How Does MindBody Pain Happen?
Our brains work non-stop to scan our environments for threat and protect us from it. Pain is always a warning sign from our brain as a result of perceived threat, however, MOST pain is not a warning of current tissue damage! In fact, structural causes of pain are very rare in the scope of the chronic pain epidemic. Contemporary neuroscience tells us there are two ways our nervous systems get stuck in flight or flight, and the switch for MindBody Pain gets turned on in our brains:
- After an acute injury or physical trauma, like a broken bone, the initial pain is met with extreme fear, fighting, frustration, and fixation on the present uncomfortable sensations, as well as extreme fear and anxiety over your future – which now feels in danger! As a result of this intense mental focus, and heightened emotional arousal, your brain gets the message this pain is very important and you must keep paying attention to it, and the circuit for pain is securely wired on. In this case, even after the initial injury heals, and there is absolutely no remaining tissue damage, the pain persists, and even worsens with time. It has become a mental pattern or habit ingrained in your hyper-vigilant brain. ALL injuries heal! Our body is a healing machine. If you are experiencing lingering pain after any injury, that is MindBody Pain.
- Pain is absolutely always a warning signal/alarm from our brains. BUT, most often it’s a false one, created in response to threats that are not physical in nature, but emotional. Because of a quirk in our primitive brains and nervous systems, our brains perceive anger, extreme stress, grief, and other unbearable emotions – accumulated over our lifetimes – to be as threatening as physical damage. So, these emotional threats result in the same pain that physical damage would. In this case, pain most often starts after a period of prolonged stress, a significant life change, or a substantial emotional trauma. However, it can also start after a relatively minor trauma, if stressors have accumulated over one’s life time, raising our brain’s danger response over time until it finally goes beserk.
MindBody Pain, like all pain, is happening as a result of a decision your brain has made, but it is NOT “all in your head”! There is no such thing as real vs fake pain – there is no distinction between structural and MindBody Pain in intensity. The idea that any one is “faking” their pain, simply because it cannot be explained by scans or tests, is a cruel and unsubstantiated notion that has no place in civilized society.
Every single person, from childhood through old age, will experience MindBody Pain, and other MindBody symptoms, at some time in their lives. MindBody symptoms we all recognize include crying, blushing, trembling, racing heart, goosebumps, butterflies in the stomach, and so many more. The MindBody connection is part of the human condition, and the result of our brain and nervous system acting exactly as they should: To protect us from perceived threats. However, in the case of chronic MindBody Pain, our brain is acting overzealously – protecting us in the absence of any tissue damage, and in a way that does not benefit us.
My MindBody Pain Program works on the source of the pain, your fearful brain. I work with clients to identify the reason/s their brain turned on the switch for pain, and why it is staying on. Then I help them turn off the fear and retrain their brains – through proven, completely noninvasive techniques – to stop using the habituated neural pathways that are keeping them in pain. Whether you have been in pain for five years or fifteen, no matter how bad your pain is or has been, no matter how weak or scared you are, this program CAN WORK FOR YOU. Take the Pain Test at Cure Your Chronic Pain to find out if this work is right for you.
Why Didn’t My Doctor Tell Me This?
Most doctors and surgeons are incredibly well meaning, and care deeply about their patients’ welfare. However, they are simply too busy to stay up to date on all contemporary research; and, rules around insurance often mean they can’t spend enough time with individual patients to get a big-picture understanding of their lives. As a result, the medical establishment is very slow to pivot to new ideas and techniques, even when they are backed by solid science. Learn more about the overwhelming science behind Pain Reprocessing Therapy at my sister site Cure Your Chronic Pain.
These doctors are stuck in the scientifically incorrect mindset that degeneration seen on MRIs and other imaging is the best, or only, explanation for chronic pain, because 1) that was the prevailing belief when they were in medical school, 2) they are completely overwhelmed by patients in chronic pain, and 3) Doctors don’t feel they are allowed to say “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” or “I can’t help you.”
So, outdated information combined with unrealistic pressure on doctors to solve even the problems they don’t understand leads them to pursue – with the best of intentions – less than certain connections between what they see on scans/tests and their patients’ symptoms. This is also why prescriptions for surgery, injections, and medications are skyrocketing, in the absence of solid evidence of their efficacy. Treatments focused on the body will not work for symptoms we now understand are controlled by the brain. When those treatments do not work, as endless studies show is so often the case, everyone involved feels they are out of options. This common scenario causes immense fear and frustration for pain patients, and pain doctors, everywhere! If you’re coming to me, it is very likely you’ve already experienced more than your fair share.
Research on the MRIs of asymptomatic individuals shows that everyone over the age of 20 has “normal abnormalities” like disc herniations, serious joint degeneration, muscle tears, arthritis, etc. all of their lives. The overwhelming majority of the people will NEVER experience pain. Visible disc and other degenerations are signs of normal aging – like gray hairs on the inside – and not a precursor to pain. Degeneration is an incidental finding, something we should expect to be present on the imaging of even healthy individuals. It follows that if back/neck pain is not caused by something like a disc herniation, then surgery to “fix” the disc will not stop the pain. This is why surgery is so notoriously ineffective for chronic pain patients.
Additionally, pain should not linger on after any injury. Bodies heal; If you are experiencing pain that sticks around for longer than a couple months, or an old injury that is “acting up,” your brain has taken over and the original injury is no longer to blame. If the true source of any chronic pain – the patient’s brain, the cycle of fear and rumination, and emotional patterns keeping their brains in high alert – are not the focus of treatment, then their pain might move and change, but it will never go away.