Is Your Brain Causing You Chronic Pain? Here’s How To Heal

If our brain keeps ringing that alarm far after the threat has passed, however, our pain can become chronic. Sometimes our brain’s threat system can even get triggered in the absence of any precipitating injury at all. Regardless of how it begins, the brain can get stuck in “alert” mode, causing ongoing pain and an ongoing fear reaction1.

This debilitating cycle can contribute to chronic symptoms of many kinds, including back pain, neck pain, stomach pain, pelvic pain, headaches, migraines, dizziness, fibromyalgia, repetitive strain injury, tendinitis, and more. Pain that begins or persists in the absence of structural damage to the body is called neuroplastic pain2.

Neuroplastic pain is a common and well-documented phenomenon. Studies like this one demonstrate that the parts of the brain that process pain change over time from circuits related to tissue damage to those related to emotions, and studies like one demonstrate that our pain experiences are strongly modulated by these neural mechanisms. Research indicates that upward of 85% of all chronic pain is neuroplastic in nature3.

Let me be clear: Neuroplastic pain may concern the brain, but that does not make the pain experience any less real than the pain caused by acute injury.

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