Unexplained Chronic Abdominal Pain

Treatment of the Brain & Nerve Spasming Abdominal Pain Cycle

Abdominal pain is becoming one of the most common symptoms that both young and elderly patients are experiencing across the U.S. – many without a known prior cause. Could it be the food we eat, the unknown toxins within our food, the work-life stress, our earth’s atmosphere, etc.? We may not know exactly why so many people are being plagued by this chronic symptom-based condition, but we do know that all the above factors may play a role in such pain, and over-stimulated nerves may be the main culprit as to why these pain symptoms tend to stick around.

Over 40% of people who experience abdominal pain do not seek medical care for the symptoms, but by the same token abdominal pain is the leading gastrointestinal ambulatory visit reason in the U.S. Why is it that this number is so high, and why do many pain symptoms go untreated?

While there are various gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, there are often cases that have no known cause and result in chronic pain symptoms throughout the abdominal area. What we know from research studies is that the brain and stomach have a close relationship with one another. In general, when the body detects something wrong, the brain reads this detection as an alert. The brain then sends signals throughout the body trying to signify that something is not right. These signals are often then perceived as pain sensations, which can cause concern and worry in the individual. This relationship can become quite constant and create a continuous cycle between the brain and stomach which can lead to chronic abdominal pain.

When the brain becomes stressed and on high-alert, the nerves in the stomach (or area of pain) can become hyper-sensitive which leads them to read any signals as pain. When we feel pain, we then tend to worry and stress which causes our brain to send more signals throughout the body. This is often why stomach pains and other conditions such as anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.

So what exactly can be done about this cycle? 

The obvious answer is to break it as soon as possible, to provide the body and brain with an optimal “reset”. For many, this hypersensitivity may live in a cluster of nerves within the central nervous system called the Celiac Plexus.

The Celiac plexus nerves are responsible for sending signals to the brain and spinal cord from the digestive organs. When this cluster becomes overactive, it can cause continuous alert or pain signals and sensations which creates this continuous cycle. 

What can be done to treat this pain?

Oftentimes, medications can be prescribed to treat this continuous nerve and spreading referred pain, but medication is not always the best treatment for everyone depending on the side effects felt. Thankfully, there are various minimally invasive treatments such as injections that would include nerve blocks. These can help reset the nerves by targeting a specific cluster and “blocking” the pain sensations, causing the nerves to relax and reset. There are also trigger point injections that can target anterior muscles along the abdominal wall to allow the tension held in such muscles to relax.

If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic abdominal pain either with or without a diagnosis, learn if one of these treatments might be the right fit and ask about other options!

*Statistics provided by Digest This – The AGA Journals Blog*

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