Pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit my office for treatment. That said, I thought I’d write a little bit on the topic.
Interestingly, pain doesn’t occur where you “feel” it or believe it to exist. In fact, pain really isn’t a “thing”. Pain is a perception triggered by the activation of certain areas in the brain. These “pain centers” (the neurology can get quite complex, so I’ll keep it simple) in the brain receive signals from specific nerves that have pain receptors (nociceptors) on them. So in the case of low back pain, for instance, the nociceptors harbored in the spinal joints, muscles, etc. get stimulated which then send nerve transmissions to be interpreted by the brain as pain. It’s because of this reason that “nerve blocks” work; basically blocking the signal to the brain. Now, what do we do about pain (other than a nerve block)?
Well, that of course depends on the type of pain you’re talking about. You see, nociceptors can get stimulated in different ways. Specifically, they respond to mechanical forces, inflammatory chemicals, and temperature changes.
As far as mechanical forces go; compression or stretching of a nerve(s) causes the stimulation of nociceptors, and results in the perception of pain. This can be caused by any number of structural imbalances, whether acute or chronic. The treatment for this type of “pain” stimulation is to balance muscle and joint function in order to eliminate the compression or stretching of the nociceptor. Furthermore, balancing muscle and joint function results in the stimulation of nerves that harbor mechanoreceptors (sensitive to light touch, vibration, position-sense, etc.) which actually act to: a) directly block the transmission of nociceptor signals to the brain, and b) travel faster to the brain in order to allow for the perception of something other than pain. By the way, “a” and “b” are the reason we rub an area of pain in order to relieve it.
Chemical pain, on the other hand, results from the stimulation of nociceptors via various inflammatory mediators/chemicals. So why do inflammatory mediators get released? Simple, because of tissue damage. This can certainly result from a structural abnormality that causes damage; in addition to a “chemical assault” that results in inflammation such as a food allergen or sensitivity, infection, toxin, or nutritional deficiency. All of the above can (and usually do) cause an inflammatory reaction. The chemicals involved include the likes of histamine, prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, etc.. As a result, these chemicals need to be kept at bay in order to prevent pain from being perceived. This is the reason why you may still sometimes feel pain after a chiropractic treatment. The treatment is designed to balance the structural components of dysfunction, however if there are still inflammatory chemicals circulating in response to tissue damage, the pain will persist. Once the healing begins, the pain should diminish and ultimately resolve. Chemical mediators of pain can be controlled by balancing muscle and joint function in order to prevent further damage, in addition to being controlled by nutritional substances that assist in healing and reducing inflammation.
Thermal or temperature-related pain… To relieve this…take your hand off the stove and don’t play with matches!
This idea of mechanical and chemical-mediated pain can be of extreme importance in diagnosis. Let me explain. If the pain experienced can be fully relieved by holding your body in a certain position, then your pain is solely caused by mechanical insults. However, if there is no position you can get into that relieves the pain, your problem most definitely has an inflammatory chemical component to it. And of course, if a certain position relieves some of the pain but not all of it, then there is both a mechanical and chemical component involved (this is most often the case). Whenever there is a chemical component to the pain, your doctor needs to have methods that can easily determine why you are inflamed. Remember, this can be the result of the normal repair process from structural damage, a chemical toxin, a food allergen or sensitivity, and/or a nutritional deficiency.
Several decades ago, it was found out that the mind cannot be separated from the body (through the field of psychoneuroimmunology). Now, if we were to dismiss the chemical component of pain, we’d basically be trying to separate the body from the body. Hopefully this helps to explain why your doctor may ask you to avoid certain foods, change your diet altogether, and take supplements even though your primary complaint is “physical” pain.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology
some information in this article was sourced from: Chris Astill-Smith, DO, DIBAK – metabolics.com