NPR

Can You Reshape Your Brain's Response To Pain?

Changing how the mind reacts to pain can reduce the discomfort experienced, according to scientists who study brain pathways that regulate pain. A new type of therapy aims to enhance that effect.
Jeannine sorts through a binder of writing assignments from her therapy. In keeping a journal about her past experiences with pain, she noticed that the pain symptoms began when she was around 8 — a time of escalating family trauma at home. Source: Jessica Pons for NPR

Jeannine, who is 37 and lives in Burbank, Calif., has endured widespread pain since she was 8. She has been examined by dozens of doctors, but none of their X-rays, MRIs or other tests have turned up any evidence of physical injury or damage.

Over the years, desperate for relief, she tried changing her diet, wore belts to correct her posture and exercised to strengthen muscles. Taking lots of ibuprofen helped, she says, but doctors warned her that taking too much could cause gastric bleeding. Nothing else eased her discomfort. On a pain scale of 0 to 10, her pain ranged from "7 to 9, regularly," she says.

Around 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Most of us think of pain as something that arises after a physical injury, accident or damage from an illness or its treatment. But researchers are learning that, in some people, there can be another source of chronic pain.

Repeated exposure to psychological trauma, or deep anxiety or depression — especially

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