How to Change Pain, the Brain, and Neuro Tags
We will experience pain when our credible evidence of danger related to our body is greater than our credible evidence of safety related to our body. Equally we won’t have pain when our credible evidence of safety is greater than our credible evidence of danger (Moseley and Butler 2015, pp14).
Pain is a great motivator and inhibitor. Finding the balance between the two is crucial to overcoming blocks physically as well as mentally.
Chronic pain is common and is an expensive problem. According to the health economists at John Hopkins University, the cost to the health care system is 635 billion dollars a year.
The cost is not the only problem. Why can’t we get out of pain in the western world? The simple answer is not knowing what to do, not knowing what questions to ask, or not knowing what treatment to try. The internet offers endless solutions and quick fixes but it seems to fall short. Also, masking symptoms with magic pills leads to other issues and can cause illnesses, cancer, or dysfunction somewhere else in the body.
Pain affects our quality of life, our brains, and the time focused on the pain. Pain changes our personalities, often becoming stressed, irritable, or mistrusting that others do not understand what it feels like.
How Pain Gets in the way of Recovery
This week I had the opportunity to refer a patient to Gyrotonics, as fascia therapy is the essential treatment but movement and strength conditioning is equally important to recovering after injury. I offer exercise rehabilitation, whereas Gyro is a program that re-educates the muscles and fascia through gentle graceful precise movement building on the exercises I have recommended.
These simple movements can cause pain if the body has not engaged those fibers for a very long time, if ever. Un-sticking of fibers that were glued together is a good pain, but pain is pain.
Those that have not experienced good pain as a young athlete have a difficult time understanding pain even after it is explained. This lack of experience and understanding can hinder their progress and fear can kick in. When that happens, the person stops the movement – which over time creates premature aging, chronic pain and structural imbalances.
The person who went to a session of Gyro chose not to continue due to an increase in pain after movement, which went away after 2 days. Gyro is 3-dimensional movement, very different from weight training which is commonly linear. Often 2-dimensional movement can even re-imprint bad patterns of movement if not monitored by an educated eye.
Changing how we think about pain is an executive function of the brain occurring in the prefrontal regions of the frontal lobe with multiple connections to other cortical, subcortical and brainstem regions. This means we have to get the brain and body out of fight or flight to make the best decisions for our health and well-being.
Pain occurs when there is a change. Any change creates discomfort, and it is in this space where creation and improvement takes place.
- Expansive – Moving past the pain. For example with arthritis, the treatment is movement and is excruciating in the first few steps or stretches. However, after a while, the body has released the fibers and adhesions so movement is easier.
- Change our language and self-dialogue – What you say to yourself matters. It changes the biochemistry in your brain and fascia. Negative thoughts and lack of water makes the fascia sticky which causes immediate stiffness and more discomfort or pain during treatment.
- The frequency of pain- How often we experience pain. If we move through the pain, it determines how we approach and treat pain.
- Movement is the long term solution to being pain-free, but the first few steps or movements take the greatest amount of energy. There is an unseen indivisible resistance that wants to keep us where we are because the brain wants to keep us safe and in the known, even if dysfunctional seems to be a better choice. Rewiring the brain is important to maintain health and wellness.
I often hear “I don’t like fascia therapy because it hurts”. It only hurts if the fascia has adhered to the muscles, skin, nerves, and organs. This environment is not optimal for health and longevity. Pain has little to do with what I am doing; it has everything to do with the material presented, meaning the tissue or condition of your body. It is human nature to want to blame something outside of ourselves for the pain. But being dehydrated is the number one cause of headaches, but most people want to take a pill rather than take a sip of water unless it is taking a sip with the pill.
Retraining the brain can be done with movement and retraining the fascia.
The first step is taking the brain out of fight or flight. Then the real healing can take place, not just temporary short term relief.
How is Your Brain Perceiving Pain?
Is your brain caught in a neurological loop?
If it is, a reboot of the brain, fascia, and body is necessary
Does the pain match the experience or injury? This leads to the question that how someone experiences pain is unique. It depends on their environment, the epigenetics, and family upbringing. Everything that has happened to you matters. Dismissing trauma, accidents, or events as minor does not make that so.
After the injury has healed, why does the brain perceive new events as being threatening?
Peripheral nerve endings all over the body may be impinged by the fascia, causing a crossed or heightened signal that is inaccurate.
Tissue tolerance for an over-stimulated brain on heightened alert perceives normal or neutral sensations from ordinary activity or even the lighter therapies such as lymph therapy or cranial therapy as threatening and cause pain to kick in. A flare-up, putting the person back into fight or fight. Even though the tissue itself has not been re-injured, the neurological loop kicks in and the pain systems are activated.
Unfortunately, many people stop moving or stop treatment because of fear of being re-injured due to the pain. The brain is tricking them, as the tissues have healed but the brain is protecting itself even when it no longer is useful or optimal for the person. The signals need to be interrupted.
The brain being oversensitive is debilitating. The person often while in this state has a difficult time trusting others or health care practitioners, as there are so many promises to fix them. And that their treatment is the one and only treatment that will work.
Often it takes a team to heal the body and brain. Fantastic treatments often do not work as they are given in the wrong order. There is a hierarchy to healing, the first step is taking the body out of fight or flight. As the body can not heal when it is defensive or running from a bear.
How you define yourself and speak to yourself affects your pain. Segmenting your body by saying that is my bad side, my bad leg, my back is sore, or my back will give out at any movement affects brain chemistry.
Doctors and family members frame thoughts or expectations by saying that “everyone in your age bracket has pain”. Getting used to it is an opinion, not fact, but when they say it they are presenting it as a fact. Pain is not a normal state of being.
Another statement that is used repeatedly by professional is “Its all in your head”. Technically, when you’re stuck in a neurological loop it does start in the head.
Neuro Tags and Pain Expectation
The study published in the British Sports Med Journal o 2016 Aug;50(16):990-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095356. Epub 2015 Dec 18 by Wallwork SB et al defines neurotags as a new frontier in understanding how the brain works. His explanation below:
“Neural representations, or neurotags, refer to the idea that networks of brain cells, distributed across multiple brain areas, work in synergy to produce outputs. The brain can be considered then, a complex array of neurotags, each influencing and being influenced by each other. The output of some neurotags act on other systems, for example, movement, or on consciousness, for example, pain. This concept of neurotags has sparked a new body of research into pain and rehabilitation. We draw on this research and the concept of a cortical body matrix-a network of representations that subserves the regulation and protection of the body and space around it-to suggest important implications for rehabilitation of sports injury and for sports performance.”
Power of Focus
We get what we focus on, the brain can manifest whatever it wants.
Researchers have found individuals anticipating high levels of pain receiving a low pain stimulate did not change their experience of the pain event or pain response. They perceived high pain.
The expectation of pain has to be rewired in treatment, physical activity, and changing internal dialogue.
New thoughts on Pain by Lorimer Moseley
We call the dangers out there DIMs – Danger In Me, and the safety out there SIMs – Safety In Me. Each DIM or SIM must comprise distributed, context variable, neuroimmune circuitry in the brain – a unique ‘neurotag’ to use the language from Explain Pain Danger Stimulus (DIM) danger neurotag.
If there are too many DIMS your brain switches into fight or flight mode and this triggers an inflammation response. Cells and neurotags have to be retrained or rewired.
There is a growing need to understanding how the fascia, the brain, pain receptors, and lymph work together to be pain-free. We are all connected by a communication system of the fascia and lymph.
What To Do Next
Treatment and Self Care – Less is Better
One approach is to graduate treatment and build trust. The brain has to recognize that it is not being assaulted and this takes patience.
- Start moving: 1 – 5 minutes of walking, biking, sometimes doing 5 reps of a movement is enough for one day.
- Build a strong foundation for success: looking at how the fascia adapted after injury. Where are the lines of tension? Release those and the pain seems to melt away.
- Breath: breathing helps bring nourishment to the brain.
- Hydration: sip don’t guzzle water so your body has a chance to utilize it.
- Listen to solfeggio frequencies to retrain the brain.
- Supplements: supporting the brain with fish oils, electrolytes, and amino acids. To order medical grade supplements click on the link. https://fasciatraining.nutridyn.com