By far the most common question I get asked in practice is “why does it hurt?” or “how did it start?”. And often this question is finished off with a statement like “I just wish I knew what caused it“.
So, why are you in pain and what is causing it?
Did you know that pain is created in your brain? Scientists have discovered that pain is something that your brain decides you should experience if it believes there is a problem (or sometimes even a potential problem). That means that your brain will decide for you and cause your low back pain even if there is no actual tissue damage!
Our brains create the experience of pain to let us know something is not ok. Sometimes this can be very helpful and informative. For example, if you sprain your ankle, pain will tell you not to put too much weight on it to avoid further damage. Other more common examples that we’ve all probably felt from time to time, include low back pain or neck pain from poor prolonged posture or repetitively over exerting yourself with poor technique. Although not a pleasant experience this pain is helpful and informative as it is telling you what you’re doing is not good.
Unfortunately, sometimes common complaints such as back pain can persist for longer than necessary even after the initial injury has healed, this is known as chronic pain. In some people the pain can spread to other areas of the body even though there was no actual injury there. This type of pain is therefore uninformative and can become a real problem. The brain has actually learnt to cause pain which can be really stubborn and difficult to resolve in some cases. This learning process is called neural plasticity
Neural Plasticity – Our brains ability learn and reorganise.
Neural plasticity describes the brains ability to constantly adapt and change by developing new neural pathways. The outcome of developing new neural pathways can be good or bad depending on what he brain is learning. Studies have shown that if you are focused on something it will actually drive neural plasticity. This is a good thing if you are trying to learn something useful, but not so good if you are focusing on your pain everyday as this can actually make your pain worse and more persistent. It is best to focus on the good things!
Scientists who have researched the effects of chiropractic spinal adjustments have found that they can actually change the brain’s function and have a positive neural plastic effect! In particular, adjustments change the function of the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is actually the part of the brain that is very involved in pain becoming long term and chronic. That might be why early chiropractic care can have better long term outcomes and why chiropractic care could prevent pain from becoming chronic in the first place – by helping to ‘turn down’ the perception of pain in the brain!
Want less brain pain? Get in contact with us here and we’ll do our best to help you.