Breaking the vicious cycle: Therapy options to erase the pain memory
While the majority of Germans only have to deal with complaints in the back, knees or other parts of the body for a second, around 16 million people suffer from persistent, chronic stress. The so-called pain memory is to blame. "This ensures that impulses from areas where there are no more problems are still perceived as pain," explains Dr. Tobias Weigl, doctor, pain expert and managing director of Bomedus GmbH.
Persistent false alarm
Acute pain is a useful warning sign to indicate injuries in certain parts of the body. As soon as the sensory cells distributed across the entire organism perceive a corresponding impulse, they pass it on to the brain via the nerve fibers in the spinal cord to identify it as pain. In the case of chronic complaints, however, this forwarding becomes independent, so overactive neurons transmit impulses permanently. The pain memory develops through this misguided learning effect.
"All incoming impulses in this region of the body, even simple touches, are perceived by the brain as a pain signal," explains Dr. Weigl. Treating those affected in this way often poses a great challenge for medical professionals, since the actual cause is usually no longer available and the pain itself becomes a disease.
While the use of medication is showing initial success for acute problems, it is important to reduce its intake due to various side effects in the event of persistent symptoms and to take other measures. Patients have to show a lot of initiative because there is no general therapy and every person responds to different treatments. In the first step, physical therapies that include movement, strengthening and stretching exercises usually help. But new therapeutic approaches, such as small fiber matrix stimulation, or SFMS for short, are also used in this field.
Built into a band, similar to a bandage, there are small electrodes that emit electrical impulses. Affected people apply this special form of electrical stimulation from home and use it to reprogram their pain memory. “The point-attached polyamide threads on the inside of the band give electrical stimuli to the pain fibers in the top layer of skin. With the help of low-frequency electrical stimulation, overactive nerve fibers calm down and the sensation of pain drops to a normal level, ”explains Dr. Weigl.
With regular use, twice a day for 20 minutes, the symptoms are reduced by up to 70 percent within four to six weeks. In addition, psychological procedures help to reduce built-up fears and emotional pressure. Through relaxation techniques, yoga or meditation, patients learn how to deal with the disease in everyday life. "Through the interaction of the various therapy options, those affected can take their lives back into their own hands," the pain expert concludes. (sb)