Chronic pain is like an animal

Chronic pain is about as enjoyable as listening to Justin Bieber’s latest hit single on repeat while piecing together a 6-shelf cupboard from IKEA without instructions. In the dark. On a carpet made out of awkwardly pointed Legos. While being surrounded by active volcanoes.

All pain sensations are produced in the brain, regardless of how they feel, where you feel them, and whether you’ve had the pain for a day or years.

Immediate, short-term pain (less than 30 days) is often a cause of something going on in the location of the pain. Stuff like a broken ankle, dislocated shoulder or paper cut from being too enthusiastic with that Chinese takeaway box.

Ongoing, persistent chronic pain (more than 30 days) is less about the structural changes in the body. Instead of tissue damage, chronic pain is about the sensitivity of the nervous system. And the nervous system is this ridiculously complex thing affected by our environment, culture, psychology, society and biology.

In other words, the nervous system produces chronic pain, even when the original cause of the pain has already healed.

Here’s the good news.

It’s possible to retrain the nervous system to reduce and eliminate chronic pain. 

Let’s spend the rest of this week figuring out how.