• We do not have pain receptors, but we can measure change or sensation in tissues.
• Information regarding change or damage then goes to the brain via the nerves.
• Pain is in fact, an output from this information coming in.
• Tagged with the incoming sensation is a construct of mediating factors from the brain.
• The biggest one being the subconscious brain’s interpretation of danger. Sensation tagged with a danger signal equals pain.
• The more danger we sense, the more pain we experience.
• Pain is therefore, the brain’s at- tempt to protect you, and good on it, it is after all, a very clever brain.
Problems can manifest when our brain is over-vigilant when we are stressed, when we are threatened, when we have previous negative experience and a raft of other factors which can and often do result in the brain increasing the danger signal which increases the pain.
With acute soft tissue injury, this is true, but it becomes important with pain that does not turn off, which is a byproduct of overprotective subconscious thought. Therefore we need strategies to turn down the danger and make things feel safe again.
Mindfulness and its offshoot ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) are one of the many effective tools we can use. Some of the key principles are:
1). Focusing on physical relaxation and breathing (proven to help with healing and reduce pain).
2). Focusing on the present to inhibit negative thoughts in the past (increasing the danger of threat signal) and to inhibit negative future thinking.
4). Not having expectations or believing in set schemas. e.g. If someone tells you that you will always have pain or limp, rather than seeing this as a set future, see what’s happening now and work with that. Little steps can often lead to big climbs, in time surpassing any set beliefs you may have acquired along the way.
5). Become mindfully aware of your movement and what helps you.
6). Avoiding mindlessness, and its emotional thinking.
7). Acceptance of the situation but not seeing it as fixed or permanent.
8). When in pain we are defined by three main components:
a. our illness,
b. our pain and
c. our self.
With persistent pain, these can merge into one. Sometimes you cannot change the pain or illness but you can change yourself. Focus on the things you love, do more of the good stuff. Build the self as it is often the only thing you can really influence.
Every person, every situation, and every injury is different. If we are stressed, on the edge then a small injury can be the straw that broke the back of the camel, resulting in over-vigilance, more perceived danger, and more pain. This creates a cycle, more disability, more threat, more pain etc. Mental skills training can help and mindfulness is one of those skill sets proven to do so.
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