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Chronic Pain and Migraines

Have you been dealing with debilitating pain that interferes with your daily activities? Do you rely on pain medication every day to accomplish daily tasks? Do you suffer from Migraines that prevent you from living your life?  

Millions of Canadians suffer from chronic pain that impedes their ability to live a full life. Chronic  Pain can have multiple origins and symptom profiles, including  musculoskeletal  (e.g.,  bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments), neuropathic (nerves), headaches  and migraines (Neurovascular), and visceral pain (from internal organs). There are  also conditions like fibromyalgia and complex regional pain  syndrome, where people suffer from debilitating pain for years  without understanding what the cause may be. When pain  becomes chronic in nature, the  debilitating effects can not only limit physical activity, but also affect quality of relationships, mood, and overall life fulfillment. There are multiple forms of biofeedback that are effective at improving  symptoms of chronic pain. Each of them have different mechanisms to  help the brain and body change the brain’s pain. At the Toronto Neurofeedback & Psychotherapy Centre, we provide an in-depth assessment to help  identify the cause of the pain and personalize a treatment protocol to reflect your specific needs. 

BRAIN  PATTERNS & CHRONIC PAIN

Pain is a signal created by the brain to focus our attention on something important, such as  an injury. Acute pain transforming into chronic  pain, is a maladaptive change where there are  structural changes seen in the brain.  In particular, the changes happen in the central nervous system’s management of  sensory and emotional  networks and circuits that help inhibit and manage pain. Extensive research done over many years led to the understanding that chronic pain involves multiple regions of the brain involved including the  somatosensory cortex, amygdala, insula, thalamus, basal  ganglia, and prefrontal cortex.  They’ve also discovered  multiple networks of the regions in the brain  that are linked to various  aspects of pain, such as the sensory experience of pain, the emotional suffering, and the suppression or modulation of the pain.  The variations in the research  findings found between  different types of pain, complicates its management ( One size cannot fit all). For example, physiological data  on the study of migraines shows cortical hypersensitivity, a lack of habituation  (a decrease in response when exposed to repeated stimulation) and slow cortical waves that are often seen at the  onset of a migraine. Other forms of chronic  pain (e.g., musculoskeletal) have been linked with elevations in theta activity (slow brain waves) and decreases in  alpha activity (aids in self-regulation).  

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT WITH NEUROFEEDBACK

Chronic Pain management is commonly managed only through pharmaceutical means. Interdisciplinary chronic pain management programs that address the complexity of the origins of pain show  positive, sustainable effects at facilitating one’s ability to manage  pain and increase their ability to live fulfilling  lives.  Although these programs can be effective at helping with pain  management, many people are still searching desperately for a means to help reduce the pain itself. Neurofeedback can help target the cognitive and psychological changes in the brain resulting in chronic pain. First utilizing a brain mapping assessment, we learn what brain regions and/or networks could be associated with your pain symptoms. The patterns can vary greatly depending on you, your symptoms and your brain’s adaptations. Your recommended treatment  will depend on your specific pattern. Treatment protocols could be targeting the prefrontal cortex to modulate the perception of pain, targeting deeper structures that affect processing of pain (e.g., amygdala), reducing slow wave activity and/or boosting alpha activity (to balance the brain’s arousal and regulation). Thus, the training can be used to develop healthy patterns that can improve your experience and management of pain.