Pain is complex with environmental, social, physiological, and psychological components. All of these elements come together in an effort to prevent further harm, but sometimes the body can be overzealous in its guardian duties. One example of this overprotective nature is called central sensitization.
Central sensitization is defined as changes in the brain and spinal cord that create a heightened reactivity to noxious or potentially noxious stimuli. In other words, your brain turns its pain perception up to eleven (because eleven is more) making painful sensations feel more painful than usual and, in extreme cases, perceiving innocuous touch as threatening. This mechanism is thought to contribute largely to chronic pain. Because every incident of pain puts your nervous system on higher alert and it takes smaller sensations to set off pain, a person with central sensitization will feel more pain with less prompting over time.
Breaking this cycle depends on how advanced the condition is. However, there is some evidence that suggests central sensitization is always reversible. Doing so involves demonstrating to the central nervous system that the danger is past and working the pain perception dial back down to a reasonable level. The process will go much more smoothly in the safe environment created by a knowledgeable professional such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or massage therapist.
Further reading on this subject can be found here:
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