Chronic pain is pain that lasts more than 12 weeks despite medications or treatment.
Most people recover from pain after injury or surgery. But sometimes the pain lasts longer or goes away without any previous trauma or surgery.
Chronic pain can also occur in people living with:
What is pain
The brain and the nerves inside the spine (spinal nerves) make up the central nervous system. Spinal nerves carry messages from the body to the brain to tell it what’s going on.
The brain acts as a control center operating on the basis of these messages when it has to do something. Sometimes it’s easier to think about how your messages and your brain come together to form an alarm system. It is the brain’s interpretation of this information from the alarm system that causes the pain. Sometimes the brain’s interpretation of these signals is not accurate.
Usually, we expect the pain to go away over time, but sometimes the brain still sends pain signals. These signals can be difficult to stop, are often intense, and sometimes seem to come for no apparent reason. This is not easy to understand at all times, but it is vital to comprehend that the pain is still “material”.
Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 individuals in Europe and 1 in 3 persons in the USA. It can affect any age and any part of the body.
It is impossible to predict whose pain will become chronic. But we know that during or after periods of stress or unhappiness, people are more likely to develop chronic pain.
People can also have chronic pain even if standard medical tests don’t give an answer.
Genetic basis of chronic pain.
An extensive meta-analysis of data from the British Biobank revealed a different genetic basis for Chronic pain in women than in men.
The results are still preliminary, but so far this is one of the largest genetic studies of Chronic pain that looks at men and women separately.
“Our research shows the importance of bearing in mind gender as a biological variable and has revealed subtle but fascinating gender differences in the genetics of persistent lingering pain,” said population geneticist Keira Johnston of the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Chronic painful conditions are among the most common, disabling, and costly conditions in public health. In the United States, Chronic pain affects more people than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined, and yet it receives only a fraction of the overall funding.
Even when studies are done, they often overlook the underlying gender differences, and that’s a huge and damaging oversight. Compared to men, women are much more likely to develop multiple Chronic pain disorders, yet historically 80% of all pain studies have been conducted in male mice or male humans. This means that we know very little about how and why women suffer more and which treatments can help them the best.
While it is likely that there are several biological and psychosocial processes involved in this gender mismatch, current genome-wide research suggests there is a genetic factor in this combination as well.
By comparing gene variants associated with chronic pain in 209,093 women and 178,556 men from the British Biobank, researchers tried to find at least part of the answer in our biology.
In the end, the researchers found 31 genes associated with chronic pain in women and 37 genes associated with chronic pain in men with little overlap. The authors admit that some of the differences here may be due to the smaller sample size of men, but the results are nevertheless intriguing.
When researchers tested the expression of all of these genetic variants in various tissues from mice and humans, they found that the vast majority were active in a bundle of nerves in the spinal cord known as the spinal ganglion and messages from the body to the brain.
Several genes in the men-only or women-only list were linked to psychiatric problems or immune function, but only one gene, known as DCC, was included in both lists.
DCC codes for a receptor that binds to a protein that is crucial for the development of the nervous system, especially the dopaminergic system; In addition to being a reward center, the latter has recently been linked to the modulation of pain in the body.
DCC is also thought to be a risk gene for the pathology of depression, and DCC mutations occur in patients with a congenital mirror movement disorder that causes movements on one side of the body to be replicated on the other.
Exactly how DCC is linked to chronic pain remains unclear, but the authors say their results support several theories “about the strong nervous system and the involvement of the immune system in chronic pain in both sexes” that they hope will work in the future used to develop better treatments.
For example, if chronic pain is more strongly associated with immune function in women, the side effects of immune-targeting drugs in men can vary widely. On the other hand, treatments like chronic opioid use can also have different results. Opioids are known to impair immune function, suggesting that they may make things worse, not better, in women with chronic pain.
At least for now, these are just ideas. Much more research is needed on pain, and much more in women before we can really begin to understand the real differences in gender and what we can do about it.
“All of this evidence, taken together, suggests a putative central and peripheral neuronal role for some of these genes, many of which have not been well-studied history in the field of Chronic pain,” the authors conclude.
The results of this research were published in the PLOS Genetics journal.
Suffering from chronic pain?
There is a lot you can do to help yourself and live a better life even with chronic pain. Simple changes can often make a huge difference in the level of disability and suffering you may experience. This is known as pain management.
To relieve your pain, consider the following:
- Plan Your Day – Make a plan of activities and places to hang out to help manage your pain.
- Go every step of the way – don’t push the pain through, stop before it gets worse, and come back to what you did later.
- Learning to Relax – Relaxing can be difficult when you are in pain but finding something to relax you will reduce the stress of the pain.
- Regular, Comfortable Exercise – Even a small amount will help you feel better and relieve your pain. Exercises will also keep your muscles, ligaments, and joints in a good shape.
- Taking painkillers – Painkillers work best in conjunction with a plan. Patients often say that their pain meds don’t seem to work very well.
- Talking to Others – Tell your friends and family about chronic pain and why you need to do things differently right now.
- Enjoyment – Doing things you enjoy increases your own natural painkillers. Think about what you liked before the pain and introduce it back into your routine.
Philadelphia Holistic Clinic has a higher than average industry success rate in the treatment of chronic pain. This is because we are housing such treatment methods as acupuncture, auricular therapy, homeopathy, reiki, etc. In some cases, treatment of chronic pain requires hypnotherapy to set the subconscious mind in a positive direction.
For an appointment with Dr. Tsan, contact us at (267) 284-3085.