Despite how much distress it may cause, pain is essential and necessary for the human body. Throughout evolution, the pain sensation has played an important role, fleeing early humans away from danger. Most of the time, the feeling of pain is nothing more than your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. When a part of your body undergoes external stress, pain receptors send a signal to your nervous system that transmits into the pain receptors of your brain. Hence, when you feel pain, the brain is alarming you from further injury. Once you move away from the injury, the pain will go away. However, in some cases, the pain does not go away, and it can last months and even years. Pain that lasts three months or more is chronic. This type of pain can be drastic. It only affects health but will also take a toll on your happiness.
So does this condition have hereditary roots? Alternatively, does it occur due to external stimuli? Diving deep into the answers will require you to understand chronic pain better.
Chronic Pain and Sensitization
When you cut on your finger or scrape your knee, you feel a sharp, distinctive pain in the region. This intense pain tells you that something is wrong and that you should avoid a particular act to prevent that situation. This short-term pain is acute and happens due to the stimulation of pain receptors.
These pain receptors signal your brain to avoid any more tissue damage. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is different, although the bodily mechanics are the same. Similar to acute pain, pain receptors also send a signal to the brain in chronic pain. However, you cannot identify the region of tissue damage because, many times, it does not exist.
Many experts regard this pain because of the oversensitivity of pain receptors in the body. This means that even after your damage heals, the pain receptors do not stop sending signals. In other words, it is as if the fire alarm is not stopping even after the fire is out.
Hence, one of the more common causes of chronic pain would be lasting pain after an episode of acute pain. In this situation, an individual experiences acute pain but fails to control or manage acute pain. What happens after that that is the amplification of the pain.
This amplification of the pain stimulus results in lasting pain, or in other words, sensitization. Sensitization is the opposite of desensitization, which is an essential process for the body. Without desensitization, you can never be able to focus on anything.
Your brain desensitizes you to the minor external stimuli such as the clothes touching your skin or the wind on your face so that you can go about your life without thinking about them. Alternatively, if you have sensitization to something, then you will feel every ounce of it without any adaptation.
Types of Sensitization
Sensitization is of two types, the first is peripheral sensitization, and the second is central sensitization. Peripheral will usually occur at the site of damage, whereas the central focuses more on the brain and spinal cord. Hence, you can say that the sensitization of the central nerve or the receptors at the site of damage is the primary cause of chronic pain.
Do you have a Genetic Risk of Chronic Pain?
The medical sciences are advancing. Creating a precise genome sequence is not as farfetched as it was. Genetic studies now like to embark on creating tens of thousands of genome sequences. From the genetic data that scientists collect, they find significant variations in the genetic code of the general population. Some variations are very common amongst the general population, while others are rare. These mutations in an individual’s genome sequence can significantly impact the internal functions of the body. This also extends to the tasks that lead to phenotypic problems such as chronic pain. One cannot deny the strong correlation and relationship of the genotype to the phenotype. Some people have a rare gene variant that is incredibly responsible for chronic pain. However, the more common cause of pain disorders involves some kind of environmental exposure.
Even if a person has genetic tendencies of experiences chronic pain, often, environmental stressor triggers the onset of the lasting pain. Some gene variants are subject more towards the susceptibility of pain. In contrast, the others are responsible for the manifestation of chronic pain. Ultimately, you can find a whole host of studies that prove the genome’s role in the likelihood of developing chronic pain. However, chronic pain results from a faulty genome sequence instead. Still, many factors also account for the gradual development of pain.
Broader Aspect of Pain Sensitivity
Apart from just genetics, a whole set of features affect how you feel pain. Some aspects of pain sensitivity are entirely genetically determined, while other elements are environmental. In most occurrences, a combination of environmental and genetic factors influences your pain sensitivity.
The genetic factors include your genome sequence, a set of codes that attribute to your characteristics, vulnerabilities, and everything. Other factors that relate to genetics also include your gender, ethnicity, and family.
Environmental factors attribute to various things such as alcohol, drugs, pollutants, medication, diseases, damage or injury, and others. Other than just the genetics and environmental factors, pain sensitivity will include mood, cognitive set, and the context of the situation as the underlying determining factors.
Hence, it would be wrong to hold your genetics solely responsible for chronic pain. However, the percentage of each factor can vary. For chronic pain, genetic factors may play a more significant role than the other factors. On the other hand, environmental factors can sometimes have an increased influence, so controlling a few habits will help immensely with the pain.
Pain Susceptibility Genes
These refer to genes that have slight changes in them. These changes can alter the way an individual feels pain. It can alter the degree to which someone feels pain while having an episode of chronic pain. Any variations in these genes can result in changes to pain sensitivity in a person.
Living With Chronic Pain
The lasting chronic pain has an unknown cause, and the pain does not go away as the injury heals like usual. Treatment for chronic pain will initially include pain relief medicines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, and compression. However, if the condition worsens, the treatments can take a more complex route.
Since chronic pain is persistent and lasts longer, it can have a dire impact on your lifestyle, making you more sedentary, fatigued, and irritable. Lasting chronic pain also leads to a lack of sleep, which gives way to anxiety, stress, mood swings, and a lack of energy. Having stress is not ideal since it can potentially worsen chronic pain.
Hence, chronic pain continues forth to make chronic pain a vicious cycle that keeps on getting worse. Fortunately, you can find several ways to approach the issues with chronic pain. Treatment of chronic pain looks at a wide range of topics that the pain exhibits. Furthermore, it also considers your mental, physical, and emotional needs.
Since chronic pain affects everyone differently, individuals benefit from a different type of treatment specific to their experiences. Your health care team will study your condition and line you up with a treatment that targets your issues with chronic pain.
Managing Chronic Pain
When pain becomes chronic and lasts longer than three months, you can have trouble adjusting your moods, performing certain activities, and stabilizing your relationships. You should consider the different options that can help you manage this pain.
Lifestyle changes that contribute to healthy living can impact your pain positively. Activities including mindfulness exercises such as yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, training, and so forth can help manage stress. Other changes in your lifestyle that can ultimately influence your chronic pain involve your nutrition. Nutrition plays an important role; therefore, make sure that you consume all the essential micronutrients and macronutrients that allow health and fitness. Your genetic make-up can influence your susceptibility, experience, and intensity of pain, therefore having a holistic understanding of your pain can help you manage and advocate for yourself when it comes to your medical care.
Disclaimer: The Content is not meant to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition.