Lesson 1 of 10
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1) Your Brain Interprets Pain

I-Engage April 30, 2021

In this lesson, you’ll learn how your brain interprets pain as someone living with chronic pain. Understanding this can be helpful in managing your pain.

Persistent or chronic pain differs from the acute pain you feel when you burn or injure yourself. For instance, chronic pain continues after the original cause. It also affects different parts of the brain and nervous system.

a man sitting at the end of his bed, holding his neck due to chronic neck pain

Sensations can resemble the original injury; it can feel as though the damage didn’t heal. The pain intensity persists after the tissue heals.

So, what can you do to change this and improve your situation?

Understanding Pain

Approximately one in five people have chronic pain. This is often defined as pain lasting longer than 3-6 months. Acute pain is your nervous system’s response alerting your body of a possible threat or injury. Chronic pain is different. Here, the brain is continuing to produce pain responses even after a structural injury has likely healed.

Chronic pain can range from mild to excruciating. It can also be episodic or continuous. Either way, living with chronic pain is tough, inconvenient, and inhibiting. Pain can affect your ability to perform regular activities.

To target treatment of chronic pain, a multi-modal approach must be understood. When the healing process involves the brain and central nervous system, the recovery timeline will be different from that of an acute or structural injury.

couple exercising outside despite chronic pain

Factors that may influence a patient’s recovery include other medical treatments, activity levels, treatment approaches, emotional levels, diet, and lifestyle. Patient education will be the first step in chronic pain recovery.

Chronic pain might not only be due to a physical issue. It may be a ‘re-wiring’ of the brain’s perception of itself. Simply, “pain comes from the brain and can be re-trained.” The best way to treat chronic pain is to understand what has happened in the body and nervous system. Then, you can try treatments that are directed towards the brain, in combination with function and motor control approaches.

The next topic will discuss managing chronic pain with medication. You can select the next topic below or in the left-side menu to move forward.