people with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP) rarely live past the age of 3, on average.  Their bodies don’t tell them not to do something that causes them harm – like touch a hot flame, poke themselves with things, or use broken limbs.

But when pain becomes persistent or chronic, is ceases to become a good thing; it interferes with sleep, mobility, nutrition, thought, sexual activity, emotional well-being, creativity, and self-actualization. In essence, chronic pain changes people.

Each of us understands on a very basic level what pain is, but in order to truly understand pain and how to change it, we must take a closer look at the mechanism behind pain.

Understanding Pain

Science tells us that the source of all pain – regardless of location – is actually the nervous system, and it is the status of your nervous system that determines the intensity of the pain. As an example, imagine getting a paper cut. If you received the paper cut at home, you’d probably notice the initial sting, then move about your day without so much as thinking about it again. However, if you were to receive the exact same paper cut at work, not only are you likely to feel more pain initially, the cut will probably continue to hurt for the remainder of your work day. Why is this? Because of the state of your autonomic nervous system when you’re at work.

If you have attended any of our events, you will be familiar with the purpose of the Autonomic Nervous System and, more specifically, it’s Sympathetic and Parasympathetic divisions.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is responsible for our Rest and Digest phase, while the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) governs our body’s Fight of Flight responses and allows us to function under stress. When we feel pain, it is the SNS that kicks in and tells us to flee from the cause of the pain or signals our brains to protect our body from the cause of the pain with a myriad of responses.

The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous Systems are in constant opposition; your body is always in one phase or the other. In an ideal situation, they are balanced. But when pain becomes chronic, the balance shifts. As the body continues to feel pain or stress, the SNS continues to trigger physical responses, leading to an increase in adrenaline and cortisol hormones, which in turn cause the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase and the digestive process to slow. It is the continuous and sometimes constant exposure to these physical reactions that can cause a great deal of “wear and tear” on the body and actually create MORE pain.

Aside from the physical responses, pain also has a very real emotional response. The mind and body work together; they cannot be separated. We have an emotional response to everything; this is what makes us human. Physical pain, especially chronic pain, is often accompanied by feelings of frustration, resentment, anger, and helplessness. These emotions can also trigger the Sympathetic Nervous System, and the SNS can trigger emotional responses. So if you’ve ever felt as if living with chronic pain was a cycle, you’re very right. To put it simply, physical pain causes emotional distress, and emotional distress can cause physical pain.

Many strides have been made in managing both chronic and acute pain, and many pain management clinics have been making the shift from treating pain to treating the person as a whole, including emotional triggers. These clinics, and the people that run them, are learning that part of the solution to chronic pain is calming the nervous system. They teach their patients how to over-ride their Sympathetic Nervous System’s response by triggering their Parasympathetic Nervous System. Because the two are in constant opposition, increasing one automatically decreases the other.

In Light Wellness Systems have been diligently tested and proven to prompt the body to naturally increase its production of Nitric Oxide from the hemoglobin. Not only is Nitric Oxide a very powerful vasodilator, it has the same molecular structure as morphine; meaning that it is your body’s natural pain-relieving relaxant. Nitric Oxide plays a key role in the switch between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. Nitric Oxide slows the heart rate and encourages the body’s Parasympathetic Nervous System.

By using In Light Wellness Systems regularly to encourage your body to increase its Parasympathetic responses, it will naturally start to decrease the amount of time spent in the Fight or Flight response of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Essentially teaching your nervous system to calm itself enough to help relieve chronic pain.

Luckily, you don’t need fancy or complicated pad placements to help calm the nervous system. Simply using the pads to target the entire spine, from tailbone to neck, as much as possible and using the “B” setting can help get your Autonomic Nervous System back in the right rhythm. Keep in mind though, that if you’re body has spent a lot of time in Sympathetic response, it may take longer to re-teach your body to make the switch on its own. Have patience, and keep using your system!

 

Sources:

Understanding pain video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8oB757DKc

Sources:

Chronic pain and the emotional brain: specific brain activity associated with spontaneous fluctuations of intensity of chronic back pain. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17122041

Chronic Pain Predicted By Brain’s Emotional Response http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247328.php

Chronic Pain: It Is All in Your Head, and It’s Real

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/day-without-pain/201301/chronic-pain-it-is-all-in-your-head-and-it-s-real

Stress Effects on the Body http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx

Nitric Oxide Contribution in the CNS: a NO brainer https://www.caymanchem.com/app/template/Article.vm/article/2159

Nitric oxide in the central nervous system: neuroprotection versus neurotoxicity http://sistints01.rm.unicatt.it/allegati_pubblicazioni_istituti/farmacologia_2007/CM_NRN.pdf

NO as a signalling molecule in the nervous system http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1573233/

Autonomic Nervous System, PDF http://www.ehs.net/2231/pdf/autonomic.pdf

How To Rest & Digest http://fatburnerbootcamp.com/how-to-rest-digest/

Pain and your emotions http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000417.htm

Anatomy and Physiology http://www.painclinic.org/nervepain-sympatheticpain.htm

Nitric oxide and cardiac parasympathetic control in human heart failure. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11914101

 

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