Why do we experience pain?Pain is considered a protective and adaptive mechanism. Pain is your body's way of alerting you to danger and letting you know what's happening in your body. Pain is an unpleasant, commonly occurring, and universal human experience; it is also a very complex phenomenon. Do We All Experience Pain the Same?.The experience of pain and the resultant emotional state depends as much or more on the context (how, when, where, and why) of the pain event as the intensity of the pain stimulus. And a seemingly similar pain-producing event may be experienced (and communicated) quite differently from person to person, situation to situation, and among various cultures. Fortunately, most occurrences of pain are limited, resolving quickly with discontinuation of the pain stimulus or with tissue healing. How do we feel pain? What is a Nociceptor?Pain is termed nociceptive (nocer – to injure or to hurt in Latin). Nociceptors are sensory receptors that detect damage or potential damage to tissue, and respond by sending signals to our brain and spinal cord. If the brain perceives the damage as credible, it creates the sensation of pain to direct attention to the body part, so the damage can hopefully be mitigated; this process is called nociception. Nociceptors have specialized nerve endings to detect stimuli, and are found widely distributed in the skin and other tissues. Nociceptors are not uniformly sensitive. They fall into several categories, depending on their responses to mechanical, thermal, and/or chemical stimulation.
What is Neuropathic Pain?Neuropathic Pain is caused by abnormalities in the system that carries and interprets pain — the problem may be in the nerves, spinal cord or brain. Neuropathic pain can be caused by various processes, such as damage to nerves, causing abnormal signalling. and failure of the spinal cord or brain to dampen down the pain.
Acute versus chronic pain There are two major categories of pain. Pain can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic):
Acute pain is a severe or sudden pain that resolves within a certain amount of time. You might feel acute pain when you have an illness, injury or surgery.
Chronic pain is persistent, lasting for months or even longer. Chronic pain is considered a health condition in itself.
Chronic pain drastically decreases the quality of life of those who have it, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is happening. Living with this kind of pain can cause or exacerbate existing health problems, increase costs for medical care, decrease work productivity, and more. With acute pain, you typically know exactly where and why it hurts. Your elbow burns after a scrape or you feel pain at the site of a surgical incision. Acute pain is triggered by tissue damage. Its purpose is to alert you to injury and protect you from further harm. With chronic pain, you might not know the reason for the pain. For example, an injury has healed, yet the pain remains — and might even become more intense. Chronic pain can also occur without any indication of an injury or illness.
There are a lot of conditions that can cause chronic pain. A few of them you may be familiar with or even dealing with in your own life including cancer, fibromyalgia, IBS, migraines, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, and osteoarthritis, among many others. You could also have lasting pain from an accident, you could be sleeping on an old mattress, and it’s causing your back to ache every day. There are hundreds of different types of chronic pain, which is what makes treating it so difficult. When Pain becomes Pathological?Even after an injury to our bodies has healed, we can remain in a state of “hypervigilance”, which results in a sustained, heightened sensitivity to pain, which leads to chronic pain. The Pain becomes persistent and pathological without a recognized protective or healing mechanism. Chronic pain that continues relentlessly due to on-going nociceptive stimulation serves little purpose. In contrast to acute pain, unresolved pain leads to subliminal and conscious reflex responses that are often maladaptive. Chronic Pain imparts a tremendous burden on the pain sufferer’s health, social interactions, occupational performance, emotional state, and finances. In turn, chronic pain incurs a significant direct and indirect financial toll on society. Pain-related medical services and loss of productivity cost the United States economy close to one trillion US dollars annually. The prevalence of persistent, debilitating pain is increasing,
What are Traditional Pain Relief options?Drugs that provide relief from pain are termed Analgesics, or more commonly "Pain Killers". Analgesic drugs act in various ways, but the pain relief results from blocking nociceptor activation. Historically, it has been thought that there are 3 main categories of analgesics:
Acetaminophen, or APAP
NSAIDs, (NonSteroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drugs)
The drugs that have been developed to help us odeal with pain largely focus on suppressing its symptoms, rather than eliminating its underlying causes. To date, prescription opioids are considered to be the most effective treatment for moderate-to-severe pain, but their abuse has been identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a significant public health issue. They produce tolerance, dependence, and are associated with major abuse liabilities. The respiratory depression associated with high doses has led to a catastrophic increase in the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Doctors will be reluctant to prescribe pain medications in today’s world because of the looming cloud that is the opioid crisis. Addiction is a very real concern with opioids, which are the strongest pain medications prescribed today. Over time, your body can build a tolerance to these medications that leads to you needing more of the drug, and that can lead to long term dependency. Addiction is scary, and it can truly happen to anyone, and it isn’t worth the risk in most cases. While that may seem like your last hope with your pain, doctors tend to err on the side of caution when prescribing them. This doesn’t leave you with much. SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants are common avenues of relieving pain for fibromyalgia and neuropathy, but these drugs come with their own set of risks. SSRIs alter your brain chemistry. This can be lifesaving for someone who struggled with mental illness but could be unwanted side effects for someone taking them for pain. What’s more, they can cause weight gain, weight loss, insomnia, sexual side effects, and more. There are over the counter drugs as well, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve). These medications are not typically safe for long term use without the direction of a doctor. This is because they can have serious side effects as well as serious interactions with other medications you may be taking. Unfortunately, these other traditional analgesic medications and other pain management procedures are severely limited by combinations of low efficacy, excessive toxicity/risk/safety concerns, insufficient access to care, or unbearable cost. In patients with chronic pain, and especially neuropathic pain, “success” is measured in small increments of improvement among limited numbers of patients. In randomized clinical trials of analgesics for neuropathic pain, no more than half of patients experience clinically meaningful pain relief from pharmacotherapy. Our pain response can unfortunately be inaccurate, and may continue even after discontinuation of the pain stimulus or after tissue has healed. This is why taking pain medication to block nociceptor activation may be sensible when the "pain response" is being addressed. However, blocking nociceptor activation is only "masking" the pain, and if damage remains, pain will continue or return. Topicals are ideal for local application to an affected area of skin, muscle, or joints. Balms, Creams and Salves applied topically tend to stay concentrated in the area where it was applied, unlike oral pain killers, which spread throughout the entire body via the bloodstream. Topicals are absorbed into the skin and since they do not have to be digested, the products work quickly and effectively, focusing right on the area where needed. Topicals provide therapeutic benefits without the potential side-effects of traditional oral pain killers. For many people with acute pain, or living with chronic pain, topical products provide the best relief. Topicals go directly to the source of pain, and can provide relief from sore muscles, joints, tendons, and more for seniors, athletes, workers, and anyone else suffering from aches and pains – long-term, short-term, acute and chronic.
Why are Topicals ideal for pain?Another thing to consider is that most pain medications are designed to mask the symptom of pain; pain usually means something is going on. There are a lot of things that can cause pain such as inflammation or nerve damage. Pain is so misunderstood that it’s very common to target what you’re experiencing with medication rather than treating the root cause. Most people are aware of the risks and side effects associated with the use of pain medications and are eager to find a better solution for them. More effective and universally available means to prevent and treat chronic pain are needed, regardless of the primary or inciting cause.