28.10.2021 – 09:36
Everyone knows pain and yet everyone experiences it differently. Because pain consists of a physical, a social and a psychological component that different people deal with differently. Basically, pain is important – it serves as a warning signal and protection for the body. This is how the body’s own damage indicators, also known as nociceptors, react to an imminent or already occurring injury to tissue. This warning function can be of vital importance because it protects the body from further damage and promotes healing through the release of hormones. “In order to deal with pain, it is important to understand how it occurs and how it works,” says Dr. Andreas Hellmann, neuroscientist and pain expert at alley, a medical app with which, among other things, pain recording is possible in real time.
Emergence of pain
Pain can result from excessive mechanical, thermal or chemical stimuli, for example from heat, cold or injury. The nociceptors, which are found in almost all organs and parts of the body, are activated and transmit a signal to the brain via the ascending nerve pathways of the spinal cord. The brain evaluates the signal and compares whether there are already empirical values with the perceived stimulus. This happens in different areas of the brain. Areas responsible for physical aspects evaluate the origin and strength of the signal as well as the extent of the damage. Other areas are responsible for the emotional aspects. You evaluate the experience with this pain stimulus. While the brain is still processing the stimulus, it triggers certain impulses that are conducted via the descending tracts of the spinal cord to the extremities – i.e. hands, legs, feet – and generate a reaction there: sitting down after a sharp pain in the knee joint or pulling away hand off the stove. In addition to such visible actions, reactions also take place inside the body. For example, hormones and other substances are released in different parts of the body that can relieve pain.
Course of pain
If there is pain, the course of pain is divided into acute and chronic in medicine. Acute pain always occurs in healthy people when there is tissue damage or there is a threat of it. Pain is supposed to protect the tissue from further stress and thus from further damage. This is also the case after an operation, for example. Pain reflects a snapshot of the physical exertion limit and is therefore also an important part of the healing phase. They usually disappear after a period of rest or treatment, as the affected tissue heals. However, if the pain persists for more than three months or keeps recurring, it is said to be chronic. The pain loses its warning function and the nervous system remains in a permanently elevated alarm state. The reason for this is that the brain is subject to constant restructuring processes and remembers experiences of pain. One also speaks colloquially of pain memory, for example when it is stored that lifting a laundry basket hurts the back. The brain then mixes this information into the actual sensory experience and is alarmed. The pain can then no longer be traced back to an injury. Nevertheless, the pain felt is real and requires treatment, even if there is no structural cause. Pain is measured according to type, severity and course. They can change over the course of the day, become stronger or weaker. It is not always clear what that depends on. Whether pain becomes chronic does not only depend on the type of original injury or illness, but also on emotional states, experiences, the social or professional environment and other factors.
To treat pain, a doctor or physical therapist must know how it is developing. The best way to do this is to write down when and in which situation the pain occurs and how severely. This can be done in the form of a “pain diary”, which is already available in digital form today. The doctor first clarifies whether there is a structural cause for the pain. Depending on the type of complaints, he then develops an individual therapy with the aim of treating pain and its causes holistically. Basic knowledge about the origin and function of pain already helps to cope better with the suffering situation. In addition, physical activity stimulates the body’s own pharmacy, because when you move, the body releases happiness hormones that relieve pain. Targeted exercise therapy, combined with the conscious use of medication, is part of a holistic therapy. Psychotherapy, relaxation and massage therapy or alternative procedures can also be used.
Today we know that health is a complex interplay of physical, psychological and social factors. The different factors are mutually dependent and, in their interplay, can explain health restrictions and pain. If it is possible to positively influence individual factors, the pain sensation can be reduced. This is particularly important for people with chronic pain in order to actively influence their quality of life. This includes, for example, understanding that pain is real even when there is no physical damage. In addition to previous experiences and momentary sensory impressions, environmental conditions play a major role. Stress and fear can have a strong influence on how we feel.
To counter anxiety and stress, conversation, behavioral or relaxation therapies such as progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen or autogenic training are suitable. Pain is a complex and very personal perception that affects the life of those affected, with and without an identifiable physical cause. But whether acute or chronic – in modern pain therapy, a holistic view of the causes offers those affected a real chance of relief. Recognizing one’s pain correctly helps to deal with it, because the greatest potential for coping with pain lies in finding an attitude towards it and no longer feeling at the mercy of it.
Further information on the subject of pain can be found at the Dr. Andreas Hellmann checked alley website: alley.de/magazin/gelenkschmerzen-ursache-verlauf-tipps
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alley is a medical platform that, in cooperation with service providers and payers, structures the optimal treatment path for patients. The aim is to improve the patient’s individual quality of life by increasing the quality and efficiency of treatment. As a platform with a 360-degree view, Alley unlocks the full potential of analog and digital medicine by bundling medical data and communication between patients, resident doctors, clinics and physiotherapeutic aftercare on one platform. Alley provides the data generated in this way as an analytical provider for optimized therapy and care planning. As a smart bridge builder and personal companion, Alley coordinates individual patient needs with selected treatment methods. alley is the first product of VBMC ValueBasedManagedCare GmbH, founded in 2019 by Manuel Mandler and Klara Honsl in Cologne. The company’s task is to develop analytically driven managed care solutions based on the Value Based Medicine approach. The company has 40 employees. more information under www.alley.de
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Original content by: alley, transmitted by news aktuell