Do you often wonder how people who have suffered an injury can continue on, despite their pain? Do you recall the Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug who injured her left ankle on her first vault in 1996, but continued on a second time to help her U.S. team win their first gold?
What about the amazing British Olympic athlete, Derek Redmond, who was plagued by injury and forced to withdraw from the 1988 Olympics, but was running in 1992 in the 400-meter when he tore his hamstring. Despite obvious pain he continued the race on one leg. His father ran down from the stands to help his son finish the race.Â These are two memorable examples of how the athlete was determined not to let their injury keep them from finishing, despite all the pain that would have put many people out.
It is through the power of the mind these people were able to get past the pain and carry on.
Every day, millions of people who are plagued with chronic pain persevere and go about their daily lives, working past the pain in order to accomplish what they have to do. Many times doctors are not able to find the source of the pain, so prescribe medication to help the symptoms. Some give them relief, but have side effects.
Acute pain, usually from a sudden injury, usually lasts only until a wound heals. Chronic paid is continuous and lasts for a much longer period of time.
Your brain tells your body there is pain, and sends signals to your body. If the brain doesnâ€™t send the signals you wonâ€™t know it exists. Recently, scientists have been able to use brain imaging to determine more accurately whatâ€™s going on in the brain. For instance, if you cut your finger signals are sent through the spinal cord about the injury, which in turn passes the information on to the thalamus, which forwards the message to areas of the brain that deal with pain and emotion. When the pain stops, the signals stop. If there is an interruption in connectivity between the point of the pain and the part of the brain that received the signal that there is pain, the message is not received.
Physical pain is only worsened when emotions and memory are added to the mix, and the sensations go directly to the memory bank. When this occurs over and over again, the brain becomes â€œhypersensitive to pain.â€
Pain is psychosocial, which means it involves the emotional and response areas of the brain. It’s possible that doctors may be able to retrain the brain to block out the signals as the pain begins so that a person remains calm and collected.
Research has shown that connections between pain and emotion are more sensitive in some peopleâ€™s brains, which is why some people experience pain more intensely than others, even when there is no stimulus. They also know that emotion has something to do with how we feel. When we are depressed we feel pain more intensely, and experience negative memory that lead to our bodyâ€™s sensitivity to harmful stimuli. On the other hand, positive thinking lessens the pain. Medications are meant to block the signals that tell the body there is pain.
Your brain controls your pain, and the level of pain. This is why the use of placebos in place of real medication can have the same effect as real medication. Here is an interesting story of such an example:
During World War II, Army medic, Dr. Harry Beecher ran out of pain-killing morphine. He couldnâ€™t allow the soldiers to know the supply was depleted, and he had no alternative medication to give them, so he continued to treat them using plain saline solution in their intravenous bags (IVâ€™s) and told them it was morphine. Amazingly, about 40% of the soldiers reported an easing in their pain. The brain was tricked into believing they were getting pain-relieving medicine.
Later studies have shown that a large percentage of people will believe they are taking medication that is effective when they are actually receiving placebos. On the other hand, patients who have been told their medications have stopped, when in fact it hadnâ€™t, actually felt more pain. The brain seems to be able to control our pain levels.
U.S. Navy Seals put their bodies through excruciating workouts, and they are told they have to work through the pain. They are trained to concentrate on other things and the body will not feel the pain. It may sound unbelievable, but it works. If you take your focus away from the pain you will not experience it.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.
Discovery Channel â€“ Curiosity.com â€“ Is Chronic Pain all in your head? http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/how-brain-process-pain
American Chronic Care Association – http://www.theacpa.org/default.aspx