It can help to get a sense of the science on chronic pain to better understand potential strategies for recovery. A 2015 study from the Journal of Neuroscience reveals how complex pain conditions can be from a neurological perspective.
What occurs during chronic pain?
If you have a pain condition that lasts for an extended period of time (twelve weeks or more, as a general rule), that means it is chronic rather than acute. Many people know that chronic pain is the result of injury or disease to the nerves. However, a lesser-known aspect to this health issue is the way in which neurotransmitters behave, providing a better idea of the problem that occurs in nerve pain such as peripheral neuropathy.
Nerve fibers that become hypersensitive can start to miscommunicate to the part of the brain that controls pain processing. That process, peripheral and central sensitization, is shared by patients suffering from diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes to multiple sclerosis.
Study: What happens in the brain during pain
A recent report from The Journal of Neuroscience (September 2015) looked at HCN channels, proteins that regulate the sending of pain signals to the brain’s anterior cingular cortex (ACC), the part of the brain most stimulated when pain is felt.
The lead author, neurology professor Dr. Philippe Séguéla of McGill University Health Centre, says the study demonstrates that limiting ACC stimulation by controlling the HCN channels significantly alleviates pain. “Our study has revealed one important mechanism linking chronic pain to abnormal activity of the ACC,” he says, “and it provides a cellular and molecular explanation for the overstimulation of neurons in the prefrontal cortex.”
More than just peripheral factors
It’s easy if you feel pain in your hands or in your feet to think the physical problem is isolated to that area, but clearly that’s not always the case. Dr. Séguéla notes that recent research explores how much the brain itself – through emotions and other mental factors – influences the degree of pain a person perceives.
"The ACC has been shown to be a key center to cognitive functions linked to memory and affective functions involved in feelings and emotions,” he says. “We know that patients who suffer from chronic pain experience impairment of their working memory, difficulties focusing on certain tasks and may suffer from depression and anxiety.”
Treatment for peripheral neuropathy
Are you suffering from any form of nerve pain? While research helps our knowledge on pain, many people are still struggling to find real, natural relief today.
If you have been told there is nothing else that can be done, do not hesitate to contact Maine Spine & Nerve. See what our patients say.