Chronic pain is a very complex problem and understanding why your injury has become chronic can be challenging. Lots of people ask why their pain became chronic whilst someone they know who had the exact same injury healed quickly.
New research has helped with our understanding of the science behind chronic pain. One of the big puzzle pieces is something called Glia. Science used to think that Glia cells were the equivalent of packing foam or bubble wrap – that the job of the Glia was just to protect the rest of the nervous system, making up 80% of the nervous system. However, it is now understood that the glia modulates the pain neurons. So if the glia is stimulating the pain neurons, the perception of pain is increased, and vice versa – if the glia settles the pain neurons, then pain is perceived as less.
So, what causes the glia to stimulate the pain neurons?
Firstly – your emotional state. So if you are in a heightened stress response, your glia will be stimulating your pain neurons and making your pain worse. This explains why 2 people can have the exact same injury, person one is calm and heals quickly when the mechanical injury recovers. However, person 2 at the time of the injury or after, was in a personal stress state with home/financial/work stress/trauma, and this high-stress state has activated the glia and then stimulated the pain neurons. So for person 2, the path between the brain and the pain nerve becomes ingrained and the pain becomes chronic. We go into this further in Chronic Pain part 3. Another cause of glia stimulation is certain pain medications, in particular, codeine and some morphine medications. These meds may decrease your initial pain response, but then these medications also hypersensitize your pain neurons, which causes your pain to be worse. This can lead to a downward spiral as the perceived pain is worse, and so the medication dose is increased, which then stimulates the glia further, stimulating the pain neurons and making the pain worse. (If you are taking these types of medications and are concerned, please discuss your medications with your Doctor).
We can use the settling actions of glia to our advantage. Some of the ways of deactivating glia are techniques to calm and distress. If you can decrease or remove the personal stress state, then you can deactivate the glia and therefore settle the pain neurons. We suggest techniques such as mindfulness training, meditation and education on understanding chronic pain. For some people, a team of Pain Specialist Doctors, OTs, Physios and Psychologists help in this process.
So if you feel as though this taping could help you out or you would like us to assess your chronic pain then come on down so we can assist you and guide you with your self management at Lakelands and Miami Physiotherapy.
Miami Ph: 9534 4111
Lakelands Ph: 9542 9999