However, neuroplasticity is just one piece of the pain puzzle. Every system in your body is plastic, meaning every system in your body can change and adapt based on your life experiences and environment. We refer to this process as bioplasticity. And by systems, we mean your skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive system.
Bioplasticity is your body's way of keeping these systems strong and resilient while protecting you from harm. Examples of bioplasticity in action that involve protective multi-system changes include:
But bioplasticity also has a dark side. It is the reason acute pain may sometimes persist, becoming chronic. When exposed to a significant threat, your body's systems may become overprotective. Your body begins to amplify its many protective functions, especially its ability to produce pain.
As Jo Belton writes,
"We are not machines with replaceable parts, we are more of an ecosystem, or a garden if you will, with lots of interrelated and interdependent elements, and what happens in one element can affect other elements, which can then circle back and further affect the first element where it all started."
With all these interrelated parts, you may find overtime, your body's systems spur each other on — an immune activation, an endocrine response, a heart rate fluctuation — each becoming increasingly vigilant and reactive to signs of threat. In this state, you're able to more readily produce and elevate pain, even after the initial trigger is removed. The result is what we refer to as bioplastic pain.
If you have persistent pain, pain lasting longer than 3 months, some percentage of the pain is bound to have bioplastic origins. This is true regardless of your original medical diagnosis, threat source, age, or overall state of health.