Pain is determined by emotional state

A new piece of brain imaging research has found that an individual’s experience of pain is directly related to their emotional state.

Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago, US conducted a study in which 40 participants all of whom had been suffering from back pain lasting between one and four months. The researcher were investigating their reported experiences of pain and comparing this to brain activity.

The aim of the study was to establish possible explanations as to why some people will recover completely from an injury while others who suffered from injuries of the same severity will continue to experience pain for extended periods of time.

The researchers reported that there was an interaction between two regions of the brain, interaction between two brain regions; the frontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. The research found that the greater interaction between these two regions, which was mediated by the emotional reaction to the initial injury, the more likely that individual was to suffer from persistent pain.

It was reported that these sections of the brain may be more easily activated due to genetic or environmental influences, but it was concluded that it was possible to identify with 85 percent accuracy which participants were most likely to continue to experience chronic pain.

This research is revolutionary as it paves the way for non-invasive therapies that can manage and change the emotional state of the brain which will then lead to significantly more effective non-toxic pain management and recovery.

One such therapy is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. There has been extensive research in to the connection between mindfulness meditation and emotion management. It has been found to change the way people recognise and change their emotional states with marked improvements to pain management, general health and quality of life.

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