New insights into how the human brain responds to chronic pain could eventually lead to improved treatments for patients, according to University of Adelaide researchers.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe the brain’s ability to change structurally and functionally with experience and use. “Neuroplasticity underlies our learning and memory, making it vital during early childhood development and important for continuous learning throughout life.” Say Dr. Ann-Maree Vallence, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute.
“The mechanisms responsible for the development of chronic pain are poorly understood. While most research focuses on changes in the spinal cord, this research investigates the role of brain plasticity in the development of chronic pain.”
Chronic pain is common throughout the world. More than 100 million Americans are believed to be affected by chronic pain.
The study focused on comparing motor task training on participants that suffered from chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH) from a control group with no history of chronic pain. A non-invasive brain stimulation technique was also used to obtain a measure of the participants’ neuroplasticity.
CTTH is characterized by a dull, constant feeling of pressure or tightening that usually affects both sides of the head, occurring for 15 days or more per month. Other symptoms include poor sleep, irritability, disturbed memory and concentration, depression, and anxiety.
“Typically, when individuals undertake a motor training task such as this, their performance improves over time and this is linked with a neuroplastic change in the brain,” Dr. Vallence says. “The people with no history of chronic pain got better at the task with training, and we observed an associated neuroplastic change in their brains. However, our chronic headache patients did not get better at the task and there were no associated changes in the brain, suggesting impaired neuroplasticity.
“These results provide a novel and important insight into the cause of chronic pain, and could eventually help in the development of a more targeted treatment for CTTH and other chronic pain conditions,” she says.
This is the neurological basis for the evaluation and treatment format I use in practice – Quintessential Application (QA). I evaluate current neurological function – are reflex pathways intact? If not, then there is probably an injury reflex impairing that function. Correction is easily performed by “rebooting” the nervous system, Once the reflex pathways are restored, functional neurological testing responses are predictable and can be used to evaluate and treat the body.
More importantly, correction of injury reflexes restores neuroplasticity to the brain and spinal cord. This allows injuries to begin to heal and chronic pain patterns to resolve.
After 38 years in practice, I am convinced that the most important factor in resolving chronic low back pain is resolution of the associated injury reflexes. Sure you have to reduce inflammation and improve spinal mechanics. But if neuroplasticity is not restored, the chronic pain pattern remains and the instability will remain as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If you suffer from chronic pain, consider having a QA evaluation. If you Google “Quintessential Application”, you will find a web site that can direct you to a qualified practitioner.