Most of us have experienced acute or chronic physical pain in one form or another, whether it was from a motor vehicle accident, sports injury, sitting too much at work, or simply bending over to pick up our grocery bag. Regardless of how it happens, pain is an unpleasant “sensation” that we feel in our body. Pain is a signal that is sent from your body’s peripheral nerves to your brain alerting you that something is not quite “right” in your body.
Your brain controls the amount of pain you experience. Contrary to what many people may think, the degree of pain is NOT related to the extent of damage in the tissues or your body.
Have you ever wondered how pain can be so relative from one person to another? For example, some people will have bulging discs, torn rotator cuff tendons, and arthritis with no pain, while others have similar issues with excruciating pain.
This is because chronic pain is 100% influenced by your emotional state (nervous system) and your belief system. Research shows that when pain is met with feelings of neutrality, not only does it subside, but the brain can eventually stop the pain.
Pain-related fear evolves as a result of catastrophic beliefs and negative interpretations that pain means harm. This pain-related fear can be fear of re-injury, movement, returning to activity, or work. This is similar to receiving a diagnosis of a condition that sounds scary or complicated, such as spinal stenosis, scoliosis, or disc degenerative disease.
What often happens is that you may start hyper-focusing on the problem and its pain, and believing that “YOU” are the disease, that you are broken, and that you will never be the same.
You also hear traumatic stories from other people sharing their personal experiences, believing it will also happen to you, or you may create your own scary story about your body and your future. All of this puts your brain and body into a survival state.
Remember, our brain is designed to take flight and protect you by finding evidence that your worries and fears are true! When we allow that state to take over, we disconnect from our bodies, get obsessed with negative thoughts and fret about the future. This creates more fear and anxiety.
Different types of emotions send different messages through your nervous system to your heart, brain, and body. For example, a constant stream of intense emotions such as fear, anxiety, frustration, and anger sends your body into a fight or flight mode, increasing stress and pain. Whereas, emotions like gratitude, compassion, love, and appreciation signal your parasympathetic nervous system to relax and promote healing.
I invite you to notice what you are feeling when you are in pain or when you get a diagnosis. Also notice what your beliefs are about your recovery, your physical limitations, what you think the diagnosis means to you and your physical abilities, and how you think it will impact your quality of life.
There are FOUR simple ways to help reduce fear and anxiety:
Mindfulness and Breathing – Be present and aware of your body, the sensations you feel, and your breathing rhythm. There are amazing guided mindfulness meditation apps you can try for this. I personally love “Gaia” and “Calm”.
Yoga and light daily cardiovascular exercise (stationary bike, walking, swimming)
Accepting and Allowing. I hear you! As much as this can be very difficult or frustrating to do, I want to offer you to be curious about the possibility that you CAN live a life with minimal or no pain, that is full and embodied with your loved ones.
Show gratitude to your body. For example, eating healthy food, getting enough quality sleep, exercising, loving it, loving the fact that it can take you to places and that you get to live in it. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel. Practice feeling gratitude daily. One day-at-a-time.
I’m so very grateful to have this opportunity to show up in your inbox every week and connect with you. If you have any questions or comments about this topic, please feel free to connect with me 🙂
Yours in Health,
Valerie Beaulieu, Clinic Founder/CEO/CAT(C), Mind-Body Life Coach