"Chronic Pain Sensitization Syndrome" (CPSS) is a new medical concept that enables us to understand that when a person is suffering from both chronic pain and depression, the two conditions are likely not to be completely distinct medical disorders, but actually two symptoms of one underlying disease process within that person's central nervous system.

According to Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder and director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA, "A growing body of medical research is revealing that the disease process occurring within a person who is suffering from both chronic pain and depression is quite different from what is happening in a person who suffers from only one of these conditions. I expect that this new understanding will lead not only to big changes in treating those individuals who are dually diagnosed, but also to improved protocols for diagnosing and treating patients who currently are diagnosed with only chronic pain or depression."

CPSS is an inflammatory condition that damages the central nervous system and undermines its functioning. It is both neurodysregulatory, which means that CPSS interferes with the healthy functioning of the body's nervous system, and it is neurodegenerative, in that it directly damages and destroys neural tissue in the brain and body. Consequently, CPSS can cause or exacerbate physical pain and emotional suffering, and it also can erode mental clarity. The mediating factor in this process is the production and release of inflammatory substances in the brain.

Inflammation is the body's natural reaction to an injury, invading toxin or other harmful stimuli.  Initially, inflammation is a healing response.  When the body is trying to manage a long-term, undiagnosed problem, however, such as exposure to an environmental toxin like black mold, Lyme disease or an autoimmune disease, the inflammatory response can become chronic and widespread throughout the body. Rather than aiding the healing process, chronic inflammation can intensify a patient's pain and depression.

Can CPSS be treated?  "To combat the damaging effects of CPSS, it is essential that you start with a proper diagnosis," says Kaplan. "The underlying causative factor or factors must be treated or the chronic inflammation will persist."  Furthermore, Kaplan explains, every treatment plan should include neuroregenerative therapies, including:
  • Sufficient sleep (7-9 hours per day);
  • Exercise (15-30 minutes aerobic activity per day);
  • Meditation (20 minutes per day),
  • Good nutrition (primarily low-carb diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, low-fat protein, and supplements such as fish oil, vitamin D and magnesium), and
  • Medication, as prescribed by your doctor.
Says Kaplan, "CPSS is a new conceptualization of chronic pain and depression that better equips us to identify the factors that are causing a patients' pain and suffering. It also provides us with incentive to adopt a more integrative treatment approach that will help more of our patients regain optimal health."