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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

People can raise their pain threshold by altering brain chemistry


Chronic pain -- pain which lasts for more than six months -- is a real problem for many people.
However, some people seem to cope better than others with pain, and knowing more about how these coping mechanisms work might help to develop new ways of treating this distressing symptom.
It has been known for a long time that we have receptors in our brains that respond to natural painkilling opiates such as endorphins, but the researchers in Manchester have now shown that these receptors increase in number to help cope with long-term, severe pain.
By applying heat to the skin using a laser stimulator, researchers showed that the more opiate receptors there are in the brain, the higher the ability to withstand the pain.
The study used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging on 17 patients with arthritis and nine healthy controls to show the spread of the opioid receptors.
This suggests that the increase in opiate receptors in the brain is an adaptive response to chronic pain, allowing people to deal with it more easily.
“Although the mechanisms of these adaptive changes are unknown, if we can understand how we can enhance them, we may find ways of naturally increasing resilience to pain without the side effects associated with many pain killing drugs" said the author.