Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Can chronic back pain be cured?
I am not going to beat around the bush here when answering the question raised above. The resounding answer is YES! Below I am going to outline everything pertinent to explaining how we know the answer is YES, scientifically and emphatically. First off, however, I think it’s valuable to understand what pain is, whether it’s chronic pain in your back or elsewhere. “Pain is an output of the brain that is produced whenever the brain concludes that body tissue is in danger and action is required.” - Lorimer Moseley. There are three types of pain: Nociceptive pain. This is what most people think of when they think of pain. Nociceptive pain is from a mechanical, thermal or harmful chemical disturbance that results in tissue damage. Examples here would be smashing your finger with a hammer, a paper cut, or a big scrape on your knee from a fall. Neuropathic pain. This type of pain results from a lesion in the nervous system. An example would be a herniated disc in your neck. Pain from Central Sensitization. This type of pain is present when various areas of the brain “light up” when there is a PERCEPTION of danger. Pain serves as a protective mechanism, thus when our brain is concerned about the potential for damage, pain is produced. Pain DOES NOT always equal an injury or tissue damage. Central Pain is what happens when the pain has been present for many months or years (chronic). Often people that have had chronic back pain have had tests and imaging, which has ruled out concerns of something that would require surgery, or things that aren’t going away without other interventions (an example would be a cancerous lesion on the spinal cord or in the spine). So most people are left wondering “then why is my back hurting all the time?” Your pain is legitimate and very real, it’s just harder to address and understand the reasons why it’s there. Here is the first and most important word to understand when it comes to Central Pain - NEUROPLASTICITY. Neuroplasticity is a big word that describes the brain’s ability to modify, adapt or change over time. It’s one of the most amazing and important things we know about the brain, especially as it pertains to chronic pain. So, if we’re going to make positive changes in the brain (where all pain is generated), we first need to understand what influences the brain’s perceptions. Here is a short list, and there are many other things not listed that also influence it. Physical Health Sleep Stress Reactivity Attitudes and Beliefs Social Support Family Relationships Nutrition
In essence, what’s required to overcome chronic back pain is understanding many of the components that will have a positive influence on the brain’s perception of pain. Then we can begin addressing those items in order of importance and influence. If you have tight low back muscles that are contributing to pain and you’ve been stretching 2 times daily, religiously, that’s great! But, if you’re sleeping 2 hours a night, eat nothing but donuts and beer every meal, hate your work and are stressed out beyond belief, and don’t have high quality relationships that are supportive of you - AND you’re not addressing these issues - you will very likely continue to have chronic pain. Can your chronic back pain be cured? YES! But not without help, and not without a comprehensive approach that helps your brain see things differently and undergo positive changes. Get the help you need and deserve, and conquer your chronic back pain!