PAIN…ITS NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD!
Pain is a complex and multi-factorial process that is modulated by our brains. It is the ultimate protection system to keep us safe and out of harms way. So how does it work?
We have special receptors all over our body that detect unpleasant stimuli, called “nociceptors” or easily known as danger receptors. They send signals to your brain and your brain determines whether these signals are dangerous or safe. If it is a threat, our brain will send down pain signals to protect the injured area.
Although our brains control the pain we feel, that’s not to say that it is only psychological. There are in fact many physiological changes that happen in chronic pain and we are going to explain them below.
THE AMAZING NEUROIMMUNE SYSTEM
80% of the nerves in our brains have an immune function, meaning they know who you are and have functions to react when you are not you (e.g. infections). These cells are vital in protecting the body but also have a role in learning. Healthy immune systems will allow you to learn new skills, concepts, knowledge quickly.
IMPACTS OF STRESS AND THE BODY
Chronic pain and stress often come hand in hand. When you are stressed your neuroimmune system will release powerful substances that increase the inflammation in our body. These substances are released to heal and protect the body. In acute injuries, swelling is good as the newly injured area needs to be exposed to healing. However, if the swelling persists it can make your tissues soggy, slack and stagnant which is what tends to happen in chronic pain.
FLUSH IT OUT!
When there is stagnant and persisting swelling, we need to flush it out and refresh our tissues. This can simply be done by getting out there and moving around. Stretch, walk, run, swim, roll around in the grass, play, or do whatever physical activity that you are comfortable with. Exercise and movement impact the body on many levels other than just getting fit. Other things you can do to de-stress and improve your neuroimmune health are:
UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN: learning about your pain has been shown to improve your pain. Good thing is you are already taking the first step by reading this blog!
EAT RIGHT: Some foods a PRO-inflammatory meaning they may cause more swelling. It’s best to talk to your GP or dietician to see which foods are pro vs anti-inflammatory.
ROLL IN THE GRASS AND HUG A TREE: Contact with nature has been shown to reduce stress and promote serotonin release. By using your senses to actively touch and smell your surroundings will help to disrupt the pain programming in your brain and expose it to new information allowing it to positively adapt.
LOL: Watch videos, tell jokes, attend stand up comedy shows and laugh out loud! Laughing releases powerful feel-good hormones in the brain called serotonin which can help reduce pain and improve your mood.