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Everyone strays; everyone tries to avoid pain instead of learning from it; everyone has ways of escaping anxiety that aren’t productive. At its best, wellness offers habits and practices around which to build a community that will help you feel whole, or at least distract from the sense of inadequacy that drives people to self-injurious behavior—whether it be substance abuse or gambling or mistreating others or spending three hours a day on Instagram despite knowing it makes us feel bad.
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.
Chronic pain creates several vicious cycles. For one, people tend to tense their muscles in response to pain, which often makes the pain worse. Pain also leads people to stop moving, which leads to increasing stiffness and more pain. Pain can interfere with sleep, and restless nights can increase pain. Pain also can contribute to depression and painful emotions such as anger, grief, fear, and frustration, which in turn contribute to pain.
The NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and Kidney Diseases says it, “currently supports studies that are working toward obtaining FDA licensure to reclassify islet allo-transplantation as therapeutic. In other countries, such as Canada and Scandinavia, islet allo-transplantation is no longer considered experimental and is an accepted therapy in certain patients.” It adds that “Some patient advocates and islet researchers feel that islet allo-transplantation is close to having a therapeutic label.”