Chronic Pain as a Function of Memory??
New research involving brain mapping and functional imaging of the brain is shedding new light on how the brain deals with chronic pain. The research also shows that the principles and applications of chiropractic theories can positively affect chronic pain.
For many years, chronic pain was believed to be bound in the sensory nerves. We used to see people get nerves surgically cut or ablated to reduce the signals from the nerves. We still see some peripheral nerve ablations in the lower back, from time to time.
In the last few decades, researchers found some increasing evidence that certain chronic pain was being generated and maintained in the spinal cord. Then we began to see pain-pumps surgically implanted into the spine. These pumps can deliver certain types of medications right onto the spinal cord, hoping to reduce chronic pain.
Well, this past week, a great study got us thinking about how the brain is involved with chronic pain. The brain begins to learn pain patterns and those patterns become associated with other events. If effect, the pain becomes a living memory and the brain is generating memories of pain, but the pain is actually felt.
For example, have you ever smelled something peculiar and had a memory flash or something else? We all have that time time to time. Our brain maps associations with certain memories. When one stimulus is interpreted, the other associated links are also recalled. Not too long ago, I had a nice hot bowl of oatmeal with chopped peaches at the bottom. When I reached the bottom of the bowl and bit into a peach, I was instantly flooded with memories of my grandmother who used to make our oatmeal this way. I could picture her kitchen and table. I could actually smell her perfume–all from memory. The trigger of the memories was the bite of peach oatmeal.
Our brain uses association links to make sense of the world. Unfortunately, these links can be forged even when we do not want them. In the case of pain, flexible brain maps are being created linking pain to certain activities. Long after an injury has healed, the brain can recall the injury and experience pain echos. These echos are being generated by the sensorimotor, as well as limbic and frontal cortex of the brain.
Chiropractic care is able to relink and reshape the brain maps in order to disassociate the pain memories. It takes time, and a full program including home stretches and physiotherapy, but there is hope for people in chronic pain.
We know how dangerous it is for people to use opioid medications like Lortab. So if there is some other treatment options which are effective and safe, they must absolutely be considered.
Chiropractic care focuses on restoring balance and appropriate biomechanical function to joints and nerves. We are not out to ‘pop backs’. Our treatment is focused and specific. There are detailed protocols we follow in order to restore structure and function to the articulations of the body.
If you are suffering from acute pain, seek the help of a doctor of chiropractic. Your chiropractor can help you avoid turning your acute pain into chronic pain. If you already have chronic pain, call a chiropractor who specializes in chronic pain and unlearn those memories.
Dr. Andrew White
Chronic and Acute Pain Chiropractor St George UT