Tuesday, September 21, 2004

it's not like I didn't already know I was screwed

In my unending quest for any information that might shed some light on my chronic pain issues, I've read volumes of stuff ranging from stuffy neurology journals to holistic hippie health mags. Given the complete failure of western medicine to address my health problems, I cast the net out further and further in hopes of catching some useful tidbit of information that might improve my quality of life.

Unfortunately the information I dredge up usually looks like this:

"We now have research indicating there's a memory of chronic pain," said Dr. Doris K. Cope, director of chronic and cancer pain for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"It changes the genic code sometimes, it changes the biochemistry, and it causes new proteins to be formed."

That means even if the pain in the original problem area is cured -- or eliminated by amputation -- other nerves will have pain, she said. Therefore, it's crucial to treat acute pain to keep it from growing into a chronic problem.

Ok, I knew that already, it is pertinent information but it provides no hope, especially since the only thing the docs can even suggest is that they remove my gallbladder and hope for some improvement. So I keep digging:

"We believe that the pain no longer originates with the tissue that was originally damaged, but that it actually begins in the central nervous system, in the spinal cord and the brain," says Yang, a professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology and Physiology.

"The experience changes the nervous system, just like learning. It's like a memory of pain that recurs again and again in the nervous system."

Yang says that because of past experience, the nervous system has been primed to transmit pain signals more efficiently: Small pain signals may be amplified, resulting in a sensation of pain way out of proportion to the amount of hurt one would normally experience. And more nerve cells become involved in the process.

Okay... this sounds a lot like what I am going through, and could be the explanation for why my symptoms continue to get worse without any corresponding increase in the severity of the few diagnosable physiological problems I am known to have.

But wait, there's more:

In people with red hair, the cells that produce skin and hair pigment have a dysfunctional melanocortin-1 receptor. Liem says this dysfunction triggers the release of more of the hormone that stimulates these cells, but this hormone also stimulates a brain receptor related to pain sensitivity.

Alright, now this is just getting absurd, it's like 'The Truman Show'. I fully expect to see research in the near future that shows that electrical engineers named Michael have a higher susceptibility to chronic pain.

I suspect that whoever is watching The Michael Show is getting very little out of it, because from where I stand it looks like it's all re-runs.