Pain Science

Chronic pain & the brain

All Pain is in the Brain

All pain is processed in the brain – 100% of the time. YES, your pain is real. NO, it’s not “all in your head.”

Pain is experienced in the brain and it isn’t possible to feel it until the brain perceives it.

For example, when you accidentally touch a hot stove, the nerves in your hand are triggered by the injury and send a signal of DANGER to the spinal cord and up to the brain. Only once the brain processes the signal do you feel the seering burn and take your finger off the stove as fast as you can!

Chronic Pain is an Error Signal

Pain is intended to be protective. The existence of pain has evolutionarily served to help us survive. It’s how we know not to touch hot things (like the stove) that can cause damage to our bodies. However, unlike acute pain that occurs right after an injury, chronic pain is a system malfunction that serves no purpose.

How does this malfunction arise? It’s similar to how once we learn how to ride a bike, we don’t forget it.  When we live with sustained chronic pain, our brains become accustomed to that pain and learn to maintain its signals. The resulting pain cycle is an unhelpful feedback loop that is difficult to break. This ability of the brain to efficiently adapt and learn is the concept of neuroplasticity.

Targeting the Brain to "Unlearn" Pain

Traditional pain management generally treats acute and chronic pain similarly with injections, surgeries, and opioids. But research has shown that acute pain and chronic pain are entirely different diseases that are processed in separate parts of the brain. When pain becomes chronic, it becomes ingrained in the brain and is no longer caused directly by a bodily injury.

The standard of pain care has failed chronic pain patients by treating their pain as a “body-part” problem with “body-part” solutions, rather than treating the root cause: the brain.

In a randomized clinical trial, 66% of patients who underwent a pain neuroscience-based therapeutic program were pain free at the end of their treatment compared to only 10% who were treated with traditional approaches.

Just as the brain can learn how to be in pain, it can also unlearn pain. Override helps guide you through that process of retraining the brain to take control of your symptoms.

Applying pain science with the Override App

The Override App combines the latest in pain science with one easy-to-use platform to help you:

  • Personalize your care based on your health, needs, and preferences
  • Learn techniques to relieve chronic pain signals
  • Track your health progress over time with clinically-validated measures
  • Schedule appointments and message your care team directly

More on the science behind chronic pain

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