Pain is a common symptom of a variety of conditions and can be felt in many different ways. It can intensify during flare-ups, subside at other times, and can last for brief moments or for several months.
Pain signals are sent from nerve endings in your joints, muscles and other tissues up through the spinal cord to the brain. The brain is where pain is ‘registered’. Your pain response can be influenced by many factors, like prior painful episodes and your emotional status. Your brain can also send signals to your body that can change the way you react to pain. These signals use chemicals that reduce the pain signals from the body to the brain. They may also diminish your pain sensitivity. The release of these chemicals may be increased by physical activity and relaxation exercises and techniques.
There are two major types of pain: Acute and Chronic.
Acute pain is usually due to an injury or surgery and serves an adaptive function because it serves to protect the body. Your brain receives a pain message and quickly sends signals to your body to respond to the pain. This is why we automatically remove our finger from a hot stove or take weight off a sprained ankle. Without the experience of pain, we would be at greater risk of injuring our body.
Chronic pain refers to pain that continues for several months. This type of pain can be infrequent or continual (lasting more than 12 hours a day). The most common causes of chronic pain are arthritis, fibromyalgia and low back pain. Another type of chronic pain is called neuropathic pain, which results from disease or injury to the nervous system itself.
According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic pain may be activated by a process called sensitization. When sensitization occurs, your nervous system amplifies and distorts pain, much the way your stereo speakers distort the character of recorded music when you turn up the volume. The pain that is registered is severe and out of proportion to the original cause of your chronic pain, and therefore is no longer adaptive like acute pain. Further, Chronic pain often causes emotional and psychological problems.
Psychological treatment of chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be a source of depression, anxiety, frustration, fatigue, poor work performance and concentration, and relationship difficulties. Although there is no magic pill to completely eliminate chronic pain, it is possible to change the way it affects our well-being and relationships. Psychological services such as psychotherapy can help people to better understand how the pain impacts their thoughts, feelings, and relationships and to develop effective coping strategies.
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