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  • Dr. TJ Graber D.C., D.A.C

Part 3 - A $600 BILLION Low Back Problem

In the first two parts of this series, we covered the Structural and Metabolic sides of Chronic Low Back Pain. We got an understanding of the effects on our healthcare system, economy and drug addiction and where doctors and therapists treat this issue from the wrong approach. Now, we’ll dissect the inter workings of the brain and spine and how Chronic Pain can alter the way our brain works.

Our spine and brain are actually designed in a way to stop pain from getting to the sensory areas of our Parietal Lobe. In the spine is an area called The Substantia Gelatinosa or Lamina 2. Hope your writing this down, there will be a quiz! At this point in our spine there are Interneurons (an extra connector between 2 nerves) that are specifically designed to stop pain from getting to the brain. If the pain sensation is enough to exceed this threshold, then these fibers will make there way to the brain where they are filtered several other times before we perceive the pain itself.

Our Great Creator also designed us with precautionary checks and balances. We perceive an ERROR in movement as pain to prevent injury. That means that anything we do that is perceived in our brain as not correct, is sensed as pain and will result in a pain response with muscular splinting and inflammation even if there was not an actual event that created any trauma. Are your ears smoking yet?

Our brain and nerves need three things to survive: oxygen, glucose and stimulation. Without these things, our brain and nerves will die. These items can also create nerve superhighways that may or may not be beneficial. In the case of Chronic Pain, stimulating the same nerve pathways repeatedly will change a gravel road into an eight-lane highway. It’s more difficult to stop an eight-lane highway of pain then a one lane gravel road.

Also, at the area of the Substantia Gelatinosa, remember the quiz? Our Chronic Pain will start to form a new pathway that by-passes the pain-stopping interneuron. What does that mean? Our body will form new pathways that promote pain. This is when everything you do causes pain: sitting, standing, moving, etc. So, we have pathways that become very efficient and then we develop new connections that promote those same pathways. It’s an avalanche that never stops.

Our Chronic Pain will start to form a new pathway that by-passes the pain-stopping interneuron. What does that mean? Our body will form new pathways that promote pain.

Ok, let’s recap. Our brain and spine are designed well to stop pain. It is even designed to prevent injury before it occurs by feeling pain before injury happens. And once we have Chronic Pain, then we make pathways that we never had before and create pain superhighways that are stimulated by everything.

So now what? First, there’s Hope. Second, those new pathways that are formed are not pathways we were born with and that means they can be reversed. A Chiropractic Neurologist can find the error in function, determine the pain pathways that have become efficient and how to reduce the input into those pathways. This may include the other dynamics like improving the structural integrity of the system and reducing the metabolic inflammation.

A full functional approach to back pain is the greatest approach to reaching an improved life. There are times that surgery is needed, chiropractic or therapy is the best approach or nutritional support to reduce inflammation, but there are also times where these fail or people don’t want to have surgery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words, “I’ve tried everything and been everywhere and nothing has helped. You are my last resort.” This is where functional neurology excels. This is where we bring Hope... Here’s your quiz: Where is your pain? It’s all in your head… literally.

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