Undoing Chronic Pain

Acute pain is a useful response, isn’t it? We need to look after ourselves when we have an injury.

But sometimes our pain response gets stuck, we recover from the original injury but our brain gets stuck with the pain.

All pain is processed in the brain

So it’s useful, isn’t it, if we can learn to interrupt that unhelpful, somewhat over-excited response that is the cause of chronic pain; the response that keeps using the same brain pathways and making it even easier to feel more and more of these sensations.

Here’s a way to interrupt what’s happening when the doctor tells you the injury has healed and you can’t work out why it still hurts.

We’re going to use an acronym: LIFT

  1. Language: research shows that when you hear the word ‘pain’ you encourage the pain pathways in your brain. From now on skip that old word and look for ‘increased comfort’ or ‘a soothing feeling’. And you may want to call that thing in your body you used to call ‘p…’ something neutral such as ‘bananas’ ‘lemons’ or ‘onions’
  2. Influence: although it feels like something that is just happening to you, consider the possibility that YOU can make a difference to it; you can change your language; you can think about what you want instead; you can recognise that it’s your brain that is processing these signals so successfully. It’s not your fault, it’s just happened, but you can help yourself find the way out.
  3. Focus: at the moment you focus on those sensations easily, probably automatically. Practice putting your focus elsewhere; for example, how does your 3rd toe on your left foot feel right now? How does the floor feel underneath it? How does it touch the toes next to it?
  4. Take Myself Back: often we don’t notice when we feel comfortable and healthy – we just feel fine. Because the recent discomfort has enabled you to feel discomfort really easily we want to override those brain pathways and re-train your brain to feel comfort and ease. How do we do that, I hear you ask? Well, see 1-3 above, and then add this really handy ability you have to go back to strong memories that may be more useful. Maybe you’re remembering being at the beach, or dancing, or walking for miles on the coastal path. Whatever it is, choose something that makes you feel fabulous and go right into this memory…it doesn’t matter how long ago it is…allowing yourself to be IN the memory. Feel the temperature of the air, hear the sounds around you, see what you can see, maybe there are also smells, or tastes. As you step into this memory you can be comforted by knowing that this in itself is changing your brain pathways and re-teaching your body about comfort and ease

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