summary: For those with chronic pain, it may be possible to retrain your brain to help manage or reduce symptoms when you become hypersensitive to other treatment methods.

source: Conversation

For every emotion we feel, there is a lot of complex biology going on under our skin.

Pain involves our whole body. When faced with potential threats, the feeling of pain develops in a split second and can help us “detect and protect.” But over time, our nerve cells can become hypersensitive. This means that he can react more strongly and easily to something that normally wouldn’t or would hurt less. This is called “sensitization.”

Allergies can affect anyone, but some people may be more susceptible to it than others due to possible genetic factors, environmental factors, or past experiences. Sensitivity can contribute to chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, or lower back pain.

But it may be possible to retrain our brains to manage or even reduce pain.


Our body senses potential threats via nerve endings called pain receptors. We can think of these like microphones transmitting the word “danger” through wires (nerves and spinal cord) to a loudspeaker (brain). If you sprain your ankle, a host of subtle chemical reactions begin there.

When sensitization occurs in a painful part of the body, it is like more mics joining over a period of weeks or months. Now messages can be transmitted over the wire more efficiently. The volume of the danger message increases exponentially.

Then, in the spinal cord, chemical reactions and the number of receptors there also adapt to this new order. The more messages received, the more feedback is triggered and the messages are sent to the brain in a louder voice.

And the awareness doesn’t always stop there. The brain can also turn up the volume by using more wires in the spinal cord that go up to the speaker. This is one of the proposed mechanisms of central sensitization. Over time, the sensitive nervous system will create more and more feelings of pain, regardless of the amount of physical damage at the initial site of the pain.

When we palpate, we may feel pain that is out of proportion to the actual damage (hyperalgesia), pain that spreads to other areas of the body (regressive pain), pain that lasts a long time (chronic or persistent pain), or pain caused by harmless things like touch or pressure. or temperature (pain pain).

Because pain is both a biological and psychosocial (biological, psychological, and social) experience, we may also experience other symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, or difficulty concentrating.


Around the clock, our bodies and minds are constantly changing and adapting. Neuroplasticity occurs when the brain changes in response to experiences, good or bad.

Pain science research suggests we may be able to retrain ourselves to improve well-being and benefit from neuroplasticity. There are some promising approaches that target the mechanisms underlying sensitization and aim to reverse it.

This statue is shown holding his head
But it may be possible to retrain our brains to manage or even reduce pain. The image is in the public domain

One example of this is graduated kinetic images. This technique uses mental and physical exercises such as left and right limb recognition, imagery, and mirror box therapy. It has been tested for conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (a condition that causes severe pain and swelling in a limb after injury or surgery) and phantom limb pain after an amputation. Very gradual exposure to increased stimuli may be behind these positive effects on the sensitive nervous system.

While the results are promising, more research is needed to confirm its benefits and better understand how it works. The same possible mechanisms of graded exposure underpin some recently developed applications for sufferers.

Exercise can also retrain the nervous system. Regular physical activity can desensitize our nervous system by altering processes at the cellular level, apparently recalibrating the transmission of danger messages. Most importantly, the exercises don’t have to be high intensity or involve going to the gym. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or yoga can be effective in desensitizing the nervous system, perhaps by providing new evidence of perceived safety.

Researchers are exploring whether learning about the science of pain and changing the way we think might enhance self-management skills, such as organizing activities and graded exposure to things that were painful in the past. Understanding how and why we feel pain can help improve function, reduce fear, and reduce anxiety.

Credit: TED ED

But don’t go it alone

If you are experiencing chronic or severe pain that interferes with your daily life, you should consult a health professional such as a physician and/or pain specialist who can diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate effective treatments.

In Australia, a range of multidisciplinary pain clinics offer physical therapies such as exercise and psychological therapies such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Experts can also help you make lifestyle changes to improve sleep and diet to control and relieve pain. A multi-pronged approach makes more sense given the complexity of the underlying biology.

Education can help develop knowledge of pain and healthy habits to prevent allergies, even at a young age. Resources, such as children’s books, videos, and board games, are developed and tested to improve consumer and community understanding.

Pain is not a feeling that anyone should suffer in silence or endure alone.

About this news Find pain

author: Joshua Pate
source: Conversation
communication: Joshua Butt – The Conversation
picture: The image is in the public domain

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