Monday, February 28, 2011

A Big Pain

My loyal readers time to serious it up for a bit and talk about pain. I have MS (Multiple Sclerosis) which means that the myelin sheaths around the neurons in my brain are deteriorating and my brain and spine short circuit.

Sometimes this results in strange experiences - like everything smelling like cheese for a week or the spectral creatures that appear at the side of my vision see "Little Gods of Vegas". But the most common and consistent symptom is pain. Specifically my right leg feels like it is on fire. It is a burning, buzzing electrical sensation.

The really strange thing is that the pain does not originate in my leg at all, but in my spine and brain. You could cut my leg off (please don't) and I would have the exact same pain. There are other strange affects like hot water feels cold and cold water feels hot. I get these things I call "oil squirts" which  feels like globs of hot oil are traveling up and down my leg.

Pain is addicting to the brain. The longer the body has pain the more the brain expects to have pain. It's like the pathways of pain to the brain are reinforced and solidified. Also the brain tends to start spreading the pain out from the origin. I notice that my pain has slowly crept up my back.

Pain medication has no affect on this kind of pain and I think sometimes can make it worse. Pain medication for the most part just makes it so you don't care about the pain, more than relieving it

An article in Science Daily seems to back up this theory.  "Placebo Effect Works Both Ways: Beliefs About Pain Levels Appear to Override Effects of Potent Pain-Relieving Drug" states the following:
The study of the placebo effect -- and its opposite the nocebo effect -- is published in Science Translational Medicine. The findings suggest that doctors may need to consider dealing with patients' beliefs about the effectiveness of any treatment, as well as determining which drug might be the best for that patient. - Science Daily, February 26, 2011
 I am such a huge believer in the power of cognitive control of pain. It is just as important to train your brain on how to desensitize itself to the pain signal and to reroute the generalization of the pain area. Pain treatment must not only focus on the physical aspects but must also include the mental - psychological processes.
This showed the volunteers really did experience different levels of pain when their expectations were changed, although the administration of pain relief remained constant - Science Daily, February 26, 2011
My dear, loyal readers - all twelve of you - if you're experiencing chronic pain, it is so important to work on cognitive and behavioral treatment. I humbly suggest CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). CBT isn't some BS, lay on a couch and talk about your mother. CBT is about cognitively being aware of yourself and taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions. It about letting go of the past and not worrying about the future and just living in the moment.

I've found that my pain decreases when I release the expectation of having pain and stop worrying about what pain I will have in the future.

Okay, enough of the serious stuff .. next time it's all fun - I promise.

Read Science Daily article
Read NACBT article

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