How Does Pain Work?
Pain is one of our protective systems. It is designed to keep us safe and well, and it’s controlled by the brain. The brain has the ability to monitor many inputs from within the body. The decision to protect us is based on information gathered, in real time, from all inputs. The brain’s message to protect is mediated by sending a PAIN signal.
Chronic pain, even though the original trigger for the pain may have stopped, the other factors are still there, so the brain becomes overprotective and keeps the pain going. It’s a bit like the brain struggling to turn down the ‘volume control’.
Chronic pain can cause a range of problems, including:
|Excitable nerves.||Slight pressure can cause unpleasant and painful sensations like pins and needles or electric shocks|
|Sensitivity.||Skin, muscles or nerves can be more sensitive to pressure, touch or heat|
|Faulty brain activity.||The systems that turn down pain are inefficient or don’t work|
|Low mood||Living with persistent pain can cause strong feelings such as anger and frustration|
Pain is a very isolating and invisible – no one else can see or feel your pain. This adds to the frustration of living with it. Emotions like anger, anxiety or depression can enrage pain nerve networks making them more sensitive. Try to remember: “this is not your fault.”
So what can you do to reduce chronic pain?
It can come as a bit of shock to realise that, to reduce your pain, you need to help your brain to turn the pain down.
You can retrain the brain by getting fitter and stronger, balancing your activities and focusing more on your valued goals and less on the pain.
Over time as you are living a more healthy life, being more active and doing things normally and focusing on living life, your brain will become less overprotective and your pain more manageable.
Keep in mind that the goal is to attain a higher degree of self management where you can modulate your pain to a more manageable level by using what you will learn here. How nice would it be to be able to say that “I now run my life rather than the pain running it.”