Chronic pain comes in many forms. Regardless of which form involved, it is a very complex subject. Often, this problem is very poorly treated – leaving millions of people to suffer daily. They often give up hope.
The reason that chronic pain is so difficult to understand is because it involves the human brain, which is probably the most complex creation in the known universe. Pain syndromes involve quite a few pathways that extend throughout the nervous system, including nerve fibers in the skin and other tissues… to incredibly complicated networks within the spinal cord. The networks get even more complex within the brain.
We have learned in the last 20 years that chronic pain is much more puzzling than we imagined 50 years ago. There is still much we don’t understand yet. That’s why it is so difficult to treat.
Some of the treatments for chronic neck pain actually make it worse. Tragically, every day in the U.S. over 100 Americans die from opioid overdoses that began with a desperate attempt to relieve chronic pain. As we will discuss later, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are natural treatments that break the chronic neck pain cycle – without the risk of addiction and few, if any, side effects. Learn how to control chronic pain by reading on…
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
So, let’s identify the “enemy.” Pain is a sensory process by which the nervous system is warning that something harmful may be happening and needs to be fixed immediately. An example is jerking a finger away from a hot stovetop to prevent a burn.
We call that kind of pain “acute pain”, which is easy to treat and usually goes away very quickly. The true problem is when the pain refuses to go away – this becomes a chronic pain cause. If the original pain is not stopped, it can persist even though the original cause of the pain has been eliminated. This is what often causes chronic neck pain.
Many theories try to explain why this happens. One is that the source of chronic neck pain may lie in the pain circuits of the brain itself – rather than be due to an injury in the neck region. Another theory is that the chronic pain actually arises from complex pain circuits within the spinal cord.
In either case, it appears that the original pain triggers a series of abnormal pain impulses – sometimes the damage is due to the original pain being so severe that it damages the nervous system. The person’s emotional response also gets factored in. Often, there is a direct connection between stress, depression, anxiety, frequent mood shifts and results in causing chronic neck pain.
It’s as if the pain impulses become continuously activated and cannot be turned off.
CAUSES OF CHRONIC NECK PAIN
There is a lot of data that shows that inflammation plays a central cause of chronic neck pain. A second (more recently) discovered cause is the concept of excitotoxicity – which means that the nervous system is stimulated by various factors including:
- Infections (even latent infections)
- Autoimmune diseases (including thyroid overactivity and underactivity)
- Stress (physical and emotional) – this is often overlooked
- Surgery (even minor procedures)
- Exposure to toxins including heavy metals (mercury, cadmium), pesticides, herbicides (including Roundup), fungicides
- Exposure to industrial chemicals
- Nutritional deficiencies – including poor diets (fast food), diets high in carbs and sugar
- Leaky Gut Syndrome (aka Intestinal Permeability – caused by NSAIDS taken for pain)
- Dysbiosis (more bad bugs in the gut than good ones)
- Infections in the Gums (dental hygiene is important)
The inflammation and excitotoxicity usually work together to cause chronic neck pain. This phenomenon is called immunoexcitotoxicity. This immunoexcitotoxicity causes high levels of free radicals, oxidized fats and other chemicals that are associated with chronic pain.
The nervous system contains approximately 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) immune system cells called glial cells. In some cases, such as chronic neck pain, these immune cells can remain active for months or even years – even decades. As long as those special immune cells are triggering immunoexcitotoxicity, the person’s chronic neck pain will persist.
Another complicating factor is that the longer the pain pathway is stimulated, the easier it becomes for pain signals to pass through pain centers in the nervous system.
We also know that stress, anxiety and depression can lead to chronic pain syndromes including:
- Chronic Widespread Pain
- Neuropathic pain syndromes – one of the causes of chronic neck muscle pain
Studies have shown that 30 – 60 percent of patients who suffer from major depression will eventually develop chronic pain syndromes. The depression activates the brain’s immune system, which is made of the microglial cells – leading to immunoexcitotoxicity.
Poor diets, as mentioned above, can make chronic neck pain much worse by triggering inflammation and excitotoxicity. Foods to avoid include:
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Hydrolyzed Proteins
- Soy Proteins and Soy Protein Isolates
- Natural Flavors
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Omega-6 Oils (peanut, corn, safflower, sunflower, canola and soybean)
- Sugar – especially high fructose corn syrup
- Whole Grain Bread (high in Gluten, which contains high levels of Glutamine)
Many foods… including meats, raw cabbage, milk (especially goat’s milk), yogurt, ricotta cheese, peanuts, beans and asparagus – contain glutamate or glutamine and cause immunoexcitotoxicity.
The bottom line is: read labels carefully to avoid these ingredients!
CHRONIC PAIN AND DEPRESSION CAUSE DAMAGE
Many chronic pain conditions, including chronic neck pain, impair cognitive function – including concentration, learning and ability to focus. The common name for this is “brain fog” and leads to mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and many others.
There are two parts to the nervous system: The sympathetic nervous system (which speeds up processes) and the parasympathetic nervous system (to slow things back down). Most pain syndromes cause the sympathetic side to become hyperactive and the parasympathetic side to become underactive.
The result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system is overwhelming anxiety – which further activates the brain immune cells (microglia) – which worsens immunoexcitotoxicity. This actually leads to destruction of brain cells. Scans of the brain in chronic pain patients show degeneration of the prefrontal cortex and thalamus that corresponded with the intensity of the pain. Note that the prefrontal brain cortex is used for working memory, attention and logical thinking. When this area degrades (sometimes the damage is associated with up to 20 years of normal brain aging), the result is the “brain fog” mentioned above.
NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS THAT FIGHT CHRONIC NECK PAIN
- Hesperidin: This is found in citrus fruits, mostly from the orange and grapefruit rinds. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain reducer. In fact, hesperiden is used to detoxify the system from pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and heavy metals – this leads to considerable pain relief.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for the nervous system, especially for reducing inflammation and reducing excitotoxicity. Several studies have shown that low magnesium levels increase inflammation – not just in the brain and spinal cord, but throughout the body. When brain levels of magnesium are low, neurons become hyperactive… which lowers pain thresholds and makes it easier to have pain. Magnesium deficiency is widespread, with at least 60% of the population suffering, and leads to increased stress levels. Muscle cramps and tight, sore muscles are much more common when magnesium is low.
- Curcumin: this is a compound derived from the spice tumeric. It has shown impressive results against both chronic neck pain and acute pain. It has also been shown to fight major depression symptoms as well as, if not better than, the prescription antidepressant Prozac. Additionally, curcumin helps to heal leaky gut symptoms and restore the proper balance of intestinal flora. It is difficult to absorb in the intestinal tract, so piperine (black pepper) and coconut oil or olive oil should be taken with it to improve absorption up to 20 times.
- Grape Seed Extract (GSE): GSE has been shown to suppress the activation of microglial cells in the brain, thus reducing inflammation and chronic pain. It is also very effective for reducing neuropathic pain – such as pain from diabetes and shingles. GSE reduces the pain of arthritis (a common cause of chronic neck pain) and lessens damage to joints.
- Taurine: is a neuromodulator. Basically, that means it prevents the brain from becoming overexcited. Studies in rats have found that taurine prevented overactivity of the pain centers in the spinal cord. Most importantly – adding taurine to conventional pain medications significantly boosted the pain killing effects of the medication.
- Vitamin C: reduces neuropathic pain (often described as incessant tingling or burning) and increases the pain threshold, thus making pain less likely. The most effective delivery method is intravenous vitamin C (IVC) but finding a physician willing to do so may be difficult. The FDA has threatened to remove the license of physicians performing IVC therapy. A second and next best way to absorb vitamin C is called Liposomal vitamin c… in which a glob of fat called Phosphatidylserine surrounds the vitamin C and achieves much higher blood levels through increased absorption. The most common form is ascorbic acid – available as capsules or powder. Ascorbic acid should be taken between meals at a dose of up to 5 grams per day. If diarrhea occurs, the dose needs to be lowered.
It should be noted that all of these supplements are very safe to use and, unlike opioids, have no risk of addiction. They may be used for long periods of time – even months or years, with few side effects. Also note that combinations of these supplements (and many others) act together to make each other even more effective. This is known as a synergistic effect.
It is very possible to reduce or even eliminate chronic neck pain with the use of supplements – along with healthy diets, targeted stretching exercises and specific diagnostic tests to fine-tune the program.
Chronic neck pain can be conquered and those affected can return to healthy, happy productive lives without the daily torture of dealing with the pain.
Learn more tips and tricks to deal with chronic neck pain by visiting: stopneckpain.wpengine.com.
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Please pass this article on to any fellow neck pain sufferers that are suffering. They may greatly appreciate it and realize that it’s possible to get their life’s back:-)