Many writers in health journals and magazines continue to refer to pain systems, pain pathways, pain signals, pain messages and pain receptors. There is no pain system, there are no pain pathways, there are no pain messages and there are no pain receptors.
Pain emerges from the body (or a space that has a representation in the brain in the case of phantom limb pain) and involves many body systems and the self. Where does pain come from? Well, it comes from the person describing the pain. Does it come from the back or the knee or the head? That is where you could feel it, but in order to feel it in a location we need our body systems to be in a protective mode and to be responding to a potential threat.
Pain is allocated a space where the body requires attention, and whilst this is a vital survival device when we have an injury, it is less useful when the injury has healed or there is no injury. This is the case in chronic pain, although there are reasons why the body continues to protect based on the fact that the perception of threat exists.
Pain is part of a protective response. Many other systems are also working to protect us: the immune system, the endocrine system, the autonomic nervous system, the sensorimotor system etc. — and all the systems that these impact upon, such as the gastroenterological system (how many people suffer problems with their gut at the same time as having persisting pain?).
So, in chronic pain we need different thinking because tissue or structurally based therapies do not provide a sustained answer. Instead we need to address the fact that persisting pain is as a result of the body’s on-going perception of threat. It is this that requires re-training alongside any altered movement patterns and a shift in body sense in order to successfully deal with pain and move on.
Specialist Pain Physio Clinics – transforming a life of pain to a life of possibility
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