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 SAM-e: An effective treatment for depression?  Part #1  

SAM-e: The research says?  Part #2  

Pain Management: What do you do?   

Pain management: How do you cope?  

The Mind Body Connection to Improving Your Health  

Brain Exercise for Your Most Perfect Memory   

Exercise and Counseling May Benefit Heart Failure Patients With Depression   

Natural Mental Health Articles:

St. John's Wort  

Herbal Viagra: The Safer Alternative?  

SAM-e: An effective treatment for depression?  Part #1  

SAM-e: The research says?  Part #2   

Herbal Medicine Use 

Additional Psychology Articles of Interest:

Alcohol Abuse

Alzheimer's

Anorexia Nervosa

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Pain Management: What do you do? 

pain managementPain management is becoming an important part of life, where according to a Gallup poll, 46% of women and 37% of men experience pain on a daily basis, and 89% of all adults experience pain at least once a month.  Studies in pain management have also concluded that only one half of those individuals with pain had visited a doctor in the previous three years to seek help. Pain is felt when the body has received damage to tissues which is then perceived by the brain and interpreted as a pain sensation.  This pain sensation may be interpreted as anything from mild to severe by the brain.  However, we all have the ability of reducing our level of pain through effective pain management. 

 

Pain Management and an Overview of Pain: 

Nerve pathways distributed throughout the body run up through the spine and into the brain were they are then registered and processed by the somatosensory cortex. Researchers have now found a much more complex experience than pain information traveling up nerve pathways and simply being experienced as pain once they reach the brain. A comprehensive approach to pain management includes understanding these more complex phenomena. 

If you were to bang your knee, rubbing it may make it better because the pain receptors and nerve fibers that transmit pain messages lie close to those carrying sensations such as pleasant touch and warmth.  If "non-pain" fibers are next to pain carrying fibers which are stimulated, signals from the pain nerves are blocked before they are consciously registered. It is believed that the pain blockade occurs because only one type of sensation can be felt in the same area of the body at the same time. 

Pain Management frequently utilizes the "gate control" theory of pain, which proposes that there is a “gate” in the spinal cord which allows only one type of sensation to pass through at a time.  This "competition for consciousness" between pleasant stimuli and painful stimuli was first discovered by the physiologists Patrick Wall and Ronald Melzack in the 1960’s.  However, more recent research suggests that the “gate effect” is actually provided by the body's attention system, rather than strictly related to the sensation of pain. 

Pain Management: Attention to Pain: 

In between the two hemispheres of the brain is an area referred to as the cingulate cortex which can have the effect of directing attention either inwards or outwards. If something threatening, exciting or otherwise significant is going on outside of your body, the cingulate cortex may switch your attention away from your body and reduce any sensation of pain. This phenomenon has also been experienced by soldiers in battle as attention was focused on experiences outside of themselves.  In fact, it has been reported that up to 20% of individuals undergoing surgery have reported no pain or little pain for hours or days after their operations. 

Chronic pain, such as that experienced by an individual with sciatica can be very debilitating, thereby reducing an individual’s ability to cope with the continuous discomfort.  As the individual continues to focus on the pain sensation, the unpleasant sensation becomes amplified.  Studies have found that as many as 70% of people suffering from chronic lower back pain do not have injuries which are readily detectable. 

Pain Management and Endorphins: 

Endorphins are natural painkillers produced by the brain that increases levels of dopamine (another brain chemical) which then enhance feelings of well-being. Other brain chemicals are actually used by the brain to keep the sensation of pain from being registered in the brain.  Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced during labor which doctors believe has the function of reducing the memory of the pain of childbirth.

Some information from Making the Most of Your Brain

Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health Psychology)

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