Throughout history, many great thinkers have contemplated the nature of fear. Gandhi said fear was “our enemy”, Mandela felt that it was “a challenge to overcome”, and Yoda said that it was “the path to the dark side.”
In reality, fear is simple. It is what we feel when we think we’re in danger. It puts our brain in a state of high alert sending our body signals to warn us about “the danger”. Fear is universal and we all experience it daily.
When we are on high alert and experience fear, not only do our senses get magnified, but our body also gets a strong physical reaction. When we’re afraid, noises seem louder, smells become more sensitive, and we have increased heart rate and blood pressure. However, fear also amplifies danger signals, like pain.
We all know that when the body sustains a structural injury (ankle sprain, bone fracture, puncture wound), the brain will produce a pain sensation in the area of the injury to alarm you that there is danger there. This is such a helpful biological mechanism our brain and nervous system offers.
As you can see, pain is like a conversation between your body and your brain, But as in any conversation, sometimes there are misunderstandings. The brain can misinterpret signals from your body (including your nervous system) and misfire. In other words, while your body has no structural damage, your brain can still create REAL pain based on your reaction to situations. This pain is a “false alarm” and can misfire repetitively and become chronic.
This is what we call Neuroplastic Pain. It is a neuroscience concept that has been validated through many studies in the last 5-10 years, and it has shown that while chronic pain feels like it’s coming from the body, in most cases it’s generated by misfiring pain circuits in the brain.
So, what is the root cause of neuroplastic pain? Why do our brains make this mistake?
What is the fuel that keeps the pain going? FEAR.
Where does all this fear come from? There are many different factors that can put us in a state of high alert:
- Stressful situations (good or bad)
- Big life changes (both positive and negative) – we’ve certainly experienced tones of fear going through the COVID-19 pandemic!
- Childhood adversity
- Hearing negative stories or misinformation on the News and Social Media.
- Receiving a negative physical diagnosis or prognosis of your health.
- Certain behaviors and emotions such as putting pressure on yourself, self-criticism, perfectionism, anger, frustration, despair, stress, anguish, annoyance, and dismay.
Neuroplastic pain can start with an injury or appear out of nowhere. It can start abruptly or gradually. It can appear during a stressful time or when nothing particular is going on.
The brain is capable of generating any physical sensation in any part of the body: pain in your back, neck, and shoulders, headaches, muscle pain, nerve pain, sharp pain, dullness, numbness, tingling, and burning pain.
The Amazing News Is…..
Neuroplastic pain is a mistake, a false alarm, AND it can be fixed by rewiring your brain. What does that look like?
The way you react to that false alarm makes all the difference. If you respond with fear (a sense of danger), it reinforces the pain. But if you start noticing your pain as a physical sensation that is misfired from a lens of safety, eventually your brain will lessen the misfiring and the pain will stop. Sounds like voodoo right ?! But so many scientific studies have confirmed this concept, and I have personally experienced and resolved neuroplastic pain myself using neuroscience tools.
If you have been struggling with chronic pain for a long time, and have tried lots of different types of treatment with little to no success, neuroplastic pain might be what you’re experiencing.
Visit our website to learn more about Mind-Body Coaching and send me an email if you are curious, and would like to chat and ask me questions. I’m happy to help you make this determination through a free phone/zoom consultation.
Yours in Health,