I recently spent two days in continuing education with one of the country’s top experts on mind-body perspectives on chronic pain. The focus of the training was on understanding the differences between structural and neurocircuit sources of pain.

It turns out that many chronic pain problems can be understood as a brain coding problem related to the brain turning on the pain signal and misinterpreting sensory signals. Pain and fear are hardwired biological mechanisms that have allowed us to survive when confronted with danger. In chronic pain, it has been discovered that activation of sensory areas of the brain is transferred to areas that are thought to process emotions. Thus, negative emotions can trigger pain. Anxiety can thus be understood as the release of stress neurochemicals from the brain into the body.

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