Category Archives: Pain Management Blog

Chalkboard inflammation pain scale

Inflammation and You: What it is, And How to Stop It

Systemic inflammation sounds like something you’d notice right off, but it isn’t. Our bodies are inflamed almost all the time to some degree. This is part of how we fight infections and keep our inner workings in balance. However, a poor diet, obesity, stress, and other internal and external factors can elevate the body’s inflammatory response, leaving it in constant overdrive.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is part of our body’s natural response to things like stress, germs, and physical and emotional pressure. If you’ve ever had an accident that caused swelling and bruising, then you’ve seen inflammation at work. In many ways, inflammation is beneficial since the process tells the body that it’s time for the immune system to kick in and begin repairing the damage. This type of acute inflammation typically resolves within a few days. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, happens when we are continually exposed to stimuli. Many healthcare professionals, including Dr. David Jockers of Exodus Health Center, believe that chronic, systemic, low-grade inflammation is the root of most diseases.

Long-term consequences of systemic inflammation include the loss of mobility, cognitive decline, abnormal cell growth, and compromised digestive function. An inflamed gut is often a byproduct of the standard American diet, which includes an overabundance of unhealthy foods and tends to prioritize eating for convenience. An imbalanced diet can wreak havoc on the gut microbiota, which is comprised of bacteria and other non-human cells and is related to digestion, emotional health, and the immune system.

A Natural Approach

One of the simplest ways to beat acute inflammation is to take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. However, this is not effective against widespread inflammation. Lifestyle changes can reduce internal irritation naturally and lead to overall better health.

Since inflammation is brought on in part by toxicity in the body, increasing your fluid intake can flush these toxins and may help lessen pain. Similarly, focusing on foods that fight inflammation can help you reduce your body’s response. Harvard University lists strawberries, salmon, walnuts, spinach, and tomatoes as some of the most effective anti-inflammatory foods. Processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods contribute to the issue. Taking a probiotic and eating fermented and prebiotic foods further assist in boosting gut health, which can help lower overall inflammation since the gut is linked to all systems.

In addition to what you put into your body, what you get out of your body can also affect your inflammation levels. Exercise, which can trigger an acute response, is essential in reducing body-wide issues, including inflammation. Many healthcare professionals recommend periodic movement throughout the day, often citing that it’s best to get up from a seated position at least once every hour for 10 minutes. In addition to this constant movement, a regular exercise routine can ward off inflammation, increase muscle strength, and encourage weight loss. Exercise can also help us manage stress, which is another contributing factor to inflammation.

The effects of inflammation are widespread. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, you may feel fatigued, irritable, and emotionally drained. However, these issues may be attributed to other health conditions as well. There are tests available that can help identify inflammation, including C-reactive protein and Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate) screenings.

Inflammation inhibits your body’s ability to heal properly and may trigger more serious health concerns that are much harder to manage. By paying attention to your gut (which is where inflammation often starts), exercising, and taking steps to reduce stress, you may be able to manage inflammation without medical intervention. These types of activities are part of an overall healthy lifestyle and can help you look and feel your best 100 percent of the time.

Image Via Pixabay

Erasing Chronic Pain?

Research by Yves De Koninck and Robert Bonin at Laval University in Quebec exploits the similarities between memory formation and chronic pain in the nervous system and comes up with a possible way to “erase” chronic pain.

Let’s say that you accidentally prick your finger. Current thinking about the way that your body perceives the pain goes something like this: When the nerve cell in your finger senses the painful stimulus (the prick), it transmits an electrical signal along its length toward your spinal cord which will carry that message to your brain. But the nerve cells in the spinal cord aren’t continuous; there are small gaps (synapses) between them that the electrical signal can’t travel across. To transmit their messages onward, nerve cells employ a chemical messenger that carries the signal across the gap, from one cell to the next.

Usually, the pain from a pricked finger doesn’t last long, but that’s not the case for some chronic pain patients. Because chronic pain is pain that doesn’t turn off when it should, chronic pain patients can suffer from extra and longer-lasting sensitivity (hyperalgesia) to what in other people would be just a pricked finger.

Research published by Yves De Koninck and Robert Bonin of Laval University offers a hope for breaking the cycle of chronic neuropathic pain.  It does this by exploiting the similarity between the ways that memory and pain work.

Although memory formation occurs in the brain, not spinal cord, the mechanisms at play have much in common with pain perception.  It’s widely accepted that the transmission of nerve signals across synapses in the brain strengthens the connection between nerve cells and results in memory formation.  Research done on mice has shown that disrupting the chemical mechanism that allows nerve cells to communicate during memory formation prevents memories from forming.  More recently, researchers at NYU discovered that the same technique not only prevents new memories, it can actually be used to erase old memories.  Usually when a memory is recalled, it is strengthened.  But the NYU researchers found that if the drug anisomycin, which blocks the synthesis of certain proteins, is given when a memory is recalled, the memory is erased instead.

In their paper “A spinal analog of memory reconsolidation enables reversal of hyperalgesia” (Nature Neuroscience, July 2014), De Koninck and Bonin reveal that this trick can also work to erase pain, at least in mice. Mice were given an injection of the drug capsaicin in their paws and experienced increased sensitivity to pain for hours.  (Capsaicin, which is derived from chili peppers, causes the sensation of pain without cell damage.)  But when the mice were given a second injection of capsaicin, this time accompanied by anisomycin, their increased susceptibility to pain decreased by 70%.  So by accompanying a repeat painful experience with the addition of anisomycin, De Koninck and Bonin actually caused the mice to feel less pain instead of more.

Of course it’s very early to begin to talk about how these results could translate to treatment for humans, but they do open new avenues for drug research and a distant hope for the treatment hyperalgesia.

This blog post owes much to the excellent article “Teaching the Nervous System to Forget Chronic Pain” by Eleanor Nelsen (see

Pain Management Blog

Sereno Pain Management Medical Group was founded to provide expert medical and psychological pain care in a calming and professional atmosphere. We try to schedule your appointments with your convenience in mind, and you will not be rushed through your visits. We offer comprehensive diagnostics and access to emerging technology and pharmaceuticals, in conjunction with psychological support. Our team of expert pain clinicians looks forward to forming a partnership with you to discover a life not controlled by pain.