While Your Pain May Not Be All in Your Head, What’s in Your Head May Play a Role in How Much Pain You Feel. Here’s Why…

11 Jul

For most people, pain is an infrequent nuisance. For others, it’s a burden that influences every aspect of their lives. It’s one of the most common and difficult problems people face. And if you suffer with pain, you are not alone.

Check out these mind-boggling statistics..

Here are the number of Americans affected by each of the following conditions:

            Cancer – 1.4 million (According to the American Cancer Society)

             Coronary Heart Disease (Including Heart Attack and Chest Pain) and Stroke – 18.7 million people (According to the American Heart Association)

            Diabetes – 20.8 million people (diagnosed and estimated undiagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.)

The National Centers for Health Statistics reports that pain affects an estimated 76.2 million people, which is more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

In fact, pain is cited as the most common reason Americans go to the doctor. It is a leading cause of disability, and it is a major contributor to healthcare costs.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (2006): “More than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over report that they have had a problem with pain of any sort that persisted for more than 24 hours.

 “Adults age 45-64 years were the most likely to report pain lasting more than 24 hours (30%). Twenty-five percent (25%) of young adults age 20-44 reported pain, and adults age 65 and over were the least likely to report pain (21%).”

What Are Commonly Reported Pain Conditions?

According to the report: “When asked about four common types of pain, respondents of a National Institute of Health Statistics survey indicated that low back pain was the most common (27%), followed by severe headache or migraine pain (15%), neck pain (15%), and facial ache or pain (4%).

“Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain.

 “Adults with low back pain are often in worse physical and mental health than people who do not have low back pain: 28% of adults with low back pain report limited activity due to a chronic condition, as compared to 10% of adults who do not have low back pain. Also, adults reporting low back pain were three times as likely to be in fair or poor health and more than four times as likely to experience serious psychological distress as people without low back pain.”

It’s clear that pain is common and can be life changing, but what if you could affect how much pain you feel…

Simply By the Way You Think?

A team of German researchers say you probably can.  Here is how…

You have probably heard of the placebo effect.  It occurs when people experience positive results from a fake or sham treatment (like a sugar pill) because they expected it to be helpful.

Dr. Katharina Schwarz from the Institute of Psychology at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany notes, “The placebo effect often works quite well when treating pain and depression.”

Her research shows that the mere expectation of getting a drug can alleviate symptoms and make patients feel better. She adds, “And those are not just the patient’s subjective sensations, it can actually be measured physiologically.”

Dr. Katharina Schwarz is an expert on how expectations influence perception and behavior, and she did an amazing experiment that showed just how much a person’s expectations of pain actually affected how much pain they felt.

In the experiment, men were given a stimulus and asked to rate how much pain they felt.  Later that day, they were given information that either told them that men feel more pain than women or vice versa.  The researchers backed up the claim with reasons like women have a higher threshold for pain because they endure childbirth or men don’t feel as much pain because of their ancestral role as hunters, etc.

They repeated the experiment the next day.  The participants who thought that men were less sensitive rated the pain as being much less intense than they did on the previous day. However, those who had learned that women have a higher pain tolerance considered themselves more sensitive to pain than before.

According to Dr. Schwarz, “I want to increase the awareness, especially of students, for these mechanisms and in particular for the ones that have a negative impact on people.”

Past studies have demonstrated that patients who feel like they’ll never get better don’t respond to treatments as well as patients who are confident their condition will improve.

Another study recently published in the journal Cell Reports finds that pain actually changes cells—which may explain why some people continue to feel pain in an area long after their injury heals. Investigators from King’s College London observed slight epigenetic changes in the immune cells around damaged nerves. These changes to the epigenome persisted long after the cells were replaced by newer cells weeks or months later, giving the impression such cells had a “memory” of the previous injury. The researchers suspect these modifications to the epigenome alter which genes are expressed in those cells and may make them more sensitive to pain in the future.

So what does all this mean for you?

For starters, even though many people live with pain, it’s not normal, so it’s important to consult with a doctor who can help identify the underlying cause of your pain and treat it. It’s also important that you are confident that such a treatment will benefit your condition. If you suffer from back pain or other musculoskeletal complaints, then there’s a great chance that chiropractic treatment can help you get out of pain and back to living your life.

Don’t forget, if you ever have any questions or concerns about your health, talk to us. Contact us with your questions. We’re here to help and don’t enjoy anything more than participating in providing you natural pain relief.

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