Anything that makes nerves more sensitive can increase pain. Feelings of stress, fear, helplessness, or anger can increase pain sensitivity. Trauma — such as a physical injury or psychological or sexual abuse — often leads to chronic pain later on. In a study of people with traumatic injuries conducted by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, nearly 63% had severe pain one year later. It may be that trauma causes nerves to become oversensitive as a way of trying to prevent further injury. This may be why military veterans have the highest rates of chronic pain.
Acute pain is a lifesaver. Without it, we would have to watch out all the time to keep from injuring or killing ourselves accidentally. This is why people with diabetes are advised to check their feet visually or manually every day: If a person has peripheral neuropathy, particularly if it causes numbness in his feet, the acute pain nerves in his feet may not be working, and if they aren’t, they can’t warn him about injuries or other, normally painful foot problems.
The same thing applies to the chronic back and leg pain so many people have. There may be a few pain signals coming up from tired muscles or joints toward the brain. Those signals go through nerve centers called “pain gates.” Those “gates” are where the signals are mixed with other sense data, feelings, and body states such as tension. In people with chronic pain, the gates amplify the signals over and over until the pain is severe. They do this because the brain thinks the person needs to be warned away from a real threat, such as taking a hand out of the fire so it doesn’t burn.
Dr. Steven Lin is a dentist who focusses on the mouth-body connection. Through ancestral nutrition, the oral and gut microbiome, and epigenetics, his programs aim to prevent chronic dental and systemic disease. His book 'The Dental Diet', will be released on January 18'. To receive free updates on functional oral health from Dr. Lin, subscribe to his newsletter below.
Each month, ASDA issues a Wellness Challenge that asks you to change your behavior in a way that will positively affect your wellness. Each challenge varies in length and activity, but the goal is the same: to get you paying more attention to your well-being and developing good wellness habits. Each challenge will target one (or more) of ASDA’s five dimensions of wellness: emotional, physical, intellectual, occupational and environmental. December's challenge: Brainy expedition. Learn what it takes now.
Electrical stimulation can sometimes block pain signals from traveling up the nerves. The most commonly used system is called TENS, which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. TENS works by sending electrical pulses across the surface of the skin into the nerves. The stimulating pulses help prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. They also help stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural painkillers, called endorphins.
An unbalanced microbiome composition, known as dysbiosis, has been found in patients with diabetes, for whom the diversity of the gut microbiome is often reduced as compared to healthy people. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently showed that fecal transplants, used to transfer the microbiome of a healthy person to the gut of one with diabetes, can result in a short-term improvement of the insulin resistance found in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
Several studies show laughter is among the best medicines for pain. In Japanese studies of arthritis, people who watched a humorous show reduced their pain by more than 50% for as long as 12 hours. You can watch funny videos or read humorous writing, watch kids or puppies play, or do whatever it takes to make you laugh. You can also laugh for no reason at all. The effect seems to be the same.
One of the most advanced alternatives comes from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in the US, which is developing a bioengineered mini-organ where insulin-producing cells are encapsulated within a protective barrier. Two years ago, the DRI announced that the first patient treated in an ongoing Phase I/II trial no longer requires insulin therapy.
As a global network of medical research charities, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is driving research into new treatments that present tremendous opportunities to deliver enhanced health and wellbeing for people with type-1 diabetes. The technology I am currently most enthused about is glucose responsive insulin, which I think is going to transform how people treat and live with type 1 in the future.