Why don't we think we'll get better? I want to discuss something that is very complex around pain and healing. There are a few things that really go against us in terms of managing our health, particularly musculo-skeletal injury and pain. They are based on few general confusions and mistaken assumptions. There are two misconceptions that I think we need to examine. 1. We think pain always means there is physical damage or something wrong in the body.
Basically pain science now is quite conclusive that the longer pain goes on the less it is related to the state of health in the tissues, particulary when often pain is persisting beyond the known healing time of the tissues. Pain doesn't always mean damage or ongoing damage. Certainly though the deconditioning and tightness that may develop, contributes to strain and re-injury. Please re-read past newsletters to review this concept.
When pain persists we should see our doctor.
With all due respect - the valuable contribution of medicine to treat serious illness and ailments is unmatched – but medicine is limited in what it can offer pain issues. Investigations will rule out any nasties like tumors, cancer, broken bones, but these do not give any information about movement based problems around injured areas or sensitive nervous systems. Medical trained practitioners are trained to look for what is wrong.. seeking pathology they send for scans, refer to surgeons... But what gets overlooked is what is right and helpful, that is... the persons own capacity to heal, given the right guidance.
The power of unneccessary investigations to mislead and cause more problems was pointed out in a recent Four Corners documentary (Wasted); not to mention the cost to the taxpayer. Medication equally might temporarily relieve symptoms but it can be majorly problematic (side effects, polypharmacy, dependance) if used over the long term.
The most problematic message we take away from these misconceptions is that we have something that needs to be fixed that we need outside help to fix it. If we believe these misconceptions it can lead to some very unhelpful thoughts informing our behaviour around injury management. A good medical/physio assessment can provide a more accurate diagnosis than any scan, but we need to willing to hear that despite our pain, there is nothing seriously wrong - that pain can be quite normal and benign – that it can better by itself with time.
Consider what your mind tells you about your body? Maybe you've taken on some unquestioned negative messages about your body. That your pain is due to 'lack of core stability', 'that you have ridiculously weak glut's', 'that you've always had this problem', 'that it's wear and tear', 'it will never get better', 'You can't do 'xxx' with this pain'.. These beliefs when coupled with an ongoing experience of pain, get fused together in the nervous systems wiring, even though they might not be true. These unexamined beliefs can then undermine our efforts to get stronger, to be more active, to do the things we want to do..which just makes injury more likely.
Exercise alone may not be so effective (though essential of course), because the stress caused by our beliefs can sensitize our system, creating a viscious cycle of pain confirming our beliefs and interferring with our ability to do enough to change things...
Complex huh? Now before you go out and push yourself (which won't help)..don't and do see a doctor if you've suffered trauma and maybe broken something. With musculo-skeletal pain for no apparent reason though ….. the first thing that we need to do is just simply to bring a little mindfulness to our beliefs; to honestly recognise them and to start to step back.... this enables us to be truly open to another experience. Exercise and activity needs to be gently paced, but with an integration of mindfulness. Slowly these examined beliefs lose their strength and you gain the empowered experience that your body is capable of healing, self management or elimination of pain and independence. You grow new pathways in your nervous system that are empowering. Medical and alternative health have a big role to play in delivering 'relief' therapies in the context of this truth, so as not to disempower the client.
Anyway just some of my thoughts.. consider or leave it, question everything and trust only yourself.
Check out the literature of Norman Doig – The Brain that Changes itself
You can sample a little meditation on 'watching thoughts' here!