How your brain deals with pain
Neuroplasticity is the latest scientific-circle buzzword to go mainstream. What does it mean and how can it affect you? Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change at any age-to mould itself, like plasticine for better or worse.
Our ability to process and perceive pain depends on a complex network of nine brain regions. When pain becomes chronic, this network expands and strengthens. As more and more of the brain dedicates itself to pain perception, chronic pain sufferers actually become more sensitive to pain. This is called negative neuroplasticity.
Unfortunately, the usual treatment for chronic pain is drugs, both prescription and nonprescription, which can make this negative neuroplasticity worse.
Enter Dr. Michael Moscowitz, a Californian physician who has dedicated himself to the promotion of neuroplastic treatments for persistent pain. When patients experience pain, Moscowitz has them visualize their pain regions shrinking. Combined with osteopathic manual therapy over a three-month period, Moscowitz’s clients made full recoveries, all without the use of medications.
Toronto’s very own Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix, a physician and chronic pain consultant based at the NeuroNova Centre, developed her Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management program according to the same approach.
“This program teaches patients several different brain exercises, including breathing, body scan and mindful meditation,” says Dr. Tim Cook, Medical Director and Internal Medicine Specialist at P3 Health. “Pain reduction of 50%-without drugs-is commonplace. This is positive neuroplasticity.”
After an injury, many of us become shortsighted on the road to recovery. Joint pain is not an end in itself, but a hazard sign along the road, urging us to change or risk further harm.
Understandably, patients develop strategies to avoid moving dysfunctional joints. This process can lead to altered body mechanics and result in damage to healthy joints as they take on extra work.
We often fail to take arthrogenic muscle inhibition (AMI), the inability to move a joint due to neuromuscular dysfunction, into consideration. After a joint injury, the nervous system may shut down muscles around it to prevent further damage. Although helpful in the short-term, AMI may remain long after the pain and swelling have dissipated.
“Muscle and bone may heal, but the nervous system remembers unless appropriate treatment intervenes,” explains Demian. “It’s valuable to receive therapy of the injured area, but it’s equally important to address the nervous system that controls it,” he adds.
Over and above joint injuries, arthritis is often overlooked as one of the most common causes of joint pain. One of every five American adults suffer from a diagnosed joint disorder, and 4.4 million Canadians live with osteoarthritis, which occurs when damaged joint tissues are unable to repair themselves, resulting in a breakdown of cartilage and bone.
Thankfully, there is help. Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) is a novel dietary supplement that contains naturally occurring glycosaminoglycans and proteins essential for maintaining healthy joint and connective tissues. Clinical trials show 500mg of oral NEM taken once daily results in significantly reduced joint pain and stiffness in less than 10 days.
Inflammation is the bane of arthritis sufferers and athletes alike. It causes swelling, stiffness and pain and it slows recovery. According to many studies, curcumin, the potent anti-inflammatory agent in the spice turmeric, reduces joint pain and related symptoms as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
California poppy works to reduce musculoskeletal pain and anxiety, and improves sleep-a triple threat considering those that suffer with pain are often also dealing with anxiety and restlessness.
If you are looking for solutions, P3 Health is a good place to start. The health care centre offers a wide array of programs and services to treat chronic pain, from biofeedback training modules and nutritional supplementation to manual therapies and micronutrient support.
More Inspiration: You might also like this article on joint pain management the natural way!
Author: Alternative Health Expert Bryce Wylde works alongside Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Tim Cook and Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine and Functional Neurology Practitioner Dr. Daniel Demian at P3 Health-a leading health care facility based in downtown Toronto that provides customized, integrative health services, combining the best of conventional and complementary medical practices. For more information, please visit www.P3Health.net.