How your brain's ability to change can lead to chronic pain.

Neuroplasticity means 'changeable neurons'.

Neuroplasticity is your brain's ability to change and adapt due to experience. Plasticity refers to your brain's malleability or ability to change. Neuro refers to neurons, the nerve cells that are the building blocks of your brain and nervous system. Thus, neuroplasticity is the process of your nerve cells adjusting and changing.

Neuroplasticity has a potent role in chronic pain. It's increasingly clear that chronic pain is often "neuroplastic," generated by the brain in an ill-conceived effort to protect us from danger.

Warning us of danger is, of course, the proper role of pain. But sometimes our brains can interpret threats in an overreactive way and cause or prolong pain when there isn't actually any need for it. With chronic pain, our nervous system, triggered by fear, gets stuck in fight-or-flight mode, switching on our body's alarm bells in the form of physical symptoms.

If you've been in pain for some time, your pain system can become more effective and efficient at producing pain. The neurons in your nervous system and brain change their properties to respond with greater intensity when you experience something painful. This is neuroplasticity at work, your brain doing a wonderful job at over-protecting yourself.

The science of neuroplasticity illuminates the dynamic evolution of our brains throughout life, documenting how different experiences can dramatically change it. Its most pertinent insight, however, is that we can take control of such transformation. -- Jodo Medeiros, Wired Magazine