In the past, the only solution for chronic pain relief involved drugs and surgery. Unfortunately, these therapies don’t always work. Some patients who lived with chronic pain weren’t taken seriously by their doctors when they were experiencing constant discomfort. Patients were often left with a reduced quality of life, or they attempted to push through the pain.
Today, there are more options than ever before for chronic pain relief. We now understand more about how chronic pain develops and manifests in the body and, for those who have no obvious origin of their pain, there are still options to improve patient comfort and quality of life without relying exclusively on drugs and invasive surgery.
Let’s look at the roots of chronic pain to better understand how pain can influence the body and how it manifests.
The Origin of Chronic Pain
Pain is a result of the nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and neurotransmitters, which are messengers that transport information to the brain regarding different sensations in the body, including pain. When the body experiences pain, neurotransmitters supply the brain with information regarding the pain. Where is it coming from? What does it feel like? How bad is it?
Neurotransmitters are part of what keep us safe. Think of putting your hand on a hot stove. You experience pain, so you pull your hand away to keep from getting burned. However, in patients with chronic pain, the direct stimulus (the hot stove) may be long gone, and an old injury may consistently send out pain signals as the result of permanent damage or inflammation.
In cases such as these, it’s generally no longer helpful for the brain to constantly perceive this pain. In fact, constant signaling that the body is in pain can even change the nervous system over time, amplifying the body’s reaction to pain, which can make patients more sensitive to any stimuli – so much so that even a light touch can feel painful.
Fortunately, recent developments in science and medicine have allowed physicians to inhibit these neurotransmitters from ever reaching the brain. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Certain drugs, such as antidepressants, can actually affect the way pain is perceived in the body. Intrathecal pain pumps, which administer medication directly into the spinal cord, allow patients to experience pain relief without the side effects of opioid medications.
Spinal cord stimulation, which interrupts pain signals from reaching the brain, can also help. Patients today have more options, depending on their unique case, for chronic pain relief!
Schedule an Appointment at Our Pain Clinic
Make an appointment at Summit Spine & Joint Centers, a trusted pain clinic, by calling (770) 250-4020. Also, stay tuned for the next blog in this series, when we’ll discuss medications that can be used on their own or with other therapies for a comprehensive pain management solution.