Tackling Pain – The Brain

A big part of taking control and managing my own ongoing pain was to understand how pain occurs from a physiological point of view.  Opposed to what I once thought, level of pain and severity of injury do not have a linear relationship. One person can have a disc buldge in their lower back and not experience any symptoms and then another person can have exactly the same disc buldge and be experience debilitating ongoing chronic pain- injury is not equal to pain.

Have you ever heard that saying: ’It’s all in your head’?

When it comes to pain, it’s true! The sensation of having pain is all in your head. This doesn’t mean pain isn’t real. Pain is so real and very present but the truth is, it’s all in your head.

We know skeletal muscle is always adapting to changes in the physical environment however, if a mechanical stress exceeds the muscles adaptability, an acute injury occurs. Exposure to a new mechanical stress is how acute injury occurs and often results in muscle cell membrane damage. This leaves the muscles more vulnerable to increased damage and in order to prevent further injury the body goes into defence mode. This results in inflammation, pain and stiffness all to protect and begin the repair process at the site of damage. This all seems very biological but it is important to understand that the body’s repair and protection systems result in the physical symptoms of inflammation and pain at the site of injury opposed to the injury itself.

As a side note let’s take a moment to appreciate how good our bodies are at repairing themselves. When you break a bone in your arm, you might be in a cast for 6-8 weeks. Why is it then that a strain in the back can result in years of chronic pain? Is the back still strained after all these years?

In chronic pain, the acute injury process becomes over sensitised. Even though the cell membrane is no longer damaged there continues to be protective mechanisms in place. The brain detects the inflammation and sends out the pain response to the site as it would with any acute injury. This is where chronic pain develops, escalated by our own conscious protection thoughts ie. ‘I can’t bend down as I have a sore back mentality’-(see lasts weeks blog!) There is no such thing as pain receptors. The brain detects information ie. Inflammation and responds with a pain message. If you can change how your body interprets these signals then you can change how it responds. I will talk about this next blog and how the experiences we have influence on the pain we feel.

Hit me up with comments and questions: claire @tailoredhealth.com.au

Until next time 🙂

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