Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Vicious Pain Cycle by Stephen Lau

Life is never pain-free. But pain not only ages, but also harms and debilitates the physical body. Worst, it may become chronic and recurrent, forming a vicious pain cycle.

As you are getting older, you will probably be experiencing some, if not more, physical pain. The main sources of pain are injury or damage to a body part, such as bones, ligaments, muscles, and skin, or to an internal organ, such as a disease or disorder. A complete cure of pain is probably unlikely, but comfort is critical to an individual experiencing acute or chronic pain.

Unfortunately, pain often produces a vicious pain cycle. To deal with recurrent pain, you need to be aware of how a vicious pain cycle is initiated.

Pain begins with the nerves. When pain occurs, it will send pain signals to the brain through the spinal cord and the entire expanse of nerves outside the spinal card. The brain interprets the signals, and sends out the perceptions of pain. Then you feel the physical impact of pain. Reactions and responses to pain may vary considerably from one individual to another. Your reaction to pain is dependent on the level of your pain tolerance, rather than on your pain threshold.

When pain attacks, your body releases different chemicals as a defense against the attack of pain. Afterwards, the nerves that carry the pain signals begin to repair. However, the repair process may not be complete in that the stress on the spot that originates the pain can also trigger pain elsewhere. The stress can cause the release of hormones, such as norepinephrine, to fight the pressure, causing fatigue and depression.

Depression intensifies the sensitivity to physical pain. In addition, depression may lead to decline of distracting activities that may alleviate the sensation of pain. Furthermore, reduction in distracting activities means reduced production of serotonin (a chemical that lifts mood). As a result, depression may further deepen. Chronic depression causes mental and physical fatigue, leading to poor sleep, which not only precipitates inactivity but also depletes endorphins, the body's own opioid-like substances to suppress pain. This further intensifies the perceptions of pain.

To avoid more pain, the body tends to reduce its mobility, and immobility leads to muscle inflexibility and muscle strain, and thus spreading the pain.

To break the vicious pain cycle, we must prevent or alleviate, if not stop, the pain.

To prevent pain, exercise regularly to enhance muscle flexibility to avoid injury that causes pain in the first place. To alleviate pain, resist from taking painkillers, which treat only the symptoms without removing the causes. All drugs are toxic chemicals, which are acidic in nature and which have the potential to produce in the body more free radicals that perpetuate the pain. There are other alternative therapeutic options to treat pain, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy (using essential oils of herbs and medicinal plants), herbal therapy (using seeds, stems, flowers, roots, barks, and leaves of plants), which are as effective as pharmaceutical drugs.

The bottom line: Don't let yourself form a vicious pain cycle.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stephen Lau