What affects pain?

In my first post, I mentioned a phenomena called “central sensitization”, shortly that if the brain is constantly teased with pain signals it will eventually became an expert on interpreting everything as pain. In our Bodies we have something called nociceptors. Their job is to recieve stimuli (like pain for example) and send these on to the spinal cord. The spinal cord then decides if this stimuli is to be sent to the brain or if this isn’t necessary. Let’s just call the spinal cord the phone operator of the body! Nociceptors works as a lookout on a ship whose job it is to raise the alarm if something out of the order and potentially dangerous appears. The captain (in this case your brain) then decides how big the threat really is and what is the accurate response. If the lookout has learnt that everything is extremely important to alert about, it will eventually report everything it sees and passes on to the captain without discrimination and more signals will be interpreted as pain. If we are in pain over a long period of time, this will increase the sensitivity of this (basically necessary) alarm system. 

This may sound gloomy, but you know what’s good? If we can train the brain to get better at sensing pain, we can also make it “worse” at it, right? This is called habituation, and will over time lead to that the same input eventually will give a different output. Imagine stepping in to a steaming hot bath. At first it will be unbearable but after a while you will get used to the heat and enjoy your bath. Pain works the same way! 

Living with long term pain and actually living your Iife is definitely possible. It will however require you to understand your pain, what it is and how this knowledge can help you affect it. The crucial realization for me was when I understood how big of a role other factors than pshysical sensations played. You may ask why this matters? Well, because when we understand that there are more factors affecting our lives than just the strictly physical, we gain more factors that can be adjusted and with that also adjust the pain. By using this mindset, we will over time increase our tolerance of pain and get less affected by it.
In my first post I used a cup as a metaphor for our daily lives, a cup that get’s filled up with many different parts that may eventually cause it to overflow. This leaves us with two different options, we can either make the cup bigger or decrease the amount of stuff filling it up. The thing is that when pain lingers in the body, it’s less about changes in tissue and trauma and more about all the other things that can make us more sensitive. These factors can be physical strain, stress, mental strain and social relations. You can have lots of all these factors in your life and have no pain, but if just one of the above suddenly increases, it may also increase your pain. To me the vital change came when I realized which of all these other factors were causing problems in my life. I needed to change a relationship, work on my stress levels and gain a realistic understanding of my physical prerequisites before I could eventually feel that I was “in charge” of my pain and could control it. What factors in your life do you think affects your life the most? 

If you’re living with long term pain, my guess is that you have been to several physiotherapists, naprapats, chiropractors, acupuncturists or basically anyone you’re hoping may be able to help you. You have also probably heard some of these verdicts:

“Your body is askew”
“You’re lacking core strength”
“Your gluteal muscles are weak”
“You have a dislocated vertebra”
“You have a bad posture”.

All of the above claims may be accurate (except that your vertebras wont move without some quite significant trauma) but the fact is that none of them need to be connected with your pain. Instead, try looking at questions like:

“How do I feel walking in to work?”
“How’s my relationship with my partner working?”
“Am I sleeping ok?”
“Do I have a social network?”

Maybe something here sparks a thought within you, something you can change? I’ll leave you with that thought and I’ll see you in my next post!

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