How does pain affect relationships?

Chronic painful conditions are uncomfortable episodes that last beyond an expected period of illness or injury. A person experiences faulty signals via the central nervous system that can last days, weeks, or months past an initial injury. Chronic painful conditions lead to a chronic stress reaction that increases both blood pressure and heart rate. This stressful reaction leads to harmful health effects, such as the reduced ability to fight off illness and infection. It can also increase the risk of development of certain conditions such as heart disease. Physical effects include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Inability to move about freely
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite

Emotional effects include:

  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of re-occurrence

Over one in five people suffers from chronic pain that interferes with quality of life, and the burden of this discomfort has long reaching implications. Although a number of drugs on the market can provide temporary relief, the side-effects, issues with tolerance, and rising rates of addiction are forcing scientists and doctors alike to look for alternatives to pain management.

 How the brain thinks during chronic painful conditions

 An instance of acute trauma can actually alter perception and anticipation of future discomfort; this psychosomatic thought process acts as self fulfilling prophecy as person grow to believe that this is the state they must live in. Emotional response, mood, and thinking are all affected as the patient struggles to either come to terms with their reality or seeks comfort and freedom from the condition. This challenge for developing management alternatives has led scientists to begin studying the brain and its role in processing pain for additional answers. What they are uncovering is a clear link to two areas of the brain that process this type of information—their thalamus and the prefrontal cortex. 


 The thalamus sits at the base of the brain and acts as a gateway between it and the spinal cord. Upon the onset of an injury or an occurrence of acute pain, this gateway remains open as the body attempts to process information and receive answers about healing and treatment in the most efficient way possible. If acute conditions become chronic, it is observed that this gateway remains open and makes the entire body and nervous system hypersensitive to stimulation, thereby exacerbating the problem.

 How the prefrontal cortex and mood are affected

 In people experiencing chronic conditions, the prefrontal cortex actually decreases in volume and its ability to function. This is the region of the brain that regulates mood and emotion—in its normal state, it regulates emotional responses appropriately, allows for personality expression and gives cues with regard to what expected social norms are. When chronic painful conditions are present, mood swings can cause issues in both personal and professional life. Due to ongoing discomfort, every emotion and cognition are greatly amplified. People with ongoing pain experience more fear and worry than those who are considered “healthy”, and the prefrontal cortex does not have the capacity to subdue these feelings and regulate mood. It is not uncommon for those who experience chronic painful conditions to entertain suicidal thoughts; between unpredictable mood swings, a hypersensitive central nervous system, and lack of validation from family and friends who cannot “see” their condition, it can sometimes be too much to bear. Because of ongoing trauma in the brain, the way that cells communicate with each other actually becomes damaged. Using a process of “re-writing” and neuro feedback, scientists are now working to change the way that cells talk to each other and rewrite painful memories. 

Perception influences pain

 Just as the brain becomes damaged through the experience of chronic painful conditions, it can also be reconditioned to perceive the experience of discomfort relatively easily, given the right stimuli. Quite often, people with chronic conditions have a faulty perception of both the size of their body parts and their perception of touch, indicating that there is a disconnect with location-specific information processing. There are now a series of clinical trials being done using virtual reality tools and verbal feedback from doctors that changes the way patients perceive their experience. Repeated conditioning and positive feedback have changed sensory perception and thus, the patient’s perception of their own body and of their condition. Treatments have now taken on a multi-sensory nature, and it is being proven quite effective at reducing and, in some cases, eliminating the experience of chronic pain altogether.

 How to talk about chronic painful conditions

 Quite often, those who experience chronic painful conditions share their discomfort with those around them. Partners who offer expressions of support and assistance will find that these behaviours will increase, while those who do not give support to this behavior will find that the relationship suffers when the affected person refuses to share their experience with them. Mood swings may grow increasingly more erratic and unpredictable, doing damage to the relationship. While it is important to know when a partner is experiencing discomfort, finding other things to discuss and other things to focus on will help to diffuse some of the potential for unhealthy behaviours to develop. 

The light at the end of the tunnel

 With innovative technologies, new information about nutrition, and groundbreaking studies being done on the effect of chronic painful conditions on the brain, we now have the tools and knowledge to provide relief, if not remission, for millions of people. 

Invest in yourself, invest in your wellness, and seek support that brings you to that better place. Here’s to your best health!

Food For Pain

Long before recorded history, food has been used as a natural method for pain control or relief and elimination of inflammation.

The difference between our ancestors and us is that we have the research to teach us the causes of pain and what to do to alleviate it. Let’s examine pain, and then we’ll move on to the foods that help.

It seems that several factors can affect how you interpret pain:

  • emotional and psychological state;
  • memories of previous pain;
  • upbringing;
  • expectations of and attitudes towards pain;
  • beliefs and values;
  • age;
  • sex; and
  • social and cultural influences.

Hence the experience of pain differs from person to person.

Pain And The Immune System

When they body is injured, receptors at the injury site send pain signals through the nervous system to the brain. The brain then sends repair orders back to the site of the injury via the nervous system. From where does the repair come?

The immune system is a silent partner to the nervous system. Only when the nerves transmit their message through neurotransmitters does the immune system go to work.

First Stage Of Healing

The immune system rushes platelets to the injury site to facilitate clotting. These platelets also cover the injury in what is commonly known as a scab. The platelets also call on other immune cells to initiate the inflammatory stage of healing.


The swelling around a wound is the outward sign of inward cells working to heal the wound. Cells pack around the wound, carrying off bacteria and other outside threats to the injury. The second thing these cells do is build the foundation for repair of damaged tissues.


The third thing the immune cells do is rebuild the actual skin. They’ve already repaired the tissues beneath the wound. Now they move to rebuild the skin beneath the scab. This is completed when the scab falls off the wound. What about pain, though?

Without getting too technical, the whole body is a mass of nerve endings. When the injury occurred, the nerves involved began screaming to the brain. The brain has a choice: it can rush help to the injury or, if it’s concentrating on something important at the time, it can mute the screams until such time as it’s able to consider the injury.

At the same time this is happening, the muscles of the body have registered an impact. They tighten up which often exacerbates the pain. The most common type of pain is acute, and it disappears as the wound heals.

Chronic pain, however, is when pain continues after the injury has healed. Arthritis in its many forms is the most common example of this.

Food As Medicine

Science has become increasingly aware of the health disadvantages of prepared and pre-packaged foods such as “just add water” meals, or “heat and eat” meals.

The colourings, preservatives, and processed sugars and flours included in these processed fare aren’t natural. Therefore, they aren’t processed in the body like fresh, organic food. In order to control or alleviate pain and inflammation, stick with natural and eschew anything in a box or a can.

Acidic Foods

Controlling or eliminating pain and inflammation is also about eating the right meals, herbs, and spices.

Anti-Inflammatory Through Good Fats

Healthy fats are vital to the body due to the fact that the brain and organs are made of fat. There’s no need to go into monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. Just remember to use virgin or extra virgin olive oil, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil, avocado, or sesame oil. These are natural and do not contain added gases to extend shelf life or form trans fats.

Healthy fats from food are just as important. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, herring, and trout are incredible anti-inflammatories. A great resource is the


Drink to thrist

Pain Relief Right In The Kitchen

Natural pain relievers in the kitchen include turmeric, ginger, hot peppers, and cherries. Ginger and turmeric are sprinkled over most any food you’re cooking including bacon and eggs. Turmeric contains curcumin, the main ingredient in curry.

Both spices block pain signals to the brain and ease your discomfort. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a potent heat rub for achy joints. Cherries ease arthritis pain and gout the same way.

Pain Relief Through Fresh Fruits And Veggies

In most cases, when you’re using fresh fruits and vegetables for natural pain and inflammation relief, you have to remember that you can’t just bite into a red Bell pepper and expect the pain to evaporate. Combining herbs and spices with fresh fruits and veggies dishes along with exercise and plenty of fresh air and sleep all combine to help ease pain.

With that said, it’s the components in the fruit or vegetable that blocks pain signals to the brain or keeps inflammation from forming or getting worse.

It’s the phytonutrients as well as the vitamins and minerals in brightly coloured fruits and veggies like strawberries, blueberries, red grapes, carrots, and bright green leafy veggies like broccoli, kale, and asparagus that stop pain in its tracks. Obviously the best food is grown without harmful pesticide and herbicides.Also grown sustainably.

Other Natural Pain Relief

Not only food fights pain and inflammation, but other organic means as well such as soaking in a warm tub with epsom salts. The magnesium soothes achy joints and muscles. Add a few drops of peppermint, tea tree, or lavender essential oils, and you have a soothing, healing bath.

Using a cup of extra virgin coconut oil mixed with about ten to fifteen drops of eucalyptus, rosemary, clary sage, or rosehips essential oils, rub the mixture into the painful area. You can combine the essential oils in any combination that smells and feels good to you. Doing this twice or three times per day should make you feel better.

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