Pain

Marcus AureliusJPGI opened a new book yesterday, and this was on the first page. Hmm, timely.

At this point in my blogging career I feel I can give advice about dealing with pain. I’ve had two years to practice it! The good news is that my self-proclaimed expertise stems from the fact that today, I am not in pain. I have succeeded on a fairly regular basis to not be in pain every day. I’m very happy about this. This is a landmark event, worthy of at least a take out burger from my favourite local food cart. While I polish off the aforementioned burger tonight, I thought I’d celebrate with a post on pain, post-concussion.

The chronic pain I would like to address is the most common side-effect of concussion, the dreaded headache.  I heard a friend moan the other day that she’d had a cold for four days, four! (When was it going end???) Though I truly felt her pain, I have to say that one’s perspective on enduring pain tends to shift when you have pain that just doesn’t seem to go away, ever.

So today’s advice comes from the core of my rehabilitation team, Therapists: Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Counselling Therapists, I even tried Acupuncture- when you put together all of their research on the pain associated with head injuries, the evidence is clear, you have to retrain the brain to look at pain in a different way. It doesn’t just go away. If you have had a concussion, you’ve already been told that there isn’t a medical treatment to repair the injury. Research in Neuroplasticity has shown  that you can grow neurons to replace the broken parts in your brain, but those neurons need training, and if the pain mechanism has been lit up by your injury, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that waiting to get better is not going to lessen your pain. In fact, the waiting game does the opposite.

Being a particularly stubborn person and not a very good patient, I tried to push my cognitive endurance through hard work and not only did that not really accomplish anything, it brought on headaches. The chronic headache of a concussion is like no other headache I can remember, it builds, tightens and spreads until you just have to give up and go to bed.  But there is hope for this kind of enduring pain:

Look up Lorimer Moseley:

http://www.bodyinmind.org/who-are-we/

You can watch his Ted Talk (he’s pretty funny) or read further, but I found his research to be extremely helpful.  If you’re not up to doing research, I’ll do my best to give you a summary of the advice from a document I found in the library:

Understand Pain, Live Well Again, a Guide to Pain Education for Busy Clinicians and People with Persistent Pain by Neil Pearson ( and yes, it’s based on the work of L. Moseley.)

His Key Advice: Anything the nervous system practices it can learn. When you have persistent pain, your body can start to send pain messages for normal body sensations, just as if they are dangers. These changes can be reversed through deliberate practice.

Keep in Mind:

1.You are able to influence what your brain pays attention to. If you pay attention to activity not related to your pain, such as deep breathing, your brain won’t notice the pain.

2. You can change the way your nervous system interprets signals from the sensory system. You can convince you nervous system that the pain you have is not dangerous.

3. You can develop strategies to handle pain when it is triggered (breathing, meditation, visualization, try them all and see what works for you.)

4. If you practice these strategies over and over again, you can train your nervous system to respond to pain triggers in a new way.

 

That’s all for today (I don’t want to give you a headache!) When you’ve had some time to process this information,  look up Lorimer Moseley on Youtube: He’s the real expert, I’m just someone who has benefited from his research.

 

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