The Brain, Pain, and Gain From Chiropractic Care
By Dr. Molly Casey
Do you know where you feel pain? It may sound like a silly question, but it isn’t. So I ask again, where do you feel pain? If you slam your right index finger where would you feel the pain? Most would say, “I’d feel it on the index finger of my right hand.” I would then tell you you’re wrong. Let’s take a journey with pain, where we feel it, and what it tells us.
Pain and The Brain
You don’t feel pain at the sight of the painful spot. Pain is perceived or “felt” in the brain. There are different types of sensory receptors which are found in all layers of the skin. Some sensory receptors take in information from the outside world and some detect information from the internal environment and organs. The information is presented to the brain for processing. The brain then responds accordingly.
Nociceptors are receptors that take in information regarding pain. A stimuli elicits activity of the receptor, such as a door slammed on the finger. That information is brought up through the nerves into the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and then up to the brain. In the brain the information is deciphered as it relates to temperature, pressure, and/or chemical activity. In this example it would be significant pressure. The brain triggers a response such as pulling the hand away as a reaction and also an attempt to alleviate the stimulation of those receptors. So while the receptors in the index finger and hand took the information, the perception of the pain occurred within the brain.
Pain as a Health Indicator
Pain is uncomfortable, right? It’s said that people are driven by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; in my years in practice I would say that yes, most often this is true. However, there is another option and that is to be driven by, and to consciously choose, optimal performance regardless of pleasure or pain. In other words, a willingness to engage with life and its experiences based on fulfilling potential, and that is what chiropractic care is about.
Eighty-nine percent of the nerves within the nervous system cannot transmit information related to painful stimuli. That means 11 percent of the miles and miles of nerves have the ability to carry information related to pain. This truth allows me to confidently write that even though most folks in society do this, using pain (or the lack thereof) as the indicator for health is a very unwise idea. The presence of pain, sure, can indicate that something is possibly awry and needs to be looked at; however, the lack of pain is in no way indicative that one is healthy.
Pain and Chiropractic
As a chiropractor, I get to help all sorts of bodies perform better and heal. When this occurs, quality of life increases; people find relief, stress goes down, and family lives and professional lives improve. There are all sorts of incredible side effects that I’m thrilled to witness. One of my absolute favorite things of all-time is when someone who is not in pain comes into the office and wants to get their spine checked and adjusted; this shows me that even if they don’t have the full picture of what chiropractic can do for them, they are engaged enough to know life and health is not about only being out of pain. They know that there is another level of potential to be reached and they’re seeking assistance.
When one engages with regular chiropractic care, there is no doubt that pain relief is often a side effect and that is great. The main kicker, though, is that the nervous system -- your body’s communication system -- is allowed the opportunity to be optimally efficient because the spine is moving as well as it can and not interfering with any communication system function.
Communication system health and function is the basis of your physical health and the means to fully express yourself in your life. You want that system functioning optimally. Here’s to living life based on fulfilling your potential!