Pain: It’s all in your head?
If you have been dealing with pain for any length of time you may have heard from friends or professionals that it may be in your head. In those moments your first response can be anger, frustration, and hopelessness
. It is hard to explain to them that when you do certain activities, it hurts significantly. You know where the pain is and how to cause it, so why are you told that it is just in your head?
Unfortunately, this new way of thinking is going to be a permanent approach to pain. There has been significant research in the past few decades on understanding pain and although multiple theories have been tested, they have not been shown to be helpful.
The most recent approach to pain was the use of narcotics. In my opinion, narcotics still have an important place in helping with the recovery of an injury, but that has been used as a maintenance protocol for long periods. Narcotics provide good relief of pain especially in short time frames but when you use them for extended periods of time they lose their effect. It is like sugar. If you get a coffee and drink it and feel you need to add some sugar to make it taste better it may take a spoonful. After a while, you like your coffee and you really like the sugar but now to get the same effect of satisfaction you need twice the amount of sugar. Same with narcotics.
Your brain adapts to any new inputs. Exercise, after a while, does not have an effect unless you change your approach to challenge the body in different ways. Diets, work for a while until the body adapts to the new inputs, and then what you once lost weight with, now, can cause you to gain weight. The list goes on and on.
The new pain science is presenting that pain is a protective mechanism for the body. Usually, when you have pain, you will stop the activity that is giving you the problem. The problem with current lifestyles and modern medicine is we have altered the brain's interpretation of pain. We have caused confusion in the message. It is like the check engine light in a car, sometimes the check engine light keeps going off and the mechanic cannot find anything wrong. Sometimes your brain also puts out a “check engine” light because it does not have a normal to go back to, it is confusing.
If we can correct your brain's interpretation of what is happening, we can correct your pain.
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist, who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.
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