Chronic pain affects between 20%-30% of Australians, but it is estimated that less than 10% of people have access to effective care. Research suggests that about 70% of chronic pain is the result of injury, arthritis and musculo-skeletal problems, about 30% has no obvious visible cause.
However, advances in scientific research over the past decade have led experts to understand that in many cases chronic pain is caused by unhelpful changes in the brain, known as “maladaptive plasticity”. In other words, the pain is coming from the brain
Signs and Symptoms of Brain-Based Pain
Many people with chronic pain will report problems such as:
Feelings of disembodiment or detachment of the affected body part
Gentle light touch is painful
Itching, “pins and needles” and strange feelings on the skin
“Nobody can find anything wrong” or “I’ve been told it’s all in my head”
Pain that is affected by stress and other thoughts (such as even thinking about moving)
Strange feelings that the affected body part is changing shape, swollen or out of position
How we help Chronic Pain
Advances in research over the past decade have fundamentally changed scientists' understanding of chronic pain. Experts now acknowledge that in many cases chronic pain is caused by unhelpful changes in the brain, known as “maladaptive plasticity”. This new understanding of chronic pain, termed “Neuromatrix Theory”, has resulted in innovative brain-based treatments that in many cases can dramatically reduce long-standing pain within a short period of time. Everybody’s brain is different, and so everyone’s experience of chronic pain is unique. There is no “one size fits all” approach to successful treatment. At The Perth Brain Centre we use special brain scans, called QEEG, to help understand how a person's brain is working.
This information guides effective and personalised treatment which is directed towards “re-wiring” the brain to reduce long-standing pain. Treatment typically includes, but is not limited to:
Guided Imagery - Visualisation exercises that target pain reduction.
Graded Motor Imagery - Special brain exercises directed towards reducing pain and improving movement.
Moscowitz Exercises - Mental exercises that help to “re-wire” the brain and decrease pain.
Trans-Cranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) - A safe and gentle type of electrical brain stimulation that is used to directly change the activity of pain networks in the brain.
Everyone can develop a bad habit, an unwanted behaviour or an unhelpful way of thinking.
These are all examples of maladaptive plasticity or, in other words, undesirable changes in brain function. In some cases, similar undesirable changes in brain function (maladaptive plasticity) can cause or contribute to chronic pain. In other words, in some cases of chronic pain, the pain is actually coming from the brain.
This new understanding of chronic pain, termed “Neuromatrix Theory”, has resulted in innovative brain-based treatments that in many cases can dramatically reduce long-standing pain within a short period of time.
Of course, whilst breaking a bad habit or changing an unhelpful way of thinking is difficult, it is not impossible. Changing the brain to reduce chronic pain can also be difficult, but it is not impossible.