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Why is pain a thing?

Pain is our bodies’ way of saying something’s wrong. Think the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin when he’s rescuing Aladdin from the bottom of the sea—Genie transforms into a submarine, blaring his sirens as he rushes the wannabe prince up to the surface. AROOOOOGA!!!

When something irritates the nerve endings (this input occurs through physical or chemical means), that information is transmitted to the brain via nerves. The brain then processes this information and decides what to do with it, sending an output reaction to the body via different pathways along the nerves. The whole cycle is the brain-body loop and is our way of adapting to our environment.

The body is designed to feel pain as a response to danger and is therefore essential to our survival. This is why diseases or injuries that damage the sensory nerves (the initial receptors of stimuli) are so dangerous. If you’re unable to perceive, for example, that you stepped on a broken piece of glass and the resultant wound becomes infected (which you probably wouldn’t notice because you didn’t feel anything different), there’s a good chance that this wound could become gangrenous and amputation of the foot or leg could occur. In an even more extreme case, systemic infection (sepsis) could occur, potentially resulting in death. All because the body wasn’t telling you there was something wrong via the normal neurologic brain-body loop.

It’s obviously not just when you stub your toe or touch a hot stove that leads to that pain response—it’s things like when you were bent over all weekend gardening and now your back is killing you. Or if you’ve been looking down at your cell phone for too long and now you “have a crick in your neck.” Your body’s saying, “Hey! I’m hurting because that wasn’t nice!” In these cases, the nerves are most likely to be irritated by improper motion and dysfunction of the joints and nerves in the spine. Irritated nerve endings = pain response.

So what if it keeps happening or the pain just isn’t going away? Your body’s saying “I DON’T LIKE THIS!” because there’s an underlying issue that keeps irritating the nerves and is constantly sending signals to your brain that something’s wrong so that you DO something about it to correct the situation.

Chiropractic aims to correct or change these neurologic responses by treating the cause of the irritation. Mobilizing the correct joints that are adding to the nerve irritation can help to decrease nervous system interference by increasing nervous system optimization and therefore decrease your pain symptoms. It’s more than just that, though. As chiropractors, we want to ensure that your body is running at its full and optimal capacity. This means identifying problem areas BEFORE they start causing you pain, discomfort, or decreased functionality. We accomplish this through a detailed health history, range of motion testing, orthopedic testing, postural examination, palpation, and neurological testing.

The next time your body goes all “Danger, Will Robinson!” it’s a good idea to tune in and try to understand exactly what’s going on and what your body’s trying to tell you. If there’s not an easy or obvious solution, or you’re not getting results from traditional routes, give me, Dr. Maggie, a call at The Chiropractic Center of Marietta (770)422-9288 and I’ll help you solve the puzzle.

Moskowitz, Michael; Golden, Marla. “Brain-Body Loop.” Neuroplastix. 2015. http://www.neuroplastix.com/styled-2/page139/styled-40/brainbodyloop.html.

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