Pain Management May be in Your Head – And That’s a Good Thing

If you’ve ever whacked your thumb or stubbed your toe, you know that the pain you experience with those events feels like it is in your extremities. But in truth, pain is experienced in your brain and it is your brain that tells your body whether to dial it up or down, as it believes the situation demands. This truth may help researchers and physicians provide ways to better manage pain in the future.

From a series of studies designed to help researchers understand the ways in which pain is regulated by the brain, Brown scientists offered some answers. Earlier research suggested that low-frequency brain wave rhythms increase when painful information is being blocked between the brain and the hand. The researchers looked at these brain wave patterns, focusing on why the rhythms increased. The result was that not only were the brain patterns that were expected found in the part of the brain that helps us block or ignore things, but also low-frequency rhythms occurred in the part of the brain that ignores distractions.

NPR reports:

The two areas became synchronized, Jones says. “There’s coordination between the front part of the brain, which is the executive control region of the brain, and the sensory part of the brain, which is filtering information from the environment,” she says.

That suggests that at least some people can teach their brains how to filter out things like chronic pain, perhaps through meditation, Jones says.

This is exciting news for addiction treatment professionals. Not only is meditation widely used in addiction treatment and has shown positive signs for relieving pain, along with other important outcomes, like helping to rewire the brain for more positive decision-making, but it is a low-cost treatment. The CDC reports that every day, 44 people die in the United States from prescription drug overdose, most of these from a cocktail that includes painkillers. If we can offer effective, affordable treatment to those who abuse these medications, we can make a real difference in the number of lives we are able to save.

If you or someone you love is abusing prescription pain medication, seek help from a quality addiction treatment center. You deserve a better life.