In Europe, around two thirds of the population suffer from pain at least once a week. Particularly affected: patients with chronic, ie permanent pain. Here, pain is considered and treated as a separate disease rather than a symptom of a disease. In several symposia, the recognition of the recent years that memory-like processes play a major role in the treatment of pain plays an important role.
Frequency of pain
According to information from the German Pain Association, eight to ten million people in Germany suffer from chronic pain, for example, as a result of spinal disorders or broken bones. Here the pain has lost its warning function.
Alone 250, 000 children are affected according to the German Society for the Study of Pain. Twenty-five percent of older people suffer from persistent or recurrent pain, which is usually accepted as fate by the sufferer or physicians.
The pain memory
The body can develop a so-called pain memory if pain persists for an extended period of time and remains untreated. The neural pathways that guide the pain impulse through the body are thus constantly irritated, similar to a permanent training effect, with the result that the pain independent. At the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, researchers are investigating what happens in the case of pain in the cells.
Nervous cells in the spinal cord give a simple signal to the brain when injured or when there is inflammation in the body. If the stimulus occurs at regular intervals, the cell responds harder each time. Even if the stimulus does not get stronger, it sends nonstop signals to the brain. Prof. Zieglgänsberger from the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry said on ARD: "If we repeat this 100 to 200 times, then the cell becomes, as we say, spontaneously active, so that there is no longer any need to irritate the cell And that would mean that in such a situation in the periphery, in the hand or at the joint, there may not be any inflammation at all, and yet it still hurts, because this nerve cell is in the brain says there is something else here. "
Persistent pain even affects the genetic activity of the nerve cell. New protein chains are formed, which change the cell membrane so that the nerve cell reacts faster. The result: more pain.