Emotional Pain Causes The Brain To Play A Major Role In Chronic Pain  

By Dr. John Rosa

Recent research reveals that, “emotional pain activates many of the same limbic brain centers as physical pain. This is especially true… for the most common chronic pain syndromes – back pain, headaches, and fibromyalgia.” https://neurosciencenews.com/opioid-chronic-emotion-pain-17507/

With this in mind, it’s no wonder why it’s easy to remember the “accident” that appears to be the cause of your chronic back pain. What might not be so easy to correlate is your emotional state when you had the “accident.” Were you angry? Did you just have a fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife? Did you just go through a break-up? Did you lose your job?

We simply don’t associate emotional traumas with chronic pain. However, we do believe that “bad things happen in three’s.” So when your girlfriend breaks up with you, then you get into an accident, you don’t think much of it. In fact, you’re on high alert waiting for the next “bad thing” to happen. But, when the back pain begins and persists, you associate it only with the accident, not with the heartbreak.

What if chronic pain is how the brain diverts our attention away from what’s really bothering us? The late Dr. John Sarno (http://johnesarnomd.com/)  wrote several books and treated thousands of patients based on this premise.  And because, as the research reveals, our brain has been activated by the emotional trauma, it remembers the pain and continues to remind us that there was a bigger trauma at play than the accident.

Unfortunately, doctors are more inclined to write a prescription for opioids. What is coming to light now is that many of the patients who use opioid medications long term for the treatment of chronic pain have both physical and social (emotional) pain. But the opioids don’t work long-term. The pain remains and the pills continue to flow. And no one is paying attention to the role the limbic brain is playing. Until now.

It is my great hope that continued recognition of the social/emotional aspects of chronic pain and opioid action can improve our treatment of chronic pain and our use of opioid medications.

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