Chronic pain is a major cause of disability in the world. New research indicates that individuals can be trained to train their brains to reduce pain.
Daniel Waldrip was mowing the lawn in his home town from Boulder, Colorado, just as any other Saturday.
The subsequent day Waldrip at the time, who was late 20s, became plagued by back discomfort so intense that it was difficult to get up from bed. He blamed the mower.
It is reported that the World Health Organization says that lower back pain is the major reason for disability across 160 countries. Psychological treatments tend to ease pain , rather than eliminating it. Likewise, pain medication only provide temporary relief.
“There were instances where it felt as if I was in paralysis, just the pain. And there were times that it was manageable and was fine however it was always present It was a constant element of my life.” Waldrip told DW.
The 49-year-old was suffering from chronic pain for a while until his mid 40s when he learned about a trial in clinical trials for an innovative treatment being conducted in his town. The treatment was dubbed Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT).
PRT seeks to alter neural pathways in the brain , allowing them to shut down pain and to train the brain to react to body signals more effectively, through the concept of pain education.
In the end, the aim is to decrease the patient’s anxiety about certain moves, so that if they do make these ways, they’re sure of not causing any harm.
Participants in the trial received a telehealth consultation with a physician , and eight sessions of psychological therapy for four weeks.
After a month, following this study Waldrip had been 100% pain-free.
“It’s been about three or four years and I’ve never experienced a single problem in my back since I finished the procedure — it totally changed my life,” Waldrip said. Waldrip.
What exactly is pain and how do you make it persistent?
Pain is a warning system that informs both our body and us that we’ve hurt ourselves or suffered injuries.
However, regardless of the place an individual is injured physically the feeling of pain develops within the brain.
Nerves transmit signals to the brain to inform it that something has occurred within the body. The brain decides then if it wants to generate a pain, depending on the fact that the brain is convinced there’s a risk.
A person’s pain can draw attention to dangers that could be averted and fades away when the warning signal no longer is needed. It is referred to as acute pain. It’s a sudden ache that happens in response to something specific, such as the injury or burn that you sustained or surgery. It can also be triggered by dental work.
However, pain that lasts for longer than three months in spite of treatment is considered to be chronic.
“It’s crucial that people can feel discomfort. It’s vital for survival and yet , there are some who continue to feel pain even when their bodies have healed,” said James McAuley an expert in psychology who is also a professor in UNSW. University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Although scientists have theories, it’s not clear what triggers chronic pain, or how chronic pain develops according to McAuley.
However, they are aware that there are changes in the brain as pain goes into chronic.
“The nerves are malfunctioning and alerting to the brain the person is suffering from trouble or is at risk of being damaged,” said Steven Faux Director of the Rehabilitation Unit at St Vincent’s Public Hospital.
Research shows that brain communication is correct between body and body
This study from Boulder, Colorado, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in January 2022, included 151 patients suffering from chronic back discomfort.
The study compared PRT to the placebo control group as well as an “usual medical” group, in which patients kept doing what they do to treat their pain for example, treatment with a physical therapist or medications.
“What was interesting about the results was the fact that two thirds of the patients within the PRT group were pain-free or almost pain-free after the treatment, as opposed to 20% of the controls,” said lead study author Yoni Ashar who is a clinical scientist and psychologist at the University of Colorado.
Functional MRI scans of the brains of individuals prior to and after the study showed that PRT affected the way that brains process pain.
“We observed decreased activity in several areas of the brain that process pain and this suggests that this treatment affects the brain’s function and alters how the brain process painful sensations,” Ashar told DW.
A different study that was published within JAMA the month of August in 2022 was successful in treating persistent back pain. The technique, created in the lab of McAuley from UNSW in Australia has improved connectivity between back and brain.
The study split the 276 subjects into two categories: one took an intensive 12-week course of sensory motor training, while the second took part in a 12-week training course that included mock treatments.
20% of participants recovered completely from chronic pain. which means they rated their pain as either zero or one of 10 for a year.
The words we use to describe pain could impact the recovery process
One of the most important aspects of both research is the ability to give people confidence to move around without fearing that they could cause harm to themselves or worsen their pain. A portion of this is related to the words we use to describe chronic pain.
When the first high-quality scanners were invented in the early 1980s Health experts were able see the spines of patients suffering from back hurt clearly, for the first. They could see ossifications and vertebrae that appeared like they were breaking apart and bulging or slipping discs.
“We discovered all the things we needed and decided: ‘Well, it seems we’ve identified the cause of why people experience back pain”” McAuley said.
It was only after when doctors discovered that patients could be suffering from an overly bulging spine but not experience constant pain.
However, by that time “the horse was bolting,” as McAuley put it. It was commonplace for people to believe that they’d suffer pain even though it wasn’t the casein part due to the language we employed.
A few studies have revealed that negative language, which includes the word”pain” itself, can lead people to judge their pain as more severe on a scale of pain.
This was shown in a study published in 2019 which found that individuals felt more pain when words that were negative or relating to pain were used before introducing harmful stimulus than the case when non-harmful words were employed.
If a person was suffering from persistent back pain, and saw these words and later observed their spine in an X-ray — which could keep them in a painful cycle, until they receive assistance in retraining the brain to think in a different way.
“It is as if we’re in the midst of a new method of looking at and managing persistent pain” McAuley said.
The most up-to-date pain research shows that the connection between the brain body can be improved, and that people who have endured several decades or even years of their lives suffering from discomfort, are finally able to beat it.
Edited by Zulfikar Abbany
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