Understanding the Gate Control Theory of Chronic Pain

Chronic back pain can be difficult to diagnose and treat, particularly when chiropractors are looking for a specific underlying problem to solve. In reality, pain is often much more complex and can be affected by a number of external and internal factors.

One of the major ways today’s chiropractors assess chronic pain and make treatment recommendations is through an understanding of the Gate Control Theory of pain. Developed in the 1960s by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wal, this theory takes into account the roles that both the body and mind play in regard to pain and how it is processed.

At Ideal Spine, a fundamental understanding of how the brain communicates with the body and how pain is processed lies at the heart of how we develop treatment plans for patients.

Gate Control Theory explained

Essentially, Gate Control Theory explains that pain messages travel through the body up to the spinal cord and brain. Before these pain messages can reach the brain, they must travel through “gates” in the spinal cord that allow some messages to get through and block other messages. A number of different factors can influence whether the gates allow pain messages through or not, which results in different forms of pain for every individual, particularly when it comes to chronic pain.

How pain messages are transferred

The nervous system, which sends sensory and pain messages to be processed by the brain, is made of two major structures:

  • The central nervous system, comprising the spinal cord and brain.
  • The peripheral nervous system, comprising nerves in extremities that connect to the spinal cord and brain.

When someone gets hurt, the damaged tissues in the injury containing peripheral nerves transmit pain signals through the peripheral nervous system up to the spinal cord and the brain. In the theory, before the pain messages can reach the brain, they approach the nerve gates, which may open or closed based on different factors.

The basic understanding of these gates is that open gates allow pain messages through, resulting in experienced pain. Closed gates might mute or prevent pain messages entirely, resulting in the person experiencing little or no pain.

Factors controlling nerve gates

There are a number of factors that might alter whether the nerve gates open or close for different pain messages. Factors may include the intensity of the pain message, other “competing” sensory signals, like touch, or brain signals indicating whether the nerve gates should prioritize certain pain messages.

The theory states these brain signals can potentially alter some pain messages, resulting in a different level of pain each time. Sensory, cognitive, and emotional factors occurring within the brain can change the way a pain message is processed.

For example, sensory factors like injury, cognitive factors like focusing on the pain, and emotion factors like anxiety or depression can trigger the nerve gates to open and actually make the pain worse. On the other hand, pain medication, cognitive distractions, and positive attitudes can help nerve gates remain closed or minimize the effects of pain.

Essentially, Gate Control Theory states that the experience of pain may change as different types of information are processed in the brain.

How Gate Control Theory relates to chronic pain

While both acute pain and chronic pain play a role in the Gate Control Theory, experts have used the theory to better understand the complexities and contributing factors of chronic pain, in particular.

The theory has helped some chiropractor explain why certain treatments, like acupuncture, are effective in reducing chronic pain symptoms. By understanding the concepts of competing sensory messages, contributing factors in nerve gate opening, and the roles both mind and body play in pain reception, Ideal Spine chiropractors may be able to better treat their patients with chronic pain. All of this expertise, combined with a tailored Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) adjustment schedule, can unlock personalized results for each  patient’s  unique type of pain.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See www.CBPpatient.com for providers in your area.

Chiropractic is Well-Suited to Combat Fibromyalgia’s Myriad Symptoms

Are you someone who experiences intense, tingling pain in multiple areas of the body, combined with trouble sleeping and focusing? If so, you may be suffering from a troublesome chronic disorder called fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia causes widespread musculoskeletal pain in both sides, top, and bottom of the body, and can be horrible to live with. Many fibromyalgia patients experience various other symptoms such as cognitive difficulty, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and headaches. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder; however, there are ways to treat it to minimize pain.

One course of treatment that more fibromyalgia patients are turning to is chiropractic care, which has been shown to improve symptoms in some individuals. At Ideal Spine, we help patients discover the healing powers of spinal manipulation and re-alignment to find relief.

Understanding fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complicated disorder that is mainly categorized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tingling sensations. It is typically accompanied by intense fatigue and other sleeping disorders, as well as cognitive difficulties. Some fibromyalgia patients may also experience other symptoms like headaches, IBS, and TMJ.

The cause of fibromyalgia is difficult to pinpoint, which is why it is so difficult to treat and remedy. Often, fibromyalgia patients develop symptoms due to physical or emotional trauma, infections, or genetics. The disorder is also much more common in women. Experts believe that repeated nerve stimulations change the way the brain processes pain signals, making it more sensitive, resulting in the pain fibromyalgia causes.

Spinal manipulations may help

Because there is no cure, most fibromyalgia patients must find a treatment plan that helps minimize their pain and treat underlying symptoms of the disorder. Medications are a common form of treatment but are typically a “quick fix” for pain. Symptoms may also be eased with stress-reduction, massage therapy, and physical therapy exercises.

In the world of chiropractic care, more and more experts are seeing fibromyalgia patients visiting their offices due to the belief that chiropractic manipulations and compression can help. In fact, numerous studies have suggested that patients suffering from fibromyalgia can benefit from chiropractic manipulations and muscle compression treatments.

But how does it work? One of the major specialties and benefits of chiropractic treatment is its positive effect on the body’s central nervous system. If the vertebrae of the spine are misaligned (called vertebral subluxations), they have the potential to irritate the nerves exiting the spine and traveling through the body. Some experts believe this consistent nerve irritation may cause fibromyalgia symptoms in some patients.

Through gentle manipulations and compression of the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors can re-align the vertebrae, potentially relieving the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia. Your chiropractor may also provide a few helpful exercises and stretches you can to strengthen the muscles around your spine, keep you aligned, and alleviate symptoms further.

Ideal Spine uses the Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) method of care to help chiropractors serve patients to the fullest extent possible. Visit a CBP trained chiropractor to see what course of treatment they can provide to help minimize your pain.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See www.CBPpatient.com for providers in your area.

Facing Facts: How to Properly Manage Incurable Chronic Pain

Everybody experiences pain. Most sources of pain are easy to identify and cure, and the symptoms typically go away in a short amount of time. Some types of pain, though, aren’t as easy to get rid of.

Chronic pain, or pain lasting more than six months, affects millions of people, sometimes for years on end. This type of pain is not always able to be cured, meaning that pain management is the only option for relief. People with chronic pain usually experience minor discomfort on their best days with occasional, intensely painful flare-ups that can be worsened by extra movement, stress and other triggers.

At Ideal Spine, we know that living in pain can take a toll on your life—constant feelings of discomfort limit your ability to do what you love and live a happy, healthy life. For our patients in Meridian, ID suffering from incurable chronic pain due to disc degeneration, arthritis and other back problems, we strive to provide solutions to keep you active and healthy through the pain.

In order to find some relief from chronic pain, you may need to be open to a wide number of strategies to find one, two or a combination of treatments that work for your body. Managing incurable chronic pain will take a treatment plan for both your body and your mind.

Treating the body

People with chronic pain may or may not know the source of their pain, which can make it difficult to cure or even treat. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of pain management treatments available.

Some techniques may be applicable at-home, including hot and cold therapy, exercise, and yoga. Others may require routine visits to doctors or specialists; for example, for steroid injections, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic.

Chiropractic care for chronic pain is a particularly useful treatment method because of its holistic approach to bodily wellness. Multiple techniques may be used, including spinal decompression and manipulation to re-align the spine, joints and tissues to promote better mobility and comfort. Chiropractors can also walk you through exercises and stretches that can improve mobility, aid in the decreasing of inflammation, and strengthen the muscles around the spine to help stabilize it and reduce pain symptoms.

Treating the mind

Beyond creating a treatment plan for physical pain management techniques, you will need to learn how to cope with pain mentally and emotionally. Incurable chronic pain is often made worse by stress and can cause depression. This can sometimes lead to a vicious cycle in chronic pain patients – the stress of living with pain each day makes pain worse, which causes more stress, and so on.

Mental focus and manipulation can help control chronic pain. Numerous theories of pain have suggested the mind plays a major role in the processing of pain. This is why, if you tend to focus on your pain, it usually ends up feeling worse. With practice, you can learn how to control and minimize the feelings of pain to get you through both the minor discomfort and some of the more intense pain days.

Techniques such as yoga, meditation and imagery control can help center your focus on things other than your source of pain, like your breathing, an external place or object, or another part of the body that is not painful.

Additionally, finding external support is a crucial component of managing pain, particularly for days when pain is intense. Find a network of supportive people, whether it is within your family, friend group, or other chronic pain patients.

Experience pain less

Ideal Spine uses the Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) method of care to help chiropractors serve patients to the fullest extent possible. If you suffer from incurable chronic pain and are seeking an effective method of relief, visit a CBP trained chiropractor and ask if spinal manipulations could help treat your pain.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See www.CBPpatient.com for providers in your area.

Teaching Patients Anatomical Terminology for Better Communication

The human body is extremely complex, to the point that most people do not know the scientific terms for their body parts. When it comes to the spine, in particular, the web of bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments can be difficult to understand. As a chiropractor, you can help your patients better understand their ailments and what you are doing to help them by explaining the basics of anatomical terminology.

At Ideal Spine, we understand effective communication is a major part of Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP). When it comes to handling patients with histories of chronic or severe pain, trust is not always easy to gain.

To make this easier, chiropractors can use both plain language and anatomical terminology to explain what is involved in a chiropractic adjustment and what it will ideally do for the body. Your patients do not need a full lesson on human anatomy, but rather a basic understanding of the spine and its elements. Explaining these parts in a way they can understand can help mitigate fear and create stronger relationships between chiropractor and patient.

Important elements of spinal anatomy

When working with patients, explain the basics of the spine in terms of building blocks –  the smaller elements that form larger sections of the spine and beyond. Here are some important things you may want to communicate.

  • Vertebrae: Explain to your patients that the spine comprises a series of vertebrae, or pieces of bone. From there, you can explain the different vertebral sections of the spine, including the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine and help them identify the area that is causing them the most pain.
  • Spinal segments: Communicate the three main components of each spinal segment: the vertebral body, or bone; the disc, made of cartilage; and the facet joints. Then, explain that “segments” of the spine are named for the upper and lower vertebrae within them.
  • Nerves and spinal cord: Most people know the spinal cord runs down the length of the back and is protected by the vertebrae. However, they don’t usually know that the nerves branch out from the lumbar spine and extend through the body. Also explain that these nerves can cause pain in the back and other areas of the body if they are compressed at the point at which they exit the spinal column.
  • Common causes of pain: Finally, explain to your patient some of the common causes of pain in the back and legs in scientific and layman’s terms. These may include disc degeneration, when the cartilage between vertebrae degenerates, and disc herniation, when part of the disc leaks out beyond the vertebrae and irritates a nearby nerve, as well as others located in their area of pain.

Ideally, by communicating anatomical terms to your patients, you will be able to build better trust and understanding so your patient feels more secure in your care. At Ideal Spine, we use communication in combination with Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) to make patients feel safe, secure and healthy before, during, and after a chiropractic adjustment.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See www.CBPpatient.com for providers in your area.