Osteoarthritis Is All In Your Head

March 2014

We all know too well how debilitating osteoarthritis pain can be, but somehow we seem to soldier on.

Recently science has shown us that there are abnormalities in the way the brain experiences pain, and these abnormalities may be to blame for the chronic pain experienced by osteoarthritis sufferers.

Previously it had been thought that pain came from the degradation of joints, but recently researchers at the University of Manchester suggest new therapies to target chronic pain should move along the lines of turning off receptors in our brain.

Professor Anthony Jones, from The University of Manchester's Human Pain Group based at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The extent of pain experienced by sufferers of arthritis has always been thought to result from the direct consequences of joint destruction.
However the extent of pain is often poorly related to the amount of damage and can spread to nearby regions of the body where there is no evidence of arthritic disease. We wanted to look at what might be causing this."

Chronic pain may affect up to 30% of the population at any one given time, and as most of us know, this can cause lost time from the workplace, places stress on relationships, is responsible for mood swings, the development of other chronic diseases, and costs an absolute fortune to get rid of.

Professor Jones continues "Currently it is not understood why patients with arthritis have such variability in how much pain they experience but, in spite of this, we continue to spend large sums of money using potentially damaging anti-inflammatory drugs."

Dr Christopher Brown, Honorary Research Associate, Human Pain Research Group, The University of Manchester, said: "Increased activity in this brain area has been linked to a number of phenomena, including body perception and emotional processing, which might explain the greater pain perception in some patients.

"Interestingly, responses during pain anticipation were reduced in an area at the front of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These reduced responses corresponded to less ability to develop positive ways of coping with the pain in both groups of patients.

"We think that boosting activity either directly or indirectly in this area of the brain is likely to result in better coping and better control of pain responses in other areas of the brain."

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the research, said: "This research provides a fascinating insight into the way the brain processes osteoarthritis pain, and goes some way to explaining why so many people with osteoarthritis with similar levels of joint damage experience such varying degrees of pain.

"Focusing research on targeting abnormal brain mechanisms rather than more conventional approaches looking at joint damage could be a major step forward, that could reduce people's dependency on anti-inflammatories and painkillers."

Regular readers of this column understand that nopal juice will not only reduce OA symptoms, but also osteoarthritis pain. It's soothing to know that there are some medicos on our side that know and understand the severe side effects of some of these pharmaceuticals.


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