As you may have read already in my last blog post, I have an extensive history with Chronic Pain, stemming back to around age 10 or 11. I have experienced multiple types of pain over the years, some occasional and some almost always constant. Over the years, I did a lot of studying scientific literature, reading anecdotal experiences of others with Chronic Pain, and testing lots of different things on myself (from a medicine/supplement standpoint as well as many non-drug therapies).
Over the years, through trial and error and through advancements in my scientific discoveries, I found that there are many different sources of pain (speaking from a bio-chemical level). I will do a brief overview of each, and how and why each thing works that way. This guide is going to be a bit lengthy, but I’ve tried to make this as easy to understand as possible for laymen, as there is a lot to cover, but this is not going to be a comprehensive teaching on the types of pain I will be telling you about below, but rather, an overview of each.
First of all, I’ll just list several different potential causes of pain, and then I’ll explain a little bit about how each of them work. While these statements may be supported by scientific literature that is available to the general public, these are merely my opinions based upon my research and personal experiences with Chronic Pain and searching for the root cause. I am not a licensed medical practitioner and none of what I write about should be considered to be official, government sanctioned medical advice. Please discuss what you learn below with a doctor or pharmacist prior to taking action upon anything you learn here.
Causes of pain can be from:
- Inadequate levels of GABA
- Inadequate levels of GABA-like endogenous compounds
- Something causing the GABA receptors to be blocked (AKA antagonized) or highly desensitized
- High levels of Cortisol
- High levels of Acetylcholine
- Other compounds causing excitotoxicity
- Diabetes or abnormally high levels of Human Growth Hormone
- Physical injuries
- Activation of the Vanilloid Receptors
- Nerve Damage caused by physical damage or chemical means
- Opioid receptor antagonists, opioid receptor desensitivity, or inadequate endorphin levels
There are more causes, but this is all that I have sufficient knowledge of to be able to comment on. Also, some of these areas I’m more educated than others, but I still know at least the basics in each of the bullet points above.
The first 3 bullet points are all kind of grouped together, so I’m going to address them all at the same time. First, I’m going to explain how the GABA system works so that you’ll understand it better in regards to pain signaling and control.
GABA slows down the rate at which nerves fire electrical impulses and this includes the speed at which different receptors pulse out and receive neurotransmitters across the synapse (the synapse is the space between the “sending” receptor and the “receiving” receptor). Don’t worry, if this seems a little bit over your head, please check out the following videos for a better explanation of how receptors work, here and here.
Video 2 – If the video doesn’t start at 0:00, please rewind it to the beginning… Youtube is being DUMB!
GABA antagonists on the other hand, increase the speed at which nerve impulses fire. For some reason that I have yet to fully understand, in many cases it turns out that increased speed of electrical impulses through nerves causes both nerve pain and muscle tension (tight, contracted feeling).
The reasons I mentioned above can greatly play a role in pain because GABA slows down everything and causes the muscles to relax and move more slowly, while GABA-antagonism can cause tight, tense muscles, electrical sensations and that “pins and needles” prickly nerve sensation. Higher GABA activity will tend to lower anxiety but also lower energy and alertness, while low GABA activity (or having the receptor blocked) can cause anxiety but also increase energy and alertness up to a certain point. Once GABA receptor antagonism goes too high however, the person experiencing it just feels fried, burnt out, terrified, and very confused, with common examples being overdoses of THC, synthetic cannabinoids, or high doses of alpha-thujone (the main psychoactive component wormwood, some types of absinthe, etc).
Strangely enough however, thujone has been shown to have pain relieving properties even though it blocks the GABA receptor. However, it is a pretty finicky compound best used for occasional recreation in small quantities rather than a regular part of a pain killing regimen.
Ok, moving on, we next have Cortisol. This compound is the primary stress hormone in the body, and is a double edged sword. It is required in certain amounts to deal with stress properly, as well as to have energy and stay happy throughout the day. However, Cortisol causes a release of neurotransmitters which then depletes them after a little while. Prolonged Cortisol elevation will cause an initial “high” followed by a prolonged “low”! The initial boost of Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine and Serotonin that comes from Cortisol can make someone alert and ready to tackle challenges, but once these neurotransmitters get used up, it takes a while for your body to create more. It is in the low state that people feel drained, weak and often sore and achy. So while high cortisol levels may actually make someone pain free temporarily, they’ll be feeling wretched when the boost wears off.
To go along with Cortisol, the next thing to mention that can cause pain (or muscle fatigue) is Acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a stimulant in low doses, but a relaxant in high doses. However, it’s relaxant properties cause muscle weakness, rather than a pleasant relaxation. Acetylcholine and Cortisol go hand in hand. Acetylcholine causes Cortisol to be released, and what happens with large doses of Acetylcholine is that the Cortisol gets released in a burst, then quickly depleted, and it is in this depletion state that the muscles become weak and often sore. It isn’t just Cortisol depletion however. You see, like I said earlier, Cortisol releases Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine/Epinephrine, so when those compounds get used up and are depleted in your system, you are left with a body that’s low on almost everything except Acetylcholine. This leads to feeling burned out.
Beyond Cortisol and Acetylcholine, there are other things which can cause pain which are called “excitotoxins”. These are compounds which cause an increase of activity at the cellular level to such a great extent that it essentially “fries” the cell and causes it to die or become severely damaged from a sudden surge of overactivity. The biggest example of this includes the neurotransmitters Glutamate and N-Methyl-D-Aspertate (which activate the NMDA receptor). There are also many natural and man-made chemicals which mimic the effect of Glutamate or NMDA, and while they do have their place in proper biological functioning, these compounds can cause a lot of problems if levels get too high, one of them being pain.
You see, in the human body, there are many different systems linked together, and changes made to one system cause a cascade effect that affects other neurotransmitter or hormone systems in the body. For example, GABA (or GABA mimicking compounds) lower or block activity at the NMDA receptor, which often times helps treat pain and protect against nerve damage, resulting in an inhibitory effect (like alcohol or xanax). On the other hand, things which lower GABA or block the GABA receptor cause an increase of activity at the NMDA receptor, resulting in an excitatory effect (like caffeine, cocaine or amphetamines). The nerve damage that can occur from over activation of the NMDA receptors can result in different types of pain throughout the body.
Next, we’re going to cover the pain that comes from Diabetes, and also a surprising culprit… Human Growth Hormone. So, you may have heard of something called “Diabetic Neuropathy” but unless you have it personally or someone close to you does, you probably don’t understand what it’s like too well. There’s one thing that both Diabetes and Human Growth Hormone have in common that is linked to nerve pain, and that is high blood sugar. While you may know that Diabetes is when your body has too high of blood sugar and it can’t properly lower it to a normal level via the insulin response like it’s supposed to, what may come as a surprise to many people however, is that Human Growth Hormone causes an increase of blood sugar levels as well. This is strange, since HGH is a fat burning compound that’s also supposed to help muscle growth and recovery. It just works in a different way than most people expect. I’m not going to get into the specifics in this post about how that works, but understand that high blood sugar, no matter the reason, can cause nerve pain which often feels like pins, needles and sharp, burning electricity in different areas of the body, and it often times doesn’t go away, or takes a long time to go away without medical intervention.
I know that some of you guys might be thinking that this guide or post is getting pretty long, but I aim to help as many people as possible through this. I assure you though, we are starting to wrap things up now. Just a few more bullet points, and we’ll be done.
Now of course, this guide wouldn’t be complete without discussion of Physical Injuries as a cause of pain. This can range from smashing your finger with a hammer, to a needle stick, to scoliosis, dislocation, spinal disc damage or broken bones. I know a thing or two about this, because not only have I had many accidents as a kid while playing around, but I just recently within the last few months found out that I developed scoliosis as a child around the age of 10 or 11 and over the years I also somehow managed to get half of the bones in my spine misaligned, twisted either to the right or the left of where they should be. This misalignment caused pinching of the nerves in my spinal cord, and the curvature of my spine (the scoliosis) caused tension in various muscles in my back because they were/are always twisted due to the spine not being completely normal.
Obviously, it’s good and vital for our survival to feel pain when we receive a physical injury because it tells us what activities we need to avoid and how much rest we need in order for it to heal properly… at least, that’s how our bodies are supposed to work. When a physical injury is unable to be healed for one reason or another, and the pain persists when there is nothing that can be done to fix the injury short of divine intervention miracle healing from God, then the pain signaling becomes a bad thing that makes us suffer for no good reason, and that’s usually where pain medication and/or nerve blocks come into play. However, I am extremely against nerve blocks unless there’s absolutely no other possible choice, because although it is very low, there is a risk of permanent paralysis and/or worsening of pain beyond what it was originally, if the practitioner accidentally hits the wrong spot while giving the injection into your back. Same thing with back surgery… the risk of things getting worse… I just can’t do it. I’m suffering enough as it is, but a select few types of drugs are currently working pretty well for my pain, and the side effects they present are much less severe than paralysis or increase of pain.
The next thing we’ll be covering are the Vanilloid Receptors. Despite it’s name making it sound like Vanilla, the Vanilloid receptors are actually best known for being receptors which respond to heat and noxious stimuli, like Capsaicin (the hot ingredient in hot peppers), burns from a flame, hot light bulb, hot water, etc. They are also involved in the sensation of cold. The main thing is though, activation of the Vanilloid Receptors (particularly TRPV1) causes pain which feels like heat, burning, and inflammation, while ingredients which block the TRPV1 receptor lower pain and can also bring a feeling of cool. Examples of TRPV1 blockers include CBD, other Cannabinoids, and the herb Yerba Santa, though more TRPV1 antagonists can be found through more deep research on the internet or biological publications. This is particularly why CBD can help relieve pain but at the same time, larger doses can make people feel cold, because the heat sensing TRPV1 receptor is being blocked in that case. I can say though that when you are in a lot of pain, feeling cold and having to lie under a blanket for a while is a welcome temporary side effect in order to get rid of the pain (unless it’s in the middle of the day and you’ve got urgent errands, house hold or parental duties to take care of… then it’s miserable!)
Ok, we’ve only got two more bullet points and then I’ll be closing.
Next, we’re going to cover nerve damage from chemical or physical harm. This should sound pretty self explanatory, but I’ll still give examples of each. Nerve damage from a physical harm would be like if you dropped a heavy object on your foot and even after you got it off, you have tingling in the foot and leg even after the initial injury and pain has gone. Even if the tingling isn’t painful, it is still very annoying when it won’t go away, but usually the tingling is painful indeed.
An example of a chemical harm that can cause nerve damage is vasoconstrictors… basically, drugs that constrict the blood vessels and raise blood pressure. If the blood vessels get too tightly constricted, blood flow to certain areas of the body get completely cut off and the cells in that area begin to die off from lack of oxygen. When this happens around nerves, you have nerve cell death which can lead to loss of feeling in certain part of your body, or it can be neuropathy… which is, that tingling, pins and needles feeling. An example of a kind of compound that can do this is the Ergot fungus and many of it’s derivatives, of which LSD is one (though LSD is physically very safe regarding vasoconstriction). Eating LSA containing seeds in high doses, eating ergot fungus, etc can cause vasoconstriction so severe that a part or parts of your body will either fall off due to gangrene or it will loose feeling altogether for sometimes several months before enough regeneration can occur in the area to restore feeling to what it originally was. Low to moderate doses of LSA containing seeds do not pose this danger however. That being said, consumption of LSA containing seeds is illegal in some countries including the United States, so take what I just told you as for informational/educational purposes only.
The final bullet point now has to do with opiates, or more specifically, inadequate endorphin levels or having opioid receptors blocked by an antagonist (such as naltrexone and naloxone). It is thought that Borderline Personality Disorder is caused by people who have too little endorphins in their bodies. While it is not a government approved treatment, many people with Borderline Personality Disorder have found that self medicating with opioids or endorphin-boosting medicines makes their BPD symptoms virtually vanish, as long as the drug is in their system in sufficient quantities that is. One of the things that people with BPD often experience is an increased level of pain on a day to day basis, and often times chronic pain in at least one particular part of their body, though sometimes it can move around and go up and down in intensity throughout the day.
You have to look at it this way… opiates and opioids relieve pain, endorphins (which are your body’s own natural form of opiate) also relieve pain… so if increasing them can improve pain, it only makes sense that lowering them or blocking their receptors will increase pain. This is true most of the time. One great example of this is coffee. Coffee contains a small amount of opioid receptor antagonists. When you have one or two cups of coffee, the amount of antagonists getting into your system is so small that it either doesn’t increase pain or it actually has a reverse effect and helps relieve pain (this is because super low doses of an antagonist actually increase the sensitivity of the receptor they are supposed to be blocking). That is why a small amount of coffee taken with an opiate/opioid will usually increase its pain killing capacity. However, once you reach a certain point with coffee consumption, the level of opioid receptor antagonists gets so high in your body that you start to experience effects that are very similar to opiate/opioid withdrawal. This will happen even with decaf coffee, because while the caffeine can also cause pain, anxiety and more in higher quantities, it is the opiate antagonists in the coffee itself that cause the most problems when taken in too high of levels, even if decaf. The fact that coffee contains small amounts of MAOI’s also doesn’t help, because the MAOI’s increase the effect and prolong blood levels of the opiate receptor antagonists even more!
When this occurs, the symptoms of inadequate opioid activity include aches all over the body, painful electric sensations throughout the body, anxiety, jitteriness, a flu-like feeling, nausea, headache, and more. People with Borderline Personality Disorder often report that their regular everyday life experience is very similar to mild opioid withdrawal, and their aches and pains coupled with irritability and constant worries or anger is the main reason why such people are so hard to live with, even if they can’t help it that they are naturally that way. Most people with BPD don’t understand the biological mechanisms behind it and so they go untreated or treated with the wrong kind of medicine for their entire lives and don’t know how to fix themselves.
Ok, so now in closing, I’ve covered a lot, I know! It’s important for you to understand, however, that one symptom in your body, like pain, can be caused by any number of variables which are often times little known or too complex to understand without lengthy study, research and trial and error. If you are experiencing chronic pain or pain in absence of a physical injury, or if you are experiencing irritability, anxiety, insomnia, etc, then it may be because of one of the bullet points I discussed above. Sometimes you have to experiment a little bit to find out which thing it is, which thing is the true cause. However, once you figure out what works, it makes it that much easier to treat the issue again the next time it comes along. It also makes it easier to take measures to lessen the likelihood or frequency of those problems occurring again in the future. This is the essence of “Bio Hacking”… its figuring out what chemicals in the body cause what functions, and then learning to manipulate that to our advantage to improve our quality of life!
However, even as you grow in your knowledge of how the body works, you should still go see a doctor if you have any serious or prolonged health problem, and you should keep the knowledge I’ve taught you in mind as supplemental, as a good sized helpful chunk of solving the puzzle, but what you learn from me might not necessarily be able to solve 100% of the puzzle. While I have had many problems with doctors and the medical system in America, I am NOT recommending that you forgo seeking advice or treatment options from a licensed medical professional, even if there are some draw backs or risks involved with that system. You can always choose to turn down a doctor’s suggested treatment or advice, but it’s still good to get their input when you are dealing with a serious health problem, especially one that may require blood work or scans to figure out.
At Bio Hacking Academy, I offer a range of medicinal herb supplements that may offer a wide variety of health benefits. While my products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA, every one of the ingredients in each of my products has numerous scientific studies and anecdotal evidence available all over the internet and in books, scholarly publications, etc which support the purported health benefits of my products. Some of my products may be useful in remedying some of the issues discussed in this post today. You can click here to access my product catalog, and you may request free samples from me at any time by following the instructions on my Product/Free Sample page or by contacting me through any of the following contact methods below:
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I am coming up with new formulas on a pretty frequent basis, sometimes as much as a few new formulas per month. Some of them end up not being so good, and I scrap them, while others are winners and keepers. As such, when you request a free sample from me (based upon what’s already listed in my product catalog), I may also include a free sample of one of my new formulas which is not yet listed in the catalog. Because I come up with new formulas so often, I cannot easily update my catalog every time I have a new edition, so I’ll be updating the catalog instead once every couple of months.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you’ll check out the rest of the content I have on my site, and I hope you’ll give some of my products a try. My catalog will provide you with instructions on how to place an order me. I also have one on one private coaching available for people who wish to learn more in-depth about the topics I discuss on my website, and who wish to learn how to “Bio Hack” on an advanced level. Sessions are $35 per half hour lesson. Just contact me through one of the methods listed above and ask for a session, and we’ll work something out that fits both of our schedules.
Until next time, may God bless you!
– Joshua Porch, Founder and Owner of Bio Hacking Academy