As talked about in the last blog, there is no such thing as a pain center. Pain is an output of many areas of the brain that warn of danger, basically changing your experience of your body so that you can respond appropriately. Pain is like no other sense, no other feeling we have. In fact, strictly speaking, it is not really a “sense” at all.
So where does pain come from? Pain is something the brain constructs out of information it receives. Once it has made this construct, it sends it to the self-aware part of itself, the part that you ordinarily think of as “you”. The brain builds constructs all the time, out of everything around it. Pain is just another thing the brain can make as it works to make sense of its own existence. Most of what the brain creates is useful. Pain is useful too, and the brain usually makes it for just long enough to slow you down to help the body heal. Depending on the reason for and the complexity of the pain, this may be a short, acute phase or a longer, more chronic issue.
When pain persists long past its “due date”, you may feel that you and your brain need some help with “de-constructing” it. This is when work has been done (or is being done) to address the actual sites where there is injury (e.g.-where the pain is experienced) and there is less concern about what is happening in the tissues. The brains of most people have no problem de-constructing pain production with treatment. Usually this is a quite straightforward process once treatment is initiated. With a bit of pain education as focus, and some judicious, well thought out manual therapy to provide novel input to the brain, the brain is usually more than happy to return to normal output. It “downregulates” itself, the peripheral nervous system follows suit, and the neurological reason for pain is ameliorated. This can be compared to rubbing your head after banging it against something: you are diluting the experience of “pain” by giving your brain something else to focus on.
This model of pain is more than a reductive biological view, it is a contextual view with the client in the center. It takes into account not just the injury itself, but the person’s full sensory-motor awareness, the basic internal “representational maps” of the body, and the emotional and experiential realities to name a few. It is harder to quantify or integrate, but it is more inclusive and orienting.