Chronic pain and the brain

by | May 16, 2016 | Brain Health, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain | 0 comments

Chronic pain and its treatment can be a lifelong challenge at the individual level and is a significant public health problem. Population level surveys indicate that between 11% and 40% of the U.S. population report some level of chronic pain, with millions suffering from daily, severe, and disabling pain.

That’s a quote from the 2016 National Pain Strategy report of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The solution to chronic pain can’t focus entirely on trying to fix the original source of pain – whether it be from an auto accident, sports injury, a medical procedure gone awry, or anything else.

As the weeks and months roll by, the experience of pain shifts from “acute” pain to “chronic” pain. Chronic pain invariably involves changes in brain circuitry and a shift in the nervous system response to stress.

“Chronic pain is associated with marked changes in brain activity compared to acute pain.”

That’s according to a study published in 2013 by A. Apkarian and colleagues at Northwestern University.

The researchers tracked the shift in brain activity as pain evolved from short term to long-term, or chronic pain. As time passed, additional areas of the brain, typically associated with the emotional response to pain, heightened their activity.

In addition to changes in the brain, chronic pain also affects the parts of the nervous system that govern your reaction to stress. Those with chronic pain typically respond with an over-active flight-or-fight mechanism and have less ability to nourish, rebuild and recharge their system.

Effective treatment for chronic pain must address these changes in the brain and the rest of the nervous system.

One strategy to rewire the brain is to feed in new sensory information. You can flood your nervous system with novel input to give it a wake up call. In particular, the brain uses signals from the touch perception system to orient you to the world and set your overall response parameters.

Because of the brain’s sensitivity to touch, both NeuroTactile® Therapy and Craniosacral Therapy, two gentle forms of manual therapy, are particularly effective in the treatment of chronic pain. Dr. Lavine has spent more than 40 years in researching and developing the optimal ways to use these methods in combination with other pain relief strategies.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


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