The politics of pain...

April 3, 2015


An article published in Daily Science recently, describes how a mechanism that is responsible for the chronification of pain in the brain has been discovered by researchers, possibly pointing to new strategies for the medical treatment of chronic pain. In summary the researchers note that "The constant perception of pain severely influences the quality of life of the patients and represents an extraordinary emotional burden." The research published in Neuron explains how Nevian and Santello investigated the modification of neurons by chronic pain in a brain region called Gyrus Cinguli, which is associated with the emotional aspects of pain. In this context the establishment of a "pain memory" plays an important role, as Thomas Nevian explains. "The neurons are constantly activated by a noxious stimulus, thus building a memory trace for pain that becomes irreversible. Our idea was to understand this mechanism better to derive potential new treatment strategies."


This reminded me of comments by the late Dr Milton Erickson one of the founders of modern therapeutic uses of Hypnotherapy. He argued, and this was in the 1950's and 60's, that in chronic pain only about one third of the 'experience' of pain was actual pain.  He believed one third was 'remembered pain' and the other third was fear of future pain. In other words the majority of the experience was emotional rather than physical. Thus using hypno-therapeutic approaches one could significantly relieve the suffering of those experiencing chronic pain.  Indeed this has been borne out repeatedly in research on the therapeutic uses of hypnosis in managing chronic pain (some research is listed below).


This article interested me because the default response to the findings is to develop new, no doubt very expensive, pharmaceutical treatments for chronic pain which will undoubtedly benefit many patients but will also create great wealth for pharmaceutical companies and increase the growing burden on our already massively costly NHS.  There may also be a new market for additional drugs to counteract the side effects of these new ones!! When you review the massive amount of literature on the successful uses of alternative, drug free, treatments for conditions such as chronic pain does it not surprise you that these are not routinely offered by GP's? 


Reflections on issues like this remind me how political our health service is, how dominated by powerful private companies it is and how in reality much of our personal health care is profit driven, not just by the drugs we pay to use but by the treatments that aren't progressed because there is not deemed to be sufficient market to make it worthwhile.


Have a look at the following and see what you think.


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