Have you ever heard of the nucleus accumbens?

It’s okay if you haven’t. It’s not a common phrase by any means, and unless you’re deeply aware of the inner workings of your own brain, there’s no reason you would know what the nucleus accumbens is.

But you rely on it.

The nucleus accumbens is a set of nerve cells in your brain that are responsible for your reward-seeking behavior; particularly, it affects your physical desire to pursue goals which are likely to return pleasurable results. 

Food is good. It’s fun to eat. You feel good when you eat it (think: mac-n-cheese). That’s the nucleus accumbens in action. The nucleus accumbens assists your awareness of that pleasure and encourages you to act on it. It’s crucial in our daily life whether we know it or not.

A study published in Nature in August of 2019, conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, determined that the nucleus accumbens is physically altered by consistent pain. It’s structure actually changes over time because of pain. The study showed the negative physical outcomes of an altered nucleus accumbens, particularly in the ability to work hard for a goal. Furthermore, it isn’t corrected by transiently treating the pain. 

Translation: pain directly affects your ability to work for what you want, and treating it using the traditional medical model doesn’t change that fact. Pain gets in the way of you achieving your goals!

The scientific literature is full of studies that show the correlation between quality of life and pain. Pharmacological solutions clearly aren’t helping (see opioids, an exponential rise in chronic pain, and a shorter average lifespan for the first time in decades). So, if you’re dealing with pain right now, you need to expand your search for long-lasting health.

To disrupt the process, you need to actually heal, not just treat the pain. That’s where physical therapy comes in.

Warning: there’s no silver bullet. There’s no pill, no potion, no cure-all that occurs in one visit. Physical therapy is hard work. You need to be dedicated to your own healing. It isn’t a quick and easy pill that you can swallow. You’ve got to show up week in and week out if you want to heal.

But it’s that very effort, compounded over the course of time, that will bring about a real result. Current evidence-based physical therapy utilizes an innovative biopsychosocial approach to mobilize your body, calm your mind, and enlighten your understanding of pain science. This modern approach facilitates healing. Resolution doesn't come overnight. You’ve got to work for it. 

Physical therapists provide you the time, space, and knowledge that medical doctors simply can’t give, in order to effectively address your pain and set you up on a dedicated plan designed to heal.

When it comes to achieving your goals, pain isn’t just a simple hurdle. It’s a complicated roadblock. Dr. Sumesh Thomas is an orthopedic physical therapist who specializes in pain.  He will help you navigate the roadblock, safely and effectively.