what causes pain
September 2, 2016

Research studies conducted in more recent years demonstrate that what causes pain, and how the body processes it, are complex. These studies are also providing medical professionals a better idea of how these complex processes work, which is proving helpful to a pain doctor in diagnosing and treating pain.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A recent study regarding what causes pain focused on complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. The research study was a cooperative venture of Harvard Medical School, Helsinki University, and Aalto University. In studying individuals diagnosed with CRPS, researchers discovered that these men and women possess a choroid plexus that is 20 percent larger than that of those individuals not diagnosed with this medical condition.

The choroid plexus plays an integral process in pain transmission. Medically, the choroid plexus produces cerebrospinal fluid. Cerebrospinal fluid is responsible for facilitating the passage of blood into the brain, spinal cord, and into cerebrospinal fluid.

An Internal On and Off Switch for Pain

In addition to the role a significantly enlarged choroid plexus may play in regard to pain transmission, other research has identified what might be called a pain on and off switch in the human body. This research focused on what is known as the S1 cortex.

Researchers in this particular study manipulated the S1 cortex. Through this manipulation, they discovered that a person appeared to experience relief from a pain condition known as allodynia. Allodynia is a pain condition in which an individual is negatively impacted by even the slightest touch.

Specifically, the researchers discovered that a patient obtained relief from neuropathic pain when the S1 cortex was deeply stimulated. The researchers speculate that the S1 cortex acts as something of a central processing unit capable of either sustaining or mediating chronic neuropathic pain.

What Causes Chronic Pain

In addition to exploring what causes pain in first instance, researches are also focused on what causes chronic pain. The cause of chronic pain is a major issue for a pain doctor. Researchers at Kings’ College in London have focused on epigenetic marks on genes and pain.

Epigenetic marks on imprinted or left on genes appear to have the ability to change the manner in which a cell functions. These researchers surmise that epigenetic marks on genes work to increase the potential for pain to be remembered by an individual cell. This pain memory, involving multiple cells in the human body, translates into chronic pain.

A Look at Empathetic Pain

Researchers have also started to examine empathetic pain. Empathetic pain occurs when a person is pain experienced by an individual when he or she witnesses another person in pain.

Researchers discovered that when a person experienced empathetic pain, pain generated when a person sees another experience pain, that individual’s anterior insula region and the cingulate cortex literally changes to process pain. The change results in not only an emotional reaching to witnessing someone else experience pain, but a truly physical one as well.

Long-Term Breakthroughs for Pain Management

In total, these various research studies are providing a pain doctor real hope that new, innovative treatments for chronic and other types of pain will be a real possibility in the not too distant future. Indeed, a pain doctor today is able to incorporate many of these initial research findings into a comprehensive pain management program for a patient.


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