Our bodies don’t have specific receptors just for sensing “pain.” Pain is a sign that something is wrong in the body and is sensed in a variety of ways. In medical terminology there are two main types of “pain.”
- Nociceptive pain is associated with physical damage to the body or by sensations of pressure or heat or extreme cold. It might be due to pressure from a cancer tumor. Nociceptive pain might be described as “sharp, aching or throbbing.”
- Neuropathic pain is caused by physical damage or pressure on nerves. It might also be due to a cancer tumor but one that is pressing on a nerve. Nerve damage can also be due to some nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, (G3.13), or other “Nutritional imbalance, alcoholism, toxins, infections or auto-immunity.” Neuropathic pain often is described as “a burning or heavy sensation, or numbness along the path of the affected nerve.” (G3.14)
Some types of pain such as migraine headaches may involve both nociceptive pain due to the pressure of inflammation or dilation of blood vessels an neuropathic pain from pressure on nerves by dilated or inflamed blood vessels.
The next part gets complicated, some background information:
- Calcitonin is a hormone released by the thyroid that promotes lower blood calcium levels by reducing bone resorption, (G3.15) (Bone resorption: breakdown of the bone and release of minerals, (G3.16)).
- Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide 1 and 2 (CGRP 1: (G3.17) and CGRP 2: (G3.18)) cause dilation of blood vessels in the heart and brain and throughout the body. Its prevalence in the Central Nervous System (CNS) also suggests that it may also have a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator role.
CGRP is produced by nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body. The protein has a role in sensations of pain. It is a member of the calcitonin family of proteins and exerts its effects at receptors that are formed from two other types of receptors.
The CGRP protein has two commonly found forms, one helps reduce pain and one helps increase it – luck of the draw. The alpha form of the protein may help reduce pain while the beta form is associated with migraine, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The beta form is largely produced in keratinocytes found in the epidermis layer of skin. The alpha form is the type produced more within sensory nerves. (G3.19) (Psoriasis is an eczema-like condition believed to be autoimmune in nature.)
After a physical injury like a bump on the shin, inflammation causes an increased output of the Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) and an inflammatory protein that is called Substance P, possibly for peptide, which is another word for protein. The release of the peptides follows shortly after an inflammatory event and shortly the chemicals are released there is edema and plasma leakage in the surrounding area. (G3.20) The inflammatory peptides are also released in increased amounts during migraine headaches. (G3.21) The peptides increase the dilation of blood vessels and cause increased leakage from blood vessels (edema) and “degranulation of mast cells.” (G3.19) (G3.21)
Levels of CGRP increase in people who suffer from migraines and a type of prescription medication, called sumatriptan, which has been found helpful to stop migraine pain, has also been found to inhibit the release of CGRP in migraine patients. The medication may be inhibiting the release of CGRP by increasing intracellular levels of calcium. The “cytokine TNF-α” may be involved in migraine pain. (G3.21)
That was the background – the bottom line – magnesium deficiency can make the body more susceptible to the negative effects of CGRP, Substance P and chronic stress. And a chronic stress situation combined with chronic magnesium deficiency may lead to the development of inflammatory conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia, PTSD, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The magnesium deficiency associated with the inflammatory peptides CRGP and Substance P may be causing an increase in the level of the cytokine TNF as early as two days after a deficient diet was begun in a research study with lab animals. (G3.22)
So an Epsom salt bath or foot soak may relieve itch by providing the body with a form of magnesium that can be absorbed through the skin bypassing any GI problems that might underlie a chronic magnesium deficiency. It isn’t uncommon to have a diet low in magnesium but it is also not uncommon in the food supply. Problems with poor absorption or increased kidney or bowel loss are common causes of chronic magnesium deficiency.
A variety of tips for reducing Substance P levels are included in the article Trichodynia, Pain, and Substance P. Exercise, hobbies that use repetitive motions of the hands such as knitting, and stretching exercises may help reduce excess levels of the inflammatory chemical according to the article on the website drwardbond.com, see the article for more details: (G3.23)
See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)
- G3.13: J. Depew, Vitamin B12, effectiveselfcare.info, Aug. 21, 2013, https://effectiveselfcare.info/2013/08/21/vitamin-b12/ (G3.13)
- G3.14: Common Types of Chronic Pain, medtronicneuro.com, http://www.medtronicneuro.com.au/chronic_pain_commontypes.html (G3.14)
- G3.15: Bone Resorption, wikipedia.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_resorption (bone resorption: (G3.15)
- G3.16: Calcitonin, medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com, http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/calcitonin (G3.16)
- G3.17: CALCA, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide 1, uniprot.org, http://www.uniprot.org/uniprot/P06881 (G3.17)
- G3.18: CALCA, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide 2, uniprot.org, (http://www.uniprot.org/uniprot/P10092) (G3.18)
- G3.19: Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide, en.wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcitonin_gene-related_peptide (G3.19)
- G3.20: G. La Rana, et al., AM404, an anandamide transport inhibitor, reduces plasma extravasation in a model of neuropathic pain in rat: Role for cannabinoid receptors, Neuropharmacology, Vol. 54 Issue 3, March 2008, Pages 521–529 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390807003504 (G3.20)
- G3.21: Paul L. Durham, Ph.D., Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) and Migraine, Headache. 2006 Jun; 46(Suppl 1): S3–S8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3134175/ (G3.21)
- G3.22: M Tam, S Gómez, M González-Gross and A Marcos, Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003) 57, 1193–1197. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v57/n10/full/1601689a.html?foxtrotcallback=true (G3.22)
- G3.23: Trichodynia, Pain, and Substance P, drwardbond.com, http://www.drwardbond.com/dr-bs-blog/trichodynia-pain-and-substance-p (G3.23)