14 November 2016

Physiological Change In Someone With Chronic Pain

By Daisy Grace


Living with chronic pain takes a major toll on your mental frame of mind. It is very challenging to keep a positive outlook, when simple tasks become monumental efforts, due to the pain. A negative outlook can lead to depression and ultimately intensify the physical pain.

Dealing with chronic pain makes it very hard to stay focused on any other type of task. The pain can become consuming.

Chronic pain is described as suffering longer than expected, due to an injury or illness. Chronic pain, like arthritis and joint pain, can alter the hormones in the brain, and this neurochemical change may increase a person's sensitivity to pain.

This may escalate to other parts of the body, and areas that do not normally hurt will begin to feel pain. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, pain will alter the brain both anatomically and physiologically.

When living with pain on a daily basis, getting quality sleep can be very difficult. A lack of quality sleep results in low energy. Add sleepiness and chronic pain together, and tolerance levels are sure to drop, and a person may get irritated more quickly.

Depression is the number one psychological issue that is common among patients with chronic pain. Often times, feeling depressed can hinder treatment results, and even worsen the medical condition.

Observe the following statistics:

1. The American Pain Foundation has noted that more than 30 million individuals, living in the United States, suffer with pain lasting more than 12 months.

2. More than fifty (50%) of people who have pain, also complain to their doctors that they feel depressed.

3. Individuals with pain, that hinders their independence, are said to be at a higher risk of becoming depressed.

Physical pain triggers a mental response in every body. If you have pain, especially ongoing due to arthritis and joint pain, for example, you may also feel anxious, agitated and irritable.

Depression often goes undiagnosed and in turn is left untreated. It is the pain that takes center stage on most doctor visits, and not a psychological disorder, such as depression and all the negative implications that accompany it (such as sleepiness, lack of energy, social withdrawal, and loss of appetite).

Other physiological changes in people who suffer with chronic pain include, but are not limited to:

Feelings of anger; inability to think clearly; decreased self-esteem; increased stress within the family and household; fear of causing more injury and pain; financial concerns; reduced sexual activities, and perhaps the stress of having to deal with legal and/or work-related issues.

Individuals that live with pain could interpret comments from well-meaning friends and family members as negative, and this could trigger an angry thought and response. For instance, if a loved one gently reminds a person to "take their prescribed meds", it may be interpreted as, "You are not trying hard enough". Another, well-meaning statement, could be something like, "have you tried... ". And it may be a message that is received as, "you read one article on my condition, and you think you know more about than I do". Of course, there are some comments that can be ignorant, such as, "you don't look sick", which may be interpreted as, "since my illness is not physically visible, it is not real". One of the best statements that a loved one can make to someone who deals with chronic pain is, "I'm sorry you are in pain, and I wish that I could take it from you". These type of words are received in a positive manner, and the patient will hear, "I am here for you and I love you".

In a recent study, eighteen (18) adults with chronic back pain were observed. MRI's were conducted six months prior, and six months after treatment. In addition, brain scans were also conducted on participants with pain, and also on sixteen (16) additional participants, who did not suffer with chronic pain. It was found that some areas of the brain (specifically the cerebral cortex) were thinner in patients with chronic pain.

During the brain scans, the participants were asked to conduct cognitive tasks, which included the ability to distinguish one visual target from another. Although both groups did well on this mental test, the individuals with pain showed more brain activity. Pain demands attention from the brain, and it is assumed that for this reason, patients needed to exert more mental effort, to remain focused on a certain task.

When the body is healed of pain, the brain is also restored, because the link between the mind and the body is intertwined.


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