Pain After Brain Injury – Meant to Grab the Attention
Pain After Brain Injury – Consume Attention
By Gordon Johnson
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Pain after brain injury is often the forgotten symptom. Elsewhere we will deal with the broad topic of post-traumatic headache, yet it is the biggest cause of pain after brain injury. Here, the focus is not on what the nature and the cause of the pain is, but the impact pain has on the compromised ability to multi-attend that causes so many of the deficits of the post-concussional syndrome.
One of our primary mechanisms to control pain, is to distract ourselves from it. To some degree, one of the therapeutic aspects of taking aspirin or Ibuprofen for pain, is that taking the medicine gets your mind off the sensory overload of pain. But pain is meant to grab our attention. Pain is the body screaming for attention, so that you will change a behavior to protect yourself from the cause of the pain.
Thus if the pain after brain injury is screaming for attention, it will get it regardless of how little extra attention there might be. The louder it screams, the more attentional resources it will occupy. The real problem with pain after brain injury is not the immediate stab of pain, it is the chronic variety.
Clearly, a migraine will stop the battle for attentional resources. It will win, until it passes. Go sit in the dark and do nothing.
Chronic Pain After Brain Injury
Yet, in assessing attentional compromises after brain injury, it is the drain of the chronic pain that is more relevant. Pain will “wear a body down.” Pain after brain injury will take its toll, demand its due and will be a stark element of post-concussional life, until it is controlled. A migraine sufferer can function at an exceptionally high level between episodes. But when chronic pain after brain injury never goes away, then the overall functioning of the brain injury survivor will be perpetually lowered by the attentional requirements of the pain.
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