Putting Pain to Rest
New research is demonstrating that chronic pain causes changes in the brain. “The longer pain persists, the more your brain becomes sensitive to it,” says Jane O’Brien Franczak, MSPT, founder of SerendipPT . According to O’Brien, the brain responds more rapidly and effectively when experiencing the same pain stimulation over time. “Your best defense against chronic pain is to deal with acute pain now.”
Studies show that the amount of pain you experience does not necessarily relate to the amount of tissue damage you have sustained. The neurons develop a memory for responding to pain signals and can cause one to perceive an area of pain as larger than it truly may be. Think of when you bite your lip and it becomes swollen. As this pain persists, your brain causes you to perceive that the injured area of your lip is larger than it really is.
O’Brien’s message: “Don’t just put up with pain. A headache will propagate more headaches. Back pain leads to more back pain. One should not just deal with it and expect that it will go away with time. Deal with it and see a professional for help.”
The body and mind are connected. Minimizing pain requires a combination of methods that O’Brien has been recommending to her clients for years. First, address the body. Aerobic exercise can increase parasympathetic response (endorphin release) and decrease the sympathetic response (the fight or flight). Then, receive care from a healthcare professional such as a Physical Therapist who can address the musculoskeletal system. Third, change the mindset. Positive thoughts, laughter, socializing, changing the negatives into positives has a pain minimizing effect. Reduce one’s reaction to pain. Finally, decreasing your heart rate and slowing the breathing can lessen pain. “To succeed in decreasing pain, address your whole being. Seek help, stay positive, and breathe,” says O’Brien.