Why Do You Still Feel Back Pain After So Many Years?


Long lasting back pain is called chronic back pain.

Research shows that it has little to do with tissue damage in your back but more to do with what is ‘Going on in your Head”! What does that mean though? Am I saying that your ongoing back pain that drives you crazy at times is “All In your Mind”?

No – that is not what I am saying. It means that a lot of pain we experience is learned and unique to you – the patient.

What is Pain anyway?

Pain is a protective mechanism.

You make a movement that irritates your back or neck. You feel pain because as a protective mechanism it is telling your brain that you have moved in a way that your body tissues (muscle, ligament, tendon, disc etc) have been irritated and if your body is allowed to keep repeating that particular movement, then you are likely to cause more damage to the irritated tissue.

It is a signal to the pain centre of your brain to say to you “Stop doing that – it is harming your body” and so you do… and the pain goes away.

But sometimes it does NOT and that is a problem. You rest and the tissues obviously heal but the pain continues.

When we say that it is something going on in your head, what we mean is that psychosocial stressors actually increase the volume of the pain signals so you feel them more than you SHOULD!

What are Psychosocial Stressors?

Worry, anxiety, depression are all problems that affect the brain. They are caused by something that has happened to us in our lives or inherited tendency or chemical imbalances or a combination of these. They are valuable feelings that can again protect us from danger. But sometimes anxiety works against us.

It helped when we climbed up a tree years ago because while hunting in the woods, we worried that the noise behind us might be a sabre toothed tiger! Now though we are often over anxious and that in itself can prolong the pain we feel when the reason for feeling the pain has long gone.

That is why we say the pain is in your mind rather than still being the tissues that are damaged and continuing to send out pain signals.

Can I Turn The Signals Down?

YES! You have an issue of neurology, not psychology. Your brain is INTERPRETING the incoming signals as pain – danger – protect yourself, when they are not actually pain signals.

The affect of anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological problems have a profound effect on the underlying neurological function of the brain. So sometimes we need to look at the neurology rather than the mechanical problems that you think are causing your ongoing discomfort.

Your pain is neurological but driven by a psychological condition.

SO – it could be that you need to seek help with your psychological conditions as well as  with JUST chiropractic treatment.

Are We Sure There Isn’t Something Else Wrong?

We do extensive testing to rule out major problems that could be causing your pain.

Where appropriate we will send you for x-rays or scans or refer you on to your GP or a specialist if we need to rule out anything serious.

Often people with chronic pain have taken drastic steps such as having operations on their spines and have paid for many different types of treatment and nothing has helped for long. Too often they are trying to ‘fix’ the wrong bit!

The thing is most of us are programmed to interpret pain as a bad thing – “Something terrible MUST be wrong with me” but it usually is NOT!

So Where Does This Pain Come From?

Pain comes when your subconscious brain decides that certain stimuli may be dangerous or could potentially cause harm and the subconscious brain needs to “warn you” so you change what you are doing.

If I squeeze your thumb nail you feel pressure because I have activated sensors in your nail bed so your brain tells you “There is pressure on my nail but it is safe”.

If I squeeze harder your subconscious brain says “This is harder pressure but it is safe”.

If I continue to squeeze harder your brain says “This could cause damage – take your hand away” – so it INTERPRETS the SAME pressure signals but in a DIFFERENT way – they are STILL pressure signals but just the VOLUME of signals has gone up!

When we have chronic pain, the brain gets stuck in a feedback loop so that something uncomfortable is seen as a threat even when it should feel normal or when pain becomes magnified by the brain when it should feel small so you interpret it as a pain rather than just a ‘bit of discomfort’.


We have access to Meredith Plumb who does phone consultations and is very experienced in dealing with patients with chronic pain.

We at the Avenue Clinic look at the cause of your problem and prescribe heel lifts if you have unbalanced posture due to a short leg; we examine your posture so you are not doing the same irritating movements day in day out; we treat you physically to help relieve local discomfort and keep joints moving optimally; we listen to your worries so that you can understand when you are worrying unnecessarily.

Call us to chat so we can make sure you receive the appropriate treatment.