Exercise some control over back painMarch 7, 2012
An estimated 80% of Australians will experience acute back pain at some point in their lives, albeit often brief. Such episodes generally stem from an acute injury to the peripheral structure (ligaments, muscles and nerves) and, unlike disc-related afflictions, often resolve within a few weeks.
For an approximate 20% of sufferers, the pain remains for months and even years – well beyond the expected recovery time for typical peripheral structure injuries. This prolonged suffering is broadly classified as Chronic Spinal Pain and it’s something we see daily at the Proactive clinic.
But why does Chronic Spinal Pain linger long after the peripheral pain has resolved? The answer is Central Sensitisation.
In normal back pain, the receptors in the back transmit to the dorsal horn of the spine and then up through the brainstem and to the brain. The brain’s perception of this pain can vary depending on changes in the hormone-secreting neuroendocrine cells in the brain. These are the cells responsible for releasing hormones into the blood when neurally stimulated.
We can see the positive influence of the neuroendocrine cells at play when, for example, a footballer involved in a high intensity match stabs his thigh but does not feel pain at the time of injury. The receptors in the thigh still receive the pain but the adrenalin released by the neuroendocrine cells stops the brain from registering the pain.
In Central Sensitisation of Chronic Spinal Pain, the continued irritation of your back pain receptors causes imbalances in these hormone-secreting neuroendocrine cells. These imbalances result in the brain becoming hyper sensitised to the reception of pain from the back, and very small impulses translate to severe pain.
While there is no magic bullet to solving Central Sensitisation of Chronic Spinal Pain, exercise, as well as continued effort to normalise faulty protective movement patterns, are critical in helping control the pain. The worst thing a Chronic Spinal Pain sufferer can do is to stop exercising – this will only result in the cycle spirally out of control!
For more information on treating Chronic Spinal Pain please consult Proactive Physio.