What is it in our bodies that keep re-triggering pain again and again? When is pain no longer beneficial, and crosses over into the realm of inappropriate, excessive and long-term pain? These are the questions that can plague us all.
Protective withdrawal mechanisms are essential for self-preservation. These mechanisms help us avoid injury. Quickly pulling your fingers off a hotplate, averting the sun with your eyes, covering your ears from loud sounds, spitting out a bitter tasting food; these are examples of daily situations where we instinctively react to avoid harm. Occasionally, our bodies can be traumatized severely enough that our protective abilities are overwhelmed. This can occur in sudden and acute situations (such as in a car accident) or built up over time (cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, repetitive physical movements). We can even be emotionally traumatized as well.
Typically, our bodies are able to acclimate and adapt to most of the multitudinous stressors we face daily. Sometimes the shock of the stressor is more than we can handle, and we subsequently become injured in some fashion. Yet, our bodies then immediately begin the healing process, and eventually we get better. Now and then, we don’t.
During a shocking, or traumatizing moment, our bodies quickly react (with a whole host of cascading metabolic mechanisms) to that stressor. This is called the fright-flight-fight response. This happens in conjunction with the protective withdrawal reflexes previously mentioned. Our internal organs work to support the injury avoidance reaction. Our pupils dilate, our heart rate and respiratory rates increase, the bloodstream is flooded with glucose as fuel for our muscles, and our digestive system turns down to conserve energy. Our nervous system literally gets “wired” up, and our mental focus places full attention onto the situation at hand. We begin to sweat to keep the whole system cooled. Our entire body/mind construct is thus fully incorporated into a means of protection and preservation. After the situation is over, our bodies should retreat back to a normal functioning balance (homeostasis). If, as is occasionally necessary, health care is required to reestablish homeostasis, the attention of the practitioner is placed upon the diminished or suppressed activity of the organ, nerve, muscle, or biochemical flux. Recently, health care has begun placing more and more awareness on the flip side of the coin; a hyperactive overreaction to the potential injury. (see Part II, next issue)
(Dr. Richard Hanson, chiropractor in Jamestown, New York, can be reached at (716)-664-0445. Most major insurances are now being accepted.)