Can how you think about pain be holding you back?


One thing that I pride myself on and that I have been told by many of my clients that I have helped them massively with is the mindset or mental side of dealing with pain.

In last months blog, I listed some principles that I feel are essential to utilize in order to make long term progress with your symptoms. The first on that list was Perception Change.

One of the first things that I seek to understand when I begin working with someone in pain is where they are at with their understanding of what is happening in their body

Only by getting a good sense of this, are we able to identify any potential issues that may block them from making progress with their symptoms. 

I often use the following analogy or explanation when working with a person in pain:

“When you go to the optician and they test your eyes, you have to wear that big heavy set of glasses where they can swap in and out different lenses to correctly calibrate your vision. Some lenses make things crystal clear, some distort what you see. 

Now apply that analogy to your central nervous system and pain. Your nervous system (or brain) uses the understanding and beliefs you hold about your body, injuries, pain, the diagnoses you’ve received, as well as previous experiences of injury or trauma as reference points when interpreting what is happening to your body now. 

Those reference points are like the lenses that we talked about before. 

Negative experiences with traumas or injuries are likely to become strong reference points or markers that your nervous system will use when interpreting how safe or threatening the current task or context is for you.

In the same way, beliefs or understandings about your body or pain itself that increase your fear, worry or anxiety about your situation also become lenses that all shape your perception of what is happening. And all of this can happen on a spectrum of being consciously aware of this via thoughts that pop up to being unconscious of this happening”.

After understanding this, can you now understand how negative messages about your body, or about your future, or about pain itself can cause your nervous system to perceive higher levels of threat than if you had never had those negative messages in the first place?

All of this influences your symptoms, mindset and motivation in attempting to help yourself make progress. 

lenses

In addition to this, there are endless streams of information available for you to consume via the internet (of which this is one also!) that offer conflicting explanations or advice. Which likely instills doubt in you about your best next steps to make progress and often ends up with you trying the latest fad that’s popular, only to fail to make progress again. And that leads to you beginning to think that you are beyond help, which ramps up negative thought patterns and makes the mental / mindset side of dealing with pain that bit harder again.

As you can see and understand, this is a pretty big topic to wrap your head around. In a previous blog post I wrote that creating clarity is a very important part of creating change. 

Clarity on what matters, factual information about your body and your symptoms & the opportunity to ask questions and have your concerns listened to all must happen in order for you to begin changing the lenses that have been built up for you. 

Education about your body and your symptoms is often incredibly powerful at dispelling many of the fear inducing myths and narratives about the human body. This in itself shifts your perception and when that happens, your nervous systems protective responses such as pain, protective muscle tone & movement restrictions can all decrease dramatically.

As I often say, the finer details will change from person to person depending on their story  –  the principles will remain. Perception change is one of the most powerful ways that you can begin to improve your symptoms.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share with someone that you know will benefit from reading it.

If you would like some help with overcoming your symptoms, you can become a member of my online community where people from all over the world are working through a carefully structured process to improve their symptoms, transform their mindset and get back to living life freely again. 

David

David Mc Gettigan

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