"The recent discovery that pain caused by a peripheral nerve injury can imprint itself in the Central Nervous System (Centralized Pain) ranks as one of the great advances in pain management. Although there has been some debate, these brain changes appear to be the result of chronic pain and not the cause [of the chronic pain]. Centralized Pain is often accompanied by symptoms of hyper-arousal of the Sympathetic Nervous System, which can be used to help guide diagnosis and treatment of Centralized Pain." Dr. Forrest Tennant, Pain Management Specialist, and Editor in Chief of Practical Pain Management, from his recent article, Chronic Pain and the Brain.
"As we will discuss shortly, pain that arises in the CNS (Central Nervous System) is frequently “learned” pain. In order to learn how to hit a golf ball, speak German, or play the banjo, you have to practice. And everyone remembers the old adage; practice makes perfect. Unfortunately, this is also how things tend to work when it comes to pain. If you stimulate pain pathways in the Brain & Nervous System long enough, or are exposed to enough stressors in your life (chemical, emotional, dietary, physical, bacterial, viral, parasitic, electro-magnetic, heavy metals, etc), you can alter the way your Brain and Central Nervous System function. Because pain can become pathologically locked into the CNS, the method of removing it must specifically target the CNS, as well as the metabolic causes of the pain." Dr. Russell Schierling, from the website DESTROY CHRONIC PAIN. This was written back in 2010.
Dr. Tennant tells us that when pain lasts longer than 3-6 months, it has the ability to, "adversely affect the individual's well being". One of the things that Dr. Tennant mentions is atrophy (shrinkage) of the Brain. I wrote about this on DSP, when I told you that, "For years neuro-scientists have known that Chronic Pain can cause brain atrophy that is indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. More recently The Journal of Neuroscience reported that “The longer the individual has had Fibromyalgia, the greater the gray matter loss, with each year of fibromyalgia being equivalent to 9.5 times the loss in normal aging.” Think about this for a moment. Every single year you live with Fibromyalgia or other Chronic Pain Syndromes is the equivalent of nearly 10 times the brain loss seen in the normal aging process." Dr. Tennant gives eight different references to scientific studies showing that, "Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies recently have shown loss of grey matter density in patients with chronic pain". According to the research, this is at least somewhat reversible. Get rid of the pain and the brain will, at least to some degree, regain its mass.
- ANERGY: This is where your Immune System becomes so weak that it can no longer mount a response to antigens. This is commonly seen with Fibromyalgia / Adrenal Fatigue and associated problems.
- ANOREXIA: This is the weight loss not typically associated with "Anorexia Nervosa" which is intentional starvation.
- ANXIETY / DEPRESSION: I have written about this issue fairly extensively (HERE).
- DIARRHEA: Can anyone say IBS?
- FATIGUE: This is almost always due, at least in part, to overworked and burned out ADRENAL GLANDS. It goes hand-in-hand with, and is frequently seen in conjunction with THYROID ISSUES, INSULIN RESISTANCE, and other ENDOCRINE PROBLEMS.
- HEAT EPISODES: This is a common problem those who do not have may have never heard of. I routinely see people in my clinic who are "Heat Intolerant", particularly after TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES or WHIPLASH ACCIDENTS.
- INSOMNIA: As crazy as it sounds, even though these folks are exhausted, they have trouble sleeping.
- NAUSEA: The Parasympathetic Nervous System is associated with digestion. It's opposite --- Sympathetic Dominance --- is not. Failure to digest leads to numerous health problems.
- RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME: RLS is a form of PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY that is an AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE (click the link for a list of others).
- TREMORS: Tremors come in all shapes and sizes, and are associated with a variety of different health issues.
- URINARY HESITANCY: Bladder Infections and Urinary Tract Infections are the result of this stasis / stagnation of urine in the bladder.
The only things I had on my list of things that cause, contribute to, or are associated with Sympathetic Dominance that Dr. Tennant did not have on his, were......
- MIGRAINE HEADACHES: HERE is more information.
- ADD / ADHD: HERE are several articles on this topic.
- BRAIN FOG: This is frequently seen in Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Diseases, and GLUTEN INTOLERANCE.
- DRY SKIN / DRY EYES / DRY MOUTH: Because so many different drugs stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System, these are the side effects associated with numerous medications as well.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
If, as Dr. Tennant says, these problems are permanent once they are locked into the CNS, why does it matter? Let me tell you why knowing this information matters. Go back to the quote from the top of the page and look at what Dr. Tennant says about this phenomenon of Centralized Pain. Carefully note that most experts believe Centralization, "appears to be the result of chronic pain and not its cause". Re-read that and let the magnitude of what it is saying sink in for a moment. Plainly stated, this means that the longer your pain goes on, the more likely you are to lock it into your Brain and Central Nervous System. In other words, you need to do whatever it takes to get to the root of your pain and solve it. This is true whether you are dealing with PIRIFORMIS SYNDROME or CHRONIC NECK PAIN. ADRENAL FATIGUE or NEUROPATHY. Let severe pain linger, and the odds for permanently imprinting these pathways in your Nervous System increase dramatically.
How would a person proceed to tackle their Chronic Pain issue? The first place to start is by looking at the body as a whole. Many people have SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS that they think are local (HERE and HERE are a couple of common examples). For those dealing with Chronic Pain, it would serve you well to go through my posts on UNIVERSAL CAUSES / UNIVERSAL CURES.
AND THE RELATIONSHIP TO SICKNESS, DISEASE, AND CHRONIC PAIN
“The longer the individual has had Fibromyalgia [Chronic Pain], the greater the gray matter loss, with each year of fibromyalgia being equivalent to 9.5 times the loss seen in normal aging”. McGill University Center for Research, from The Journal of Neuroscience
- Do acidic foods upset your stomach?
- Do you get chilled easily?
- Are your hands and feet cold and clammy?
- Do you find it difficult to relax?
- Do you gag easily or frequently have a 'lump' in your throat?
- Are you startled easily?
- Does your pulse race after you eat --- particularly if you eat carbohydrates?
- Do you find yourself sick often, yet heal slowly?
- Are you sensitive to bright lights?
- Do you have digestive problems?
- Do you struggle with an array of pains that doctors have characterized as 'Neuralgia'?
If you can answer "yes" to very many of these questions, you may well be living in a state of Sympathetic Dominance. Allow me to explain.
We live in a pedal-to-the-metal, maximum overdrive society. It seems that we are always under deadlines and running behind. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all we need to do. And then we tend to crash in front of the TV for several hours every evening. On top of that, despite spending more dollars on healthcare than any nation on the planet, we are one of the most chronically ill societies the world has ever seen --- and it's getting worse with every passing generation (HERE). If you want to begin to nip your emotional and health problems in the bud, you'll have to have at least a cursory understanding of the Nervous System.
In a very over-simplified explanation, the Nervous System is made up of three parts. There is the ENTERIC SYSTEM, which is what is frequently referred to as the BRAIN / GUT. Then you have the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System. These two parts of the Nervous System are antagonistic to each other, and are always trying to influence your body in opposite directions. Pay attention.
- THE SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: This is your "fight or flight" system (your adenergic or adrenaline-based / epinepherine-based system ---- also known as the Sympathetic-Adrenal Response). It is your Sympathetic Nervous System that makes your heart race when the phone rings at 3:00 am. Or if a car pulls out in front of you and you have to jam on your brakes. Or while you are waiting to find out why the boss wanted to see you in his office at 5:00 on Friday afternoon. It is also the Sympathetic Nervous System that stimulates your Adrenal Glands to action. Other things associated with Sympathetic Response includes things like increased heart rate and contraction of vessels, sweating, dilated pupils, dilated lung passages, and orgasm.
- THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system works in an opposite manner. It is often referred to as the "rest-and-digest" or "feed and breed" part of the nervous system. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for things like digestion, sexual arousal, and activities associated with using the toilet (peristalsis --- the movement of food through the digestive tract).
Let me give you a "real life" example of how these two systems work together to help you survive and thrive. You are out hunting deer in the Mark Twain National Forest. You ate a nice breakfast of farm eggs and homemade beef sausage a couple of hours ago, and now you feel satisfied --- rested --- almost drowsy while sitting in your tree stand. You are in a state of being that is heavily weighted toward Parasympathetic Control.
All of a sudden, you hear a crashing through the underbrush. The next thing you know, you are staring at a 10 foot tall Sasquatch from about 20 yards away. Your Sympathetic Nervous System goes into overdrive and stimulates your Adrenal Gland to dump a boatload of epinephrine into your blood stream. As the switch from Parasympathetic to Sympathetic occurs, your sphincters relax (you wet and soil yourself), your digestion comes to an almost instant halt as blood supply is shunted away from your digestive organs to your legs --- so that you can run if you need to, the passageways to your lungs open up, and your heart goes into high gear to supply the blood necessary to run like the wind.
Now; stop and imagine that something similar to this is your normal state of being. Although this example was quite radical, the truth is that a huge percentage of the American population is living in some degree of Sympathetic Dominance. Due to stress, whether physical, emotional, psychological, dietary, etc, the Sympathetics are being stimulated and the Adrenal Glands are firing ---- almost non-stop. These people tend to live in a state of stress, fear, worry, anger, and resentment. Think it through. What are some of the classic signs of Sympathetic Dominance? Lets see if we can name just a few, using the picture at the top of the page, as well as the bullet points above.
Firstly, your food is going to move very slowly through your digestive tract. This means that not only is your digestion going to stink, you are likely to end up constipated as well (as the body tries to compensate, you get the wild swings to diarrhea that are seen with IBS). Because the digestive tract is not secreting well, you get a diminished amount of stomach acid present (as crazy as it sounds, this is one of the major causes of all sorts of DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS). You find your LIBIDO IS DROOPING, you have HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, and Chronic Pain ---- your Adrenal Glands are so overworked that they are going into ADRENAL FATIGUE. Oh, let's throw insomnia in there now as well. Some of the other commonly seen symptoms of Sympathetic Dominance includes things like....
- MIGRAINE HEADACHES: HERE is a good link. Be aware that while many chronic Migraine sufferers are Sympathetic Dominant, many of these are the result of SCAR TISSUE.
- ADD / ADHD / DEPRESSION / ANXIETY / FORGETFULNESS / BRAIN FOG: HERE and HERE are a couple of good links.
- DRY SKIN / DRY EYES / DRY MOUTH:
- BLADDER INFECTIONS / UTI'S:
- CHRONIC PAIN: HERE
THE SOLUTION TO SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
Dealing with these two factors is going to solve most cases of Sympathetic Dominance. However, if these steps do not work, make an appointment with a FUNCTIONAL NEUROLOGIST trained by Dr. Ted Carrick. If your problem is BRAIN BASED, this approach is a must. Since I have been doing Mineral Hair Analysis for about 15 years, HERE is a link on Sympathetic Dominance from that approach as well. To see my other posts on Sympathetic Dominance, HERE, HERE and HERE are the links.
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).
Brain Based Therapy
Can You Help
Cardio Or Strength
Cold Laser Therapy
Death By Medicine
Degenerative Joint Disease
D's Of Chronic Pain
Evidence Based Medicine
Gluten Cross Reactivity
Ice Or Heat
Jacks Fork River
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Number One Health Problem
Platelet Rich Therapy
Post Surgical Scarring
Re Invent Yourself
Rib And Chest Pain
Scar Tissue Removal
Sleeping Pills Kill
Stay Or Go
Stretching Post Treatment
Tensegrity And Fascia
The Big Four
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Whole Body Vibration