IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD! (?!)
One of the most mind-bending things I’ve heard in recent years is that there is no such thing as pain. But hang on a minute – why am I hurting??! According to Hunter New England Health,1 pain is 100% produced in the brain. It is not so much a condition, but more like a message, or perhaps an interpretation even, that we are in a situation that may threaten our wellbeing.
These messages can save our life or at least make us aware that there is potential damage happening. You know, like a strain in your hammy because you sprinted off down the road on your bike without a warm up. Or, getting your finger that bit too close to the drop saw. This is the kind of communication we can be grateful for (at least in hindsight!). So, while pain is produced in the brain, it is still a real experience that can become debilitating when the messages go on, and on, long after the stimulus has gone.
According to GP Access & the Hunter Integrated Pain Service1, one in five Australians suffer from chronic pain. That is, persistent suffering that goes on long after the injury has healed. This is where the messages may not be serving us quite so well, and retraining the brain to deal with the torment can support your pain management plan.
The good news is that the brain is highly adaptable and trainable. We can create new neural pathways to calm down the pain response and decrease our sensitivity to it. As a practitioner of Neuro-linguistic Programming I have witnessed with clients, and experienced personally, the power of the mind to create our experience and to co-create new realities.
STRESS – PAIN CYCLE
Those suffering from discomfort find that relaxation and sleep is harder to achieve and this in turn can affect our mood and the nervous system. Which means, learning ways to reduce stress and wind down the nervous system helps with emotional wellbeing and can improve comfort levels.
Thoughts and emotions do impact on our experience, so it can be worth exploring the deeper meaning of pain and when it started. It may have been a worrying period of life and a worsening physical picture. Recognising deeper emotions can be part of the healing process.
The Pain Doctor explains the pain-stress cycle:
‘When external stimuli are eliminated, the fight-or-flight response is deactivated. This [fight-or-flight] response is the cornerstone of the stress response, and many chronic pain sufferers are constantly in this state of stress as their body reacts to pain. Chronic stress increases …[the] intensity.’2
When we can eliminate or cope with stress better, we can interrupt the cycle, which in turn can help decrease our sensitivity.
RELIEF WITH FLOATATION REST
Pain relief is one of the more common reasons people choose to float. It’s non-invasive, natural, holistic, and can fit easily into current management strategies. Studies into Floatation REST has been shown beneficial effects that relate to physical discomfort and how we experience it3. Some of these factors include:
Floatation REST is a perfect backdrop for forming new neural pathways. The deep relaxation and psychological benefits that come with floating regularly, are key factors in the effectiveness of being able to retrain the brain to respond to messages of physical discomfort differently.