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The Origins of Pain

There are many ways to treat pain.  Sometimes aggressive medical intervention is necessary.  Sometimes basic holistic principles of conservative natural treatment are indicated.  In some cases of acute pain, by doing nothing at all for a few minutes, the pain will go away.   Some of the patients in the office, particularly some of the older men say to me, “I’ll just ignore it and it will go away,” or “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”  Although this sounds very tough and noble it is not a healthy way to address pain.

Understanding the underlying cause of the pain will help to create a plan of action to treat the pain.  Additionally, by understanding pain one will see that it is not something to be ignored.  There is research that suggests that chronic pain sufferers have a greater than 50% increased risk of developing cancer than those individuals that do not have chronic pain (1).  What is the underlying mechanism?

Inflammation

To understand where the pain is coming from, one must look to the biochemical level.  Pain is based on inflammation.  Inflammation is the body’s way of dealing with an injury. The body addresses the injury immediately and acts in several different ways to address the injury.  One way is to wall off or quarantine the area of injury.  The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function to the area.  Traditional medical treatment should be directed at suppression or inhibition of those biochemicals causing the inflammatory process (2).  Does this traditional approach correct the underlying cause of the inflammation? No, since inflammation is a response to injury and pain is felt upon an inflammatory response, then it becomes clear that by simply treating the pain, one does not necessary address the injury or the problem.  However, based on the research it is imperative that the pain and inflammation are addressed because the longer one has pain the more damage is realized throughout the body.

Holistic Understanding of Pain

The Chinese study of medicine has an interesting perspective to understanding pain.  The Chinese Medical approach considers pain blocked energy or “qi” (pronounced “chi.”) One of the objectives of acupuncture is to remove blocked energy from the body thereby eliminating pain.

The Best Approach to Treat Pain

By understanding where pain in coming from, one can create a more clear and directed treatment plan that includes both the elimination of pain as well as a direct focus to address the area of injury.

Our team at Monmouth Spine and Rehabilitation Center located in Red Bank New Jersey utilizes both western and eastern medical approaches to help individuals with all types of pain that are acute or chronic.

References

1. Widespread body pain and mortality: prospective population based study

  • BMJ 2001;323:662
  • 6569 people studied

Results: Chronic Pain is associated with a 55% increased risk of death from cancer than the control group (asymptomatic general population.)

2. The Biomechanical origin of pain

Medical Hypothesis 2007; 1169-1178