Have you lived through a bad accident, a complex injury, or had major surgery?
Traumatic life events are not only frightening in the moment, but often also leave other residual symptoms even after the main threat has seemingly passed.
In truth, trauma to the body has more profound implications than just a structural injury. Of course, you want to make sure that your vital organs, bones, ligaments, and cartilage are all taken care of. Yet, many people don’t realize that these traumatic injuries often leave another lingering symptom– a disproportionate or heightened response to pain.
What exactly is a heightened pain response?
A heightened pain response means that your body perceives pain at a more intense level than what would be considered normal. For instance, a stubbed toe that would normally rank a 3 on a pain scale of 1 to 10, may now feel like an excruciating 9 or 10. In essence, it means that something isn’t adding up correctly.
If you don’t quite understand how the pain response works, you’re not alone. In truth, it is layered, nuanced, and slightly subjective. However, it is a vital piece of a robust overall health puzzle and can often use some help normalizing again following a traumatic accident, injury, or surgery.
If you’ve been through physical trauma, it’s a good idea to take stock of your sensitivity to pain as you return to total health.
How The Pain Response Works
Our nervous system orchestrates the pain response. Our bodies receive pain signals from various stimuli, whether it be temperature, pressure, stress, dehydration, malnourishment, or fatigue. Then, your body interprets these stimuli and translates them into an appropriate stimulus through your nervous system. If that signal is high enough to trigger something like a fight or flight response (an interpretation of being in mortal danger), your body reacts at a much higher pain level. This response can come across in many different ways: sweat, temperature increase, inflammation, increased heartbeat…in short, our bodies have many ways of physically demonstrating pain and discomfort.
It’s important to remember that pain is a signal. So, the higher the signal’s urgency, the more severe the perception of pain should be. This signal is what makes your reaction to grabbing a baking sheet out of a hot oven without mitts vastly different than that of holding a warm cup of tea. Pain is unpleasant for a reason– it’s our body’s way of identifying and communicating potentially harmful factors. In general, pain is a good thing.
The Risk Of A Heightened Pain Response
After a traumatic event, our bodies begin to undergo healing on several different levels. For instance, if you’re healing from whiplash following a car accident, the first order of business is to pay attention to your structural health– ensuring that your neck and spine are OK. However, the pain response, designed for our protection, can also undergo trauma during this time.
We’ve generally become accustomed to trusting our pain response. Pain = bad. It fires a warning shot to tell us to stop whatever we are doing for our own good! However, as previously mentioned, our nervous systems can develop an oversensitivity to pain. When this happens, our protective system is not communicating effectively and cannot give us the right signals.
The Impact Of Trauma On Our Interpretation Of Pain
Following trauma, sometimes our nervous system overcompensates, and the translation of pain signals goes off the charts, amplifying normally low pain thresholds. (Ex: a 2 or 3 on the pain scale now feels like an 8 or 9.) Though the pain is genuine in these instances, our body’s translation is off and needs attention to normalize again.
Though there’s a wide range of severity when it comes to pain responses that are out of whack, there is, in fact, a diagnosis for this condition: complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). People with CRPS tend to have what is deemed an inadequate response to pain. In other words, their perception of pain is vastly out of proportion to what the stimuli should warrant. These individuals experience hypersensitivity to pain, and as such, they may perceive heightened aching, throbbing, sweating, muscle spasms, and more.
The cause of CRPS and heightened pain response, in general, is not completely understood. Still, doctors believe it to be triggered by an injury or disruption to the peripheral and / or central nervous systems– those control towers of the stimuli in charge of sending pain signals to the brain.
Normalizing A Heightened Pain Response With Chiropractic Support
Is it even possible to alter or treat a pain response? With some persistence and patience, yes. And chiropractic care is a great avenue to explore when considering appropriate care for an overactive pain response.
A chiropractic practitioner uses adjustments of the spine and extremities to address misalignments in your spine and joints, decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body and nervous system to function better.
Correcting misalignments in your spine can drastically affect how your nervous system responds to pain– in a good way. Adjustments help disrupt the pain signal from your nervous system and thus calm a pain response that may be going a bit haywire. These adjustments can also release natural endorphins, flushing your body with feel-good hormones. So, if you’re struggling with a heightened pain pattern or even potentially CRPS, chiropractic care is a natural, safe, and effective means to restore optimal functioning of your nervous system.
Address heightened pain at its root cause; schedule your chiropractic session today.