In the previous post, we spoke about the mechanism via which chronic pain comes about.
Briefly - it is a construct of the brain and is dependent on the brain’s assessment of how dangerous something is, or has been, to us. It is not residing in the body tissues and it is not reflecting the extent of any past tissue damage.
Think of it as your personal alarm system.
And unfortunately, sometimes the brain is stuck in the “alarm-ringing mode” about the danger that had been and gone.
If you missed it, here is the link to the post.
The brain can become too good at spotting danger because of too many bad or risky things that have happened to us in the past that necessitated the pain signal. The more pain we have experienced in the past, the better we might become at generating future pain episodes.
A sort of “brain pain training”, really, but one we can do without. Our brains are just too flexible and malleable - at any stage of our lives!
When we have this continuous unnecessary alarm ringning going on, not only is it very annoying and distracting, but it actually diverts many of our body’s resources to dealing with this signal.
Dealing with the discomfort of pain is intense work. The frantic disorganised chemical signalling that is going on at a deep cellular level takes up a lot of our energy. Dealing with the feelings of depression, too, perhaps - again, hormones and other chemicals being out of balance; so wasteful, if we think about it.
As the result of it, having less capacity to think clearly, to notice the world around us, to enjoy life, being out of balance and less in tune with our body. All because we are stuck with this BRAIN NOISE.
Not great, is it?
What are those danger signs our body can pick up on?
To make sense of the world around us, the body gathers information through senses: our vision, hearing, touch/skin, taste and smell. Our sensory receptors gather and pass information to our brain on things such as various types of touch (light touch, deep pressure, vibration, stretch of skin, hot, cold, itching), as well as noise frequency, various light levels and direction of movement of objects, exact type of smell and taste, and many things besides.
It considers and assesses - is the environment and this information safe? It is bad for us? Are we sure, if we have been there fefore, or is this a new experience to be evaluated?
When we have an injury, these sensory signals can become confused and provide inaccurate information to the brain. If this persists, the brain will treat this information as dangerous to our survival as this data remains inconsitent or garbled.
We can therefore continue having a pain experience long after the actual danger had passed as the signals are still messed up.
Wow, that’s complicated. And beautiful at the same time. Does it make sense to you, even if you've not heard of it explained in these terms before?
If you feel like your mind is a bit blown by that, you aren’t the only one. We are such complex creatures, I truly wish they taught a bit of this at school, but then - not many people actually realise that this is how us humans truly operate at this deep level, right?
And now for the most important question…. WHAT CAN BE DONE about it all to quash the signals of chronic pain?
Let’s talk about that next time. There are actually many options open to us.
If you would like to chat about your own health matters of pain or mobility restriction, please reach out to me via FB Messenger, email or over the phone.
To your health, Kaye