Pain and the brain

With Tim Wright - Gower Acupuncture, Swansea

Brain pain medical health care concept as a human thinking organ with barbwire or sharp barb wire fence wrapped around the anatomy as a symbol for a painful inflamation illness or migraine and headache suffering.How Does Pain Work And What Can Be Done To Treat It?

Pain is endemic and pain medication can have serious side effects. In many cases, as evidenced by last month’s BBC programme “The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs”, medication may not be as effective as natural alternatives for pain management.

So How Does Pain Work?

You’ve just touched a hot hob. An element of mechanical injury from the burn agitates local nerves. The two main nerves involved in sending pain signals to the brain are the nociceptive and proprioceptive nerves.

The reflexive sharp pain from touching the hot hob is transmitted by A-Delta nociceptive fibres. These nerve fibres are covered in a fatty myelin sheath that helps to transmit pain signals quickly to the brain (essential to avoid cooking your hand). Proprioceptive nerve fibres then send information regarding where in the body the pain is. Nociceptive C Fibres then bring up the rear. These fibres don’t have a fatty myelin sheath and so transmit pain signals slower. This pain often manifests as a persistent, uncomfortable dull ache.

The brain then interprets the pain signals and may send signals via motor nerves to inhibit movement and blood flow in the injured area.

Pain Is The Brain’s Response To Nerve Impulses
The pain signals reach the brain in roughly the same way as described above. However, the way the brain perceives them can vary wildly from day to day and from person to person. Pain is a two-way process. Pain signals are received and then interpreted depending upon a host of factors, including your emotional state.

If you’re feeling down, stressed, anxious or fearful these negative mood states can amplify pain signals. If you’re feeling happy, relaxed and confident it’s possible that the pain signals could be modulated and the amplitude of pain decreased.

So Pain Is All in Your Head?

Absolutely not. The part of the brain that deals with pain is primitive and instinctual – you can’t just think happy thoughts and have the pain go away. However, by getting yourself into a more relaxed mood state through meditation, yoga, exercise, positive thinking you can induce a greater state of relaxation throughout the body and potentially reduce your sensation of pain.

Yoga and exercise in particular are great as it has the double bonus of not only improving circulation through movement but also releasing feel good endorphins. Certain therapies such as acupuncture and massage are effective in inducing a more relaxed state and improving circulation.

So How Can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture is currently recommended by NICE * for preventative treatment of migraine headaches. (!scenario)
Acupuncture is currently recommended by NICE * for chronic/ tension type headaches.
NICE 2009 guidelines recommend a course of acupuncture for chronic low back pain.

To book a FREE 15 minute consultation to discuss your pain please contact me on: 01792 366288

* NICE is the National Institute For Health & Care Excellence. It’s an independent body who set forward recommendations for treatment within the NHS.

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