Apr 22

Persistent pain can have an incredibly negative effect on our overall quality of life. Whether it is due to a chronic illness, a recent injury, or an inherited genetic condition, persistent pain affects every part of our lives and most sufferers constantly seek out whatever treatments or medicines that could help them feel better.

Researchers have found that people react differently to, and experience varying levels of, persistent pain due to risk factors that are sometimes not related to the cause of pain itself. Knowing what these factors are and identifying who is at risk help doctors and pain management specialists uncover underlying causes of pain and develop better treatment plans for those experiencing it. Here are three of the most common risk factors in individuals that may cause them to experience more persistent pain.

Sleep Problems

Those who experience insomnia, inability to sleep through the night, sleep apnea, or other disruptive symptoms are more likely to experience persistent pain after an injury or illness. They are also less able to deal with the pain and seek out more medical intervention. This could be connected to their lack of restorative deep sleep, which can improve both pain symptoms and coping mechanisms.

Illness Attitude

Illness attitude can be characterized by “health anxiety” or “illness behavior.” Health anxiety is experienced by patients when they chronically worry about whether they will get sick in the future. Illness behavior occurs when patients repeatedly go to doctors or hospitals for perceived illnesses or other physical complaints. Health anxiety and illness behavior both negatively impacted an individual’s ability to deal with chronic pain. Patients who were identified as having an illness attitude experienced more persistent pain than their counterparts.

Anxiety and Depression

Those who experience chronic depression or generalized anxiety disorder are also more likely to experience persistent pain due to an illness or injury. Pain and depression tend to work together to cause a downward spiral in patients. Those who are depressed experience more pain and the more pain they experience, the more depressed they get. Anxiety can come from anticipating pain and those who are prone to anxiety disorders tend to also have fewer coping skills than those who are not.

Identifying risk factors associated with the development of persistent pain is important for pain management specialists so they can identify underlying causes and develop treatments that address both the physical pain and the factors that could be contributing to the pain in certain individuals.

If you are experiencing chronic pain and would like more information, please visit our website or contact one of our pain specialists today.

Apr 08

There are many levels of personal awareness and the human species falls on a broad spectrum when it comes to being aware of their surroundings, their thoughts and emotions, and the way their body works. Variance in levels of awareness can have a number of different effects on an individual, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the awareness of one’s own body, also known as interoception.

Individuals who are high in interoception are more aware of their bodies then those who are low. They may be able to predict when they are about to get sick, what types of stimuli produce pleasant or painful results, and how their body will react to different environmental factors. Knowing if you are high or low in interoception can also be helpful in determining how you will experience and manage pain. Those who are very aware of their bodies may be able to ward off, withstand, and even control their pain better than those who are low in interoception. Why? Here are a few reasons.

The Ability to be Proactive

Individuals who can identify which stimuli cause them the most pain or who are aware enough of their own bodies to be able to determine when they are getting sick can take proactive avoidance measures. This could include avoiding situations or stimuli that they know will cause them harm or loading up on vitamin C and rest when they feel a cold coming on. Athletes who are hyper aware of their bodies know when they need to hydrate, when they can push themselves further, and when it’s time to rest.

Higher Interpretive Abilities

The sensation of pain must pass through certain channels before an individual experiences the sensation. Pain produces a number of aversive stimuli that need to be interpreted by the brain before they are recognized as painful. Those with higher interoception are more aware of these messages and can therefore spend less time processing them. This frees up their mental capacity to deal with the pain more effectively or take measures to soothe it.

More Capacity to Deal with Chronic Pain

Because those with high interoceptive levels can effectively interpret pain and what it means, they tend to process and deal with pain better then their low interoceptive counterparts. Those who commonly deal with chronic pain, such as athletes, know what is normal and what is not and therefore do not become as anxious or stressed when they experience pain.

Do you know if you have high or low interoception? It could make a big difference when it comes to dealing with injuries or illnesses that cause chronic pain. If you have questions about how your interoception levels affect your pain tolerance and what you can do about it, please visit our websiteand schedule a time to talk to one of our pain experts.


Mar 25

Pain is an indicator of a threat as well as a trigger of protective behavior caused by fear. An individual undergoing pain will automatically get the urge to avoid or escape it as a self-preservation measure.

The pain cycle can be classified into four stages:

1. Acquisition: The threats associated with pain results in fear that triggers adaptive learning. The experience may lead to conditioned responses such as safety-seeking or avoidance.

2. Generalization: Persistence of pain-related fear may facilitate the development of chronic pain. This can lead to generalizing of protective responses to adverse situations of grief.

3. Avoidance: This reaction serves to protect the individual from harmful stimuli. However, once acquired, avoidance behavior may be notoriously persistent, hence maintaining the pain-related fear. The action promotes negative effect by altering positive activities, which fuels the maintenance of pain.

4. Extinction of pain: Prioritizing optimism over pain-associated adverse effects will ultimately break the pain cycle. Optimism may result in omission of avoidance behavior, making the individual learn inhibitory responses.

Prolonged pain has adverse effects. Most of these effects are triggered by fear of pain, which can be a key factor in development and maintenance of disability and chronic pain. These effects include anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety Disorder

Chronic pain sufferers have higher chances of having anxiety disorders. These pains usually bring about depression to the patient as they may lack sleep or even face stigma. It is important for clinicians to assess patients for psychological factors.
Chronic pain accompanied by anxiety disorder can be difficult to treat. Such patients have a lower pain tolerance and may be more sensitive to the side effects of medications than patients without anxiety. Treatment can be through drugs, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and complementary treatment such as yoga.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Most patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder have a prevalence of digestive, circulatory, musculoskeletal, and nervous system diseases. There is also a noticeable co-occurrence of chronic pain in PTSD patients. The pain experienced by these patients is worse than their counterparts. This scenario is fueled by their exposure to psychological stress.

Both chronic pain and PTSD sufferers are stigmatized by the general community. The community perceives them as victims of their own actions. This mostly results from the existential and esoteric nature of both kinds of patients. Models that offer integrated treatments for both PSTD and chronic pain are available in healthcare facilities.

Pain management requires an efficient and innovative service provider. The specialist should be trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating any form of chronic pain. Do you need specialized treatment? Contact the Pain Care Clinic of Idaho for a pain-free life.

Mar 18

If you’ve ever been told that “pain is all in your head,” they may be right, but not in the way they were thinking. Pain is real, but science is demonstrating that our brains and nervous systems are actually physically changed through experiencing pain. Furthermore, stress and psychological risk factors caused by physical suffering can also help alter the receptors in our brains.

Suffering does not end with the physical sensation of trauma we experience. Studies have shown that pain is a complex process that actually has an effect on “perception, attention, mood, motivation, learning and memory.” The neurons in our brains are altered when we experience discomfort. This alteration can lead to or reinforce the effects of suffering. Another study revealed that actual lesions develop in our neural pathways and can contribute to agony arising directly from our nervous system. Normally, our nerves alert us to trauma so we can avoid danger. But when they experience chronic suffering, they can become hypersensitive.

There are certain psychological conditions which risk causing more physical misery. Feelings of depression, hopelessness, or anxiety are a common response when experiencing hurtful sensations. This is why the American Psychological Association also endorses psychotherapy in addition to other treatments when dealing with chronic pain. They have found that psychological therapy actually reduces negative nerve sensations. This demonstrates that painful sensations, the alterations they cause in our nervous systems, and our psychological responses to them create a vicious feedback loop.

Feeling stressed out also has a direct physical effect because the muscles in our body can cramp, increasing our discomfort. Biofeedback therapy can help teach patients how to relax their minds and bodies to control the stress responses which lead to worsening problems. This is an example of why physical suffering should be treated not only with surgery or drugs, but also with therapies meant to address our psychological and neurological responses to it. Drugs only disguise negative sensations and fail to attack the root causes of chronic misery.

Whereas psychological therapy can help moderate our experience of physical suffering, neuropathic treatment is therapy involved in fixing the actual malfunctioning nerve receptors. Scrambler Therapy is a type of therapy designed to retrain receptors to learn to recognize again what a non-pain signal is. Rather than the signals they were accustomed to receiving, the malfunctioning receptors will now become accustomed to receiving normal signals.

Changing nerve receptors is possible due to the property known as “plasticity.” This term refers to the ability of our brains and nervous systems to alter, change, or grow. In other words, the same property which allows nerve receptors to change because of trauma and harmful psychological conditions, will also allow them to return to a normal state. Scrambler Therapy is one way to achieve relief at the neuropathic level. Neuropathic therapy and psychological therapy are a one-two punch for chronic suffering.

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