Tell me about chronic pain


Chronic pain is a complex condition that affects both the body and the mind. , Chief of Pain Medicine at Stanford University, described the distinction between "hurt versus harm," emphasizing that while something may be painful, it may not necessarily cause harm. Understanding this difference is crucial for managing pain effectively 1.

The science of pain highlights that pain originates from various stimuli, and the signals sent by nociceptors in the body are not pain itself, but rather electrochemical impulses that become the experience of pain once they reach the brain. This distinction clarifies that the subjective experience of pain is shaped by an individual's emotions, cognition, memories, and actions 2.

Different strategies for managing chronic pain include attentional distraction, mindfulness, and cognitive reframing. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are evidence-based practices that help individuals manage their pain by altering their perception and response to it 3.

Understanding Hurt vs. Harm

Sean Mackey explains the crucial distinction between hurt and harm in pain management, using a tennis player's story as an example. He emphasizes the importance of addressing fear and anxiety around pain, while also recognizing when medical attention is necessary.

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Dr. Sean Mackey: Tools to Reduce & Manage Pain

Physical therapists play a crucial role in treating chronic pain, aiding in improving physical functioning and quality of life. They work with patients to set goals, teach body mechanics, improve endurance and strength, and assist with pacing to avoid overexertion 4.

Early life events can have lasting impacts on how adults process emotions and cope with pain, making pain psychologists and behavioral therapists essential for teaching skills to manage chronic pain and its psychological components 5. Nutrition also plays a vital role in pain management, as a healthy diet can prevent triggers of pain, as showcased by personal experience with chronic abdominal pain 6.

In addition to these methods, red light therapy is emerging as a potential treatment for conditions like fibromyalgia, which is associated with whole-body pain. Red light therapy, especially when combined with sunlight, might offer some benefits 7. However, the consensus regarding pain management has shifted towards the use of heat instead of ice and encouraging movement, as movement can act as an analgesic and avoid the negative rebound effects associated with cooling treatments 8.