Chronic Pain As It’s Own Disease

Pain is typically considered to be a symptom of an injury, disease or condition; it is simply the transmission of information through nerves about damage to the body. Chronic pain however, is a bit more complex than that. Often what happens in chronic pain is that that the pain outlives its original causes such as a broken limb, ruptured disk, nerve damage etc, it worsens over time, and takes on a life of its own.

There is increasing evidence that over time, untreated chronic pain eventually rewrites the central nervous system (CNS), causing changes to the brain and spinal cord, and that these in turn cause greater pain. Scary huh?! The nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a disease in itself. Pain is then no longer a function of a healthy nervous system (signalling that there is an injury or illness), it becomes the problem and needs to be treated as the primary pathology. The TED talk by Elliot Krane below explains this in more detail, please watch.

It’s funny, I remember a good few years ago, a medical professional suggesting that I had, in her words, ‘pain memory,’ and I was absolutely appalled at her suggestion. I remember feeling like a fraud, like she was questioning whether my pain was even real and whether it was all in my head. But actually now, I can see what she was trying to say. She wasn’t questioning me, she knew I was in pain, she was suggesting there may no longer be a pain source and but my brain never forgot the pain – the problem lied with my nervous system constantly telling my brain that I am in pain. I have since been given a skeptical diagnosis of Post Herpetic Neuralgia (neuropathic pain after the shingles virus), and if that was the source of my pain, then why when I take medication to keep shingles at bay every day am I still in pain and the pain is still worsening over time? Something to think about.

I hope with all my heart that in the future there will be, as Elliot suggests, disease modifying drugs for chronic pain that stop the feedback loops in the CNS and eradicate chronic pain! I hope that happens in our lifetime as there are so many suffering, it would be a miracle :)


  1. Francesca May 26, 2015 / 1:32 pm

    I’ve dealt with chronic pain from repetitive strain injury – not on your level, but enough that I get how awful it is. I’m a lot better these days but when the weather’s bad or I’m stressed it starts up again.

    I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but I’ve found meditation really useful. It doesn’t magicially fix everything but I feel a lot better mentally since doing it, and it’s had a gradual knock-on effect with physical problems too (I’m not a yogi or anything, I tried it out of desperation/curiosity – I was a huge sceptic but now I recommend it to everyone.)

    Hope things improve for you soon. :)

    • spooniesophia June 1, 2015 / 2:36 pm

      Sorry to hear that Francesca. Glad things have improved a bit for you. I can totally relate to stress causing pain to worsen.
      Yes I often use mindfulness to try and relax and to control anxiety around the pain. It’s hard to do a body scan though when you’re in so much pain as it just makes u focus even more on it :/
      I was also a huge skeptic but I enjoy meditation and I think it’s an invaluable resource for chronic illness sufferers. Thanks for sharing :)

      • Francesca June 1, 2015 / 4:15 pm

        Ah thanks. :) I use the Heaspace app (so 21st century haha) and in one of the programmes the guy talked about how noticing pain and focussing on it are kind of different things – like you can acknowledge it without letting it get in the way of life.

        I’m still working on that… interesting though! Good luck with your meditation. :)

  2. Berta Karaim May 30, 2015 / 8:56 pm

    Recently, we studied the nervous system in a biology class, and it is so interesting to be able to relate all those memorised concepts to something real 😉

    I sincerely hope that you are able to find relief some day <3

    • spooniesophia June 1, 2015 / 2:33 pm

      Aww how interesting Berta, glad you are able to understand :)
      Thank you, I hope so too!
      Have a lovely Monday x

  3. Rachel June 1, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing this video and post, I really do hope they find disease modifying drugs to stop the feedback loops soon! xx

    • spooniesophia June 1, 2015 / 2:32 pm

      No problem Rachel! I hope so too, i can’t image what it would be like to be pain free! Xxx

  4. Frederick February 7, 2016 / 7:49 am

    Hi, I am from Australia.
    Please check out a very interesting book titled: The End of Pain – How Nutrition and Diet Can Fight Chronic Inflammatory Disease by Jacqueline Lagace Phd.
    It seems to me that you have a severe case of such inflammatory disease.
    The cure involves eliminating all grains especially wheat (excepting rice and buckwheat), dairy products, and browned cooked foods from your diet, and sugar too.

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