Courtney Kidd LCSW

Courtney Kidd LCSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Chronic Pain Is Impairing Our Brain

Chronic pain, something most of us don’t think of until we are suffering from it has become a growing concern in not only the medical field, but the mental health field as well. One of the increased risks associated with chronic pain is substance abuse.  Our course of treatment for pain is usually painkillers, and as a society we give them out like it’s Halloween.  This has caused endless problems and the worst part is it doesn’t even fix the person’s pain. One of the problems is we don’t always understand where the pain is coming from, there might not be an acute issue that the doctors can point to and go “yep, that’s what is causing you pain.”

What is even more troubling is the long term physiological impacts on the body. Chronic pain has been shown to cause depression, anxiety, irritability and even memory issues.  Now scientists are saying they have shown an impaired hippocampus; your region for memory, learning and even emotions.  This is especially problematic because those with chronic pain are not reproducing neurons in this area, connecting chronic pain with what appears to be a severe cognitive side effect.  We are only beginning to understand the long term implications of chronic pain. The diagnosis itself can be difficult to address because of how vague and transient some symptoms are.  When a definite answer cannot be found, the person is often left without a diagnosis or told it is in their head.
The mysteries of our brain’s structural nature are still being unraveled.  How we are put together, that is, the way our pathways are structured, determine who we are and how we act.  At the end of the day, we are the electronic impulses that are firing and when there are problems there, such as an impaired hippocampus, we can expect certain issues.  The answer is not to blindly medicate.  Think of your brain like a brick wall, with a unique pattern of grooves, divots and bumps.  Medication acts like a can of paint that you throw on top of the wall.  Sure, as it covers and drips it will be sure to coat some of the areas in need, but it is clumsy and inaccurate. By better understanding the architecture, the mapping, we could address each need systematically, leaving behind the mess. To stay with the metaphor, we would be using a paint brush instead of a can.

Sources:

pain2-social justice solutions CC BY-SA By User:Abu badali, based on public domain Aiga's icons. [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

pain-social justice CC BY-SA By User:Abu badali, based on public domain Aiga's icons. [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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