Chronic pain can be a frustrating and debilitating condition, affecting every aspect of your life.
Whether it’s a constant ache, sharp stabbing pains, or throbbing discomfort, chronic pain can be challenging to treat and even more challenging to diagnose.
If you are struggling with chronic pain, it is important to understand what is causing it. While many people assume that pain is always a result of a physical injury or structural problem, this is not always the case.
Chronic pain is often caused by neural circuits in the brain, and not by physical damage in the body.
Structural pain vs. neural circuit pain
Structural pain is pain that is caused by a physical injury or damage to the body.
For example, a broken arm or a torn ligament would cause structural pain. Structural pain tends to be constant and localized, meaning that it is always in the same location and often worsens with movement.
Neural circuit pain, on the other hand, is pain that is caused by the way the brain processes pain signals. Neural circuit pain can be more difficult to diagnose, as it often occurs in the absence of any physical damage.
Neural circuit pain can be triggered by stress, innocuous stimuli, weather changes, or even certain foods.
Signs of neural circuit pain
If you suspect that you may be suffering from neural circuit pain, there are a few signs to look out for. For example, neural circuit pain may:
- Turn on and off
- Be inconsistently present
- Occur in a large area of the body
- Be triggered by stress or innocuous stimuli
- Shift in location
- Vary in intensity or quality
Conditions associated with neural circuit pain
While many conditions can cause chronic pain, some are more likely to be associated with neural circuit pain. For example:
- Tension and migraine headaches
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Pelvic pain syndromes
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Chronic stomach pains and heartburn
- Chronic facial or dental pain
- Chronic regional pain syndrome
- Painful bladder syndrome
If you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, it is essential to work with a doctor who understands the complexities of neural circuit pain.
A good doctor can help you manage your symptoms and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
Diagnosing the cause of chronic pain
If you are experiencing chronic pain, the first step is to see a doctor.
A doctor can perform a physical exam and order any necessary tests to rule out any structural problems or diseases.
If a doctor suspects that you may have a neural circuit disorder, they may recommend certain tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests can include brain imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans, nerve conduction studies, and electromyography.
A doctor may also refer you to a pain specialist who can help diagnose and treat neural circuit disorders.
If there is no evidence of a tumor, fracture, infection, or other significant structural problem, your pain is likely not due to a structural problem.
Managing chronic pain
While chronic pain can be challenging to manage, there are many treatments available that can help you reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Treatment for chronic pain typically involves a combination of medication, physical therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and other alternative therapies.
It is essential to work with a doctor who understands the complexities of chronic pain and can help you develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
With the right treatment, it’s possible to reduce your pain and improve your quality of life.