My apologies for anyone who has taken any chronic pain classes, or done research and reading on your own, because I am sure some of you have heard of this. I don’t mean to be redundant – but I think it might be useful for those who haven’t heard of this pain theory, or need a refresher ;)
I have a psychologist that is part of my medical “team” and we were speaking about this theory recently, and I wanted to share is with all of you…
Gate Control Theory of Pain
What the Gate Control Theory of Pain Tells Us:
According to the gate control theory of pain, pain signals that have originated in areas of injury or disease do NOT travel directly or automatically to the brain. Rather, there exists within the spinal cord a gate mechanism which determines the degree to which pain signals are transmitted to the brain. When the gate is wide open, more pain signals get through than when it is closed. Generally, rather than being completely open or shut, the gate is open to varying degrees.
Factors Which Open the Pain Gate
- Extent of injury or trauma
- Readiness of the nervous system to send pain signals
- Inappropriate Activity level
- Focusing on the pain
- Boredom due to minimal involvement in life activities
- Maladaptive attitudes
Factors Which Close the Pain Gate
- Application of Heat or Ice
- Appropriate activity level
- Avoiding Excessive Emotions
- Making time to focus on positive emotions (keep a gratitude journal for example)
- Managing stress properly
- Distraction away from Pain
- Increased Social Activities
- Practicing Positive Attitude
- Appropriate Exercise
- Increased Positive Life Activities
- Healthy Eating
- Refraining from Unhealthy Habits
- Having a communicative outlet to share thoughts and feelings
Most of the Factors that can potentially close the “Pain Gate” are basic self-care, but I will be the first one to say that I don’t always take care of myself the way I should. I know it sounds like common sense, but sometimes when we are in the throes of agony, we don’t use common sense. We spend so much time fighting the pain that it doesn’t occur to us to focus on eating habits, or a hobby or social activity that might be able to help us.
I know if was a good reminder for me to take the time to read over some information I have about the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It is another reminder to me that pain managements is a WHOLE set of things, not just medication and treatment.
I hope you all are managing well today!!