Chronic pain has the potential to have a long-term and detrimental impact on our immune system because it is believed to make changes to how our natural genes work.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as a type of pain that is consistent and lasts for a period that exceeds six months. It is reported to impact nearly 25 million Americans at any one time (lasting three months or longer).
The type of pain can vary from totally incapacitating, merely inconvenient, episodic or continuous, and a pain threshold of mild or excruciating.
Once the chronic pain starts to take hold on a patient, the pain signals can stay active and impact the nervous system for a period that can last for a several years.
This constant fight with pain leaves the person both emotionally and physically drained.
The areas of the body that are most believed to be the actual source of pain relate to backaches, pain from injury, joint pain and headaches.
Other types of chronic pain can include specific body parts such as the neck, pelvis, or shoulders, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, sinus pain and tendinitis.
Even a mild form of nerve or general muscle pain can lead to the more chronic disorder.
The onset of the chronic pain can start with an infection or injury/trauma, or there is the chance of the persist cause that is leading to the pain.
There is the risk of patients suffering with this type of pain even with the absence of evidence of body damage or past injury.
The emotional impact of chronic pain over the long-term will also start to make the pain feel like it is getting worse.
Many disorders like fatigue, anger, depression, stress and anxiety can combine with the existing issues with chronic pain.
A consequence of this is the increased risk of lowering the body’s natural ability to produce painkillers.
Plus, the complex combination of disorders can start to amplify the feeling of pain and leave the patient in a much worse position.
In time the body’s natural defenses that fight disease and illnesses start to get compromised.
Studies indicate longer spells of unrelenting pain can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the immune system.
Chronic pain has links to the mind and body so it is essential to use a type of treatment that has the ability to address both the physical as well as the psychological aspects.
A nationwide problem
With nearly 25 million adults in America suffering from chronic pain at any one time it is easily regarded as a nationwide problem.
Some of the earliest and most noticeable signs of this condition relate to headaches, arthritis and back pain, and many patients will naturally look to the use of painkillers to help manage the ongoing pain and discomfort.
Even though this helps to mask the pain, it is not effective at managing or reversing the underlying causes.
Other more natural remedies for treating chronic pain include yoga and alternative therapies.
Chronic pain even has the ability to change our genes with the potential for thousands of genes to be impacted by this disorder.
This means there is a greater risk of finding something in the system that wouldn’t normally be related to pain.
Chronic pain may change DNA
A prolonged period of chronic pain has the potential to change the makeup of the genes when it comes to the immune system.
From past scientific research, there are clear signs that the pain can influence DNA and the way it is marked. This is noticed in the T cells and in the brain.
Chronic pain that lasts for 6+ months is a well reported disorder that leads to disability across the world.
Even though a lot of research time has been invested in therapeutic strategies to control this type of pain, there are no signs of any effective treatment being forthcoming.
Studies conducted on rats to examine the white blood cell and brain DNA have been completed. This relied on mapping the DNA marking using a type of chemical referred to as methyl group. The use of methyl helps to determine how the genes function.
This type of research uses chemical markings to help create the field of epigenetic; this relates to reprogramming or making modifications to the way in which our genes are turned on and off.
With the potential to make changes to thousands of genes there is the risk that chronic pain may start to impact other areas of the body that weren’t previously associated with pain.
By continuing research in this field, it is believed there is the possibility of finding new techniques to treat and diagnose chronic pain in people.
There is the chance that the new genes market could make it possible to target new areas with the available pain medications.
However, there are steps in place to help find a solution to chronic pain without solely having to rely on the use of pain medications.
Pain meds can help to mask the existing pain and discomfort, but not always able to fully solve the underlying problem.
A great area of concern relates to problems with the immune system from long-term pain for those in later life.
For the aging patient, there is certain to be a higher occurrence of neuropathic and chronic pain conditions.
It is more difficult to treat this group of patients because it is necessary to consider the natural age-related problems.
When using drugs it is crucial to look at age-related cognitive decline, frailty, and the risk of side effects.
Studies have suggested that there is a clear link between chronic pain and having a negative impact on the immune system.
There are several options open to doctors that go beyond targeting medications and painkillers.
It helps to look at treatments that are able to heal the underlying complaint, and not simply to suppress the symptoms.
One natural remedy is to get enough sleep and enjoy the regular sleeping pattern, while vitamin D is a further benefit that has been reported in a few chronic pain studies.