Watch the animation below to learn how
Watch the animation below to learn how
Once upon a time, all the lands were fraught with persistent pain. So widespread was this affliction that one in four people experienced it. The pain lasted more than 3 months. It shadowed their daily lives… held them back from everyday activities … and the interventions they tried proved useless…
Hey, pain! Go away! We’ve tried it all But still you stay! Moving less, Taking pills, Knives and needles
Hey, pain! Go away! We’ve tried it all But still you stay!
But the pain remains like a loyal companion.
The peoples’ hopes faded and they became resigned to living with the pain – only now, the pain was a beast! Then, along came a group of researchers, of which I am one. “Back off, big fella!” I’m Professor Lorimer Moseley and I’m a pain scientist.
Pain scientists are starting to think differently about pain and its causes. And we’re making exciting discoveries…
Like how the way you think about your pain can change the way it feels. Over the next few minutes, I’ll help you to understand your pain. Understanding is important because it can change how much things hurt and how much your body can do… And can help you to tame the beast.
First, trust me about this… Pain is not an accurate measure of tissue health. Pain is a protector. By making unpleasant feelings, your brain changes your behaviour – so you can avoid injury or your tissues can heal. Sometimes pain is not helpful – like phantom limb pain. You don’t expect a missing limb to ache. But it does and the pain is very real.
So how do we explain this? Pain is a warning signal from your brain that depends on credible evidence to say your body needs protecting. Sometimes it’s too protective and you get unnecessary warning signals. Pain scientists now understand that there are many ways our nervous system ends up producing unnecessary warning signals. Take conditioning for example.
Think of Pavlov’s dog… Every time food was offered, Pavlov rang a bell. Of course, the dog would salivate seeing the food. This went on for a while. Eventually the dog was conditioned to salivate for the bell alone. Conditioning is just one of the ways your body learns pain. And the longer your nervous system produces pain, the better it gets at producing it. Your body learns pain
So what feeds this beast? Let’s look at how pain works… In your body’s tissues, there are specific neurones, which normally only respond to harmful stimuli. – whether mechanical, chemical or thermal. When they are activated, they send a warning signal to your spinal cord, which can in turn send a signal to your brain. This activity in neurones is called ‘nociception’ and it’s happening all the time. But it only sometimes results in pain. Most of the time, the brain protects you with other things like movement. Once the warning signal reaches the brain, the brain makes sense of it based on the information arriving and the vast amount already stored. If there’s reason to think protection is required, then your brain makes pain.
One of our amazing discoveries is that you can have pain without any physical stimuli. Thoughts and places might activate the warning signals. And the pain feels exactly the same. But it’s not just your brain - your spinal cord also learns how to generate unnecessary warning signals.
So how do you know when your nervous system is learning pain? You may notice your pain spreads or comes on without warning. Your body feels odd and it’s hard to move properly. Your pain changes quickly with your mood and small annoyances can set it off. Old injuries start to hurt again. You’re more sensitive to stimuli. And the longer the pain goes on, the more all of this occurs.
The old way we understood pain left many sufferers feeling like no one believed it was real. Or that for it to hurt so bad, there must be a tissue problem. But we now know how persistent pain happens.
So how can you tame the beast?
Pain is a very personal thing. There’s no one size fits all solution. And while you probably have well thought out coping strategies, it’s time to take a new approach to dealing with and reducing your pain – one that focuses on retraining your pain system. This might mean testing yourself physically and moving more than you normally would. Being honest about your current attitudes and beliefs can also help. As can asking your health professional new questions.
How do I know if my pain system is being over protective? How can I retrain my pain system to be less protective? How do I know if I’m safe to move?
So be brave and have hope! Because – it is possible to tame the beast!
Visit our website for more information and questions to ask your health professional. tamethebeast.org