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The Truth About Pain

Have you experienced pain for 3 months or more? Is pain interfering or stopping you from doing activities you love? Is persistent pain causing frustration, depression, or fear? Do you feel like no one understands the pain you are in? Has a doctor told you, “You’ll just have to live with the pain”? Or even, “It’s all in your head”?


If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, would you be encouraged to know that there may be a way out of pain for you? Pain has been a widely misunderstood phenomenon, however recent advances in functional brain imaging (fMRIs) have helped us better understand what pain is and how pain works.


At its essence, pain is a protective mechanism. Pain is an indicator that there could be potential tissue damage. When you place your hand over a hot stove, the pain your hand feels actually prevents tissue damage from happening.  If you were to continue to move your hand closer, there would be tissue damage, but often you pull the hand away because of pain, and there is no tissue damage. Pain is there to protect you. Pain is not actually the problem. It is a signal that there could be a problem. 


Pain gets a little more complicated. Our current understanding is that all pain is a biopsychosocial phenomenon. Which means that although tissue damage can cause nociceptive messages, our psychology (i.e. our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, memories) and our social circumstances (i.e. relationships with others, education, culture) also play a part in how we experience pain. So, the pain you are currently feeling may be influenced or even initiated by stressors in your life. Again, pain is a warning signal and is protective. When we feel unsafe or stressed, the brain’s alarm system can sound, and pain can result.


All pain in created in the brain. All pain is real. Whether you’ve had pain for 24 hours or for 24 years; all pain is real and all pain is a product of the brain. When pain sticks around for longer than three months, there are changes as to where the pain is registered in the brain. The longer we have pain, the more areas of the brain become activated when we feel pain. The brain gets more efficient at producing pain. These pain pathways in the brain get used so frequently, that our brains get “wired” to produce pain. Basically, our brains “learn pain”. 


There is a normal and appropriate healing time for all tissues in our body. Muscles take roughly 2-6 weeks to heal. Bones take about 6-12 weeks to heal. Ligaments take 10-16 weeks to heal. When pain lasts longer than the normal healing time of tissues, and the symptoms become Chronic, we can suspect that there are some learned pain patterns in play. The treatment needed for chronic pain should not be purely body focused, but should also be brain focused.



The good news is that our brains are Neuroplastic, meaning they have the ability to change and rewire pathways given the right information and corrective experience.  We can “learn” pain because we have neuroplasticity, but luckily, we can also “unlearn” pain because we have neuroplasticity. 



There is more good news! Pain Reprocessing Therapy is a treatment approach that aims to rewires neural pathways in the brain which allows the brain to turn down the alarm signals and decrease pain. One of the central techniques used in Pain Reprocessing Therapy is Somatic Tracking, which is a combination of mindfulness, safety reappraisal, and positive affect induction. The purpose of Somatic tracking is to be able to attend to the signals of pain through a lens of safety, thus “turning down” the pain volume. Somatic tracking can be used with all movement therapy and is a perfect complement to physical therapy treatment programs. 


If you are interested in finding out more about your chronic pain condition and how to go about unlearning your pain, please call for more information or to book an introductory session.

“The Longer you have pain, the better your spinal cord gets at producing messages to the brain, even if there is no danger"   –
Dr. Lorimer Moseley

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