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Chronic Pain

New Hope for Sufferers of Chronic Pain
by Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D.

Pain is one of several sensory systems that keep us apprised of the status of our bodies. As we hurry through our daily lives, we usually view pain at the very least as an inconvenience, if not a major disruption. It's fortunate that we have our pain sensors - they provide a valuable warning to us that we need to stop and take care of ourselves. Pain has considerable survival value, but when an injury has healed and the pain continues unabated, or when pain seems to have no obvious connection to any injury, it no longer serves a useful purpose. Pain of this type is referred to as chronic pain, and once you have fallen under its sway, it may be very difficult to escape.

The Challenge of Pain Management
The management of chronic pain has always been a medical challenge. Treatment often involves increasing doses of a variety of medications in an effort to gain a measure of relief. In some instances, the pain is significantly reduced with the use of medication, but when the drugs are removed the pain returns, and so the meds become a more or less permanent fixture of life, often resulting in drug dependence or even addiction. In other cases even heavy use of medication provides the sufferer little or no relief; the brain simply adjusts to the presence of the medications and demands more, while the pain continues.

Meanwhile, even the most thorough medical examination can find no real reason that the pain should persist. This all becomes clearer when we reflect on the fact that pain is not 'out there' in the body where it is felt. Pain is actually sensed in the brain. The brain makes it up, so to speak. It is a result of the way the brain interprets messages coming from the body, a determination that you should receive an "I hurt" warning so you won't just ignore an injury that needs care. The brain is ultimately in charge of how severely the pain is perceived and where it is localized in the body.
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