We all like to think humans are at the top of all food chains, because we have our smarty smart pants brains, and this lifts us above the other animals on the planet. Our brain though, is not as smart as we would like to think, and it can easily be tricked. This is not always a bad thing, I have talked about how you can use your brain’s ability to be tricked to your advantage. Things like your mindset, having a supportive and caring Doctor/Healthcare provider, and things like the power of the placebos and prayer.
Luckily there is a wealth of information coming out all the time on new studies done on the brain, that are widening our understanding of how it and our nervous system work. If you haven’t read My Stroke of Insight you should, everyone should. Chronic pain or not, it is just a fantastic book with great ideas everyone should know. The author also did a 20 minute Ted Talk on the concepts and covers them broadly. If you aren’t the reading type, please watch her Ted Talk below. Even if you are the reading type, watch it before you read the book. Her passion about people being kinder to themselves, and others, is something everyone should strive to achieve.
Jill Bolt Taylor – Stroke of Insight TED Talk
Her ideas about preventing negative thoughts, letting those appear and letting them go rather than feeding into a negative thought loop is something everyone can benefit from. She has a lot more to say in her book, and it only took me a few hours to read. I highly recommend it.
There is also a lot of information coming out about placebos and their powerful effect on the body. What a wonderful world it would be if I could take a sugar pill that worked as well as an opiate, with no chance of addiction or side effects. Placebos are a fascinating thing, and the effect is easy to trigger. I have used the information I have learned on placebos to help treat my pain, like with migraines, and had almost unbelievable results. A great place to start with your understanding of placebos is with this quick Horizon documentary.
Horizon – The Power of the Placebo
There is also a really fun to watch series by National Geographic, called Brain Games, that explores the brain and gives you interesting ideas you can experiment with. Another book with a lot of information on nerves, pain and on mirror box therapy (which is one of the treatments used to treat CRPS) is Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran.
Why does all this information on brains, and nerves, and stuff matter? Well firstly, because pain is a neurological signal. If you are in chronic pain, you need to understand how the body, brain and nervous system all function so that you can not only better understand procedures and your own pain, but you can also help to minimize it in other ways. Secondly, knowing as much as you can about pain helps with coping with it, naming your demons gives you a way to fight them. Acknowledging and accepting your pain is part of the healing process and understanding it helps the whole process. Pain, as we like to say in Tai Chi, is there for a reason, it is telling you something is wrong. Learning to listen to the pain, and what your body is asking for helps you convey better information to your doctors, helps you to better treat yourself at home, and this overall will improve your condition and mental state. If you feel a bit rusty on biology, here are two great videos, the first will give you an overview of nerves, and the second is a great visual example of how pain signals are triggered, and then blocked by opiate pain medications.
Animation of Pain Signals and Opiates
Remember educating yourself, helps you more than anything. Knowing what you are fighting helps you to keep those positive thoughts and positive mindset to deal with your treatments, and your pain.