Our nerves are not as smart as we think they are. They do one thing: send signals to the brain and spinal cord. It’s then up to the brain and spinal cord to interpret the message. While there are nerves for different tasks (movement, signals to the brain and signals from the brain), for the most part, they are simply the messengers.
When there is structural damage, such is the case with an injury (cut, scrape, broken bone, torn muscle or fascia), the nerves are telling your brain that something is injured and your brain is properly perceiving that as pain.
But sometimes, as is in the case with chronic pain (pain that lasts for longer than 6 months), the structural damage may no longer be present even though very real pain signals are still being interpreted.
The brain can still feel pain even when there’s not a physical problem to cause it. That’s not to say that pain is all in your head, it’s certainly not, but pain is much more complicated than we understand. The pain that is felt in chronic pain situations is 100% real and painful for the person experiencing it.
So how to help soften chronic pain? The current western medicine solution to chronic pain is with opiates (pain killers) what come with a host of serious side effects like addiction. Nerves do one thing – signal and will respond to any stimulus. If we can simulate the nerves with a positive sensation, such as touch, while it most likely still be painful for the individual, it may help to retrain the brain to eventually get out of a pain signal. This is the Gate Theory of Pain: that non-painful input can “close the gates” on painful input, and in effect, lessen the pain sensation.
While any type of therapeutic touch could be beneficial, self-massage with a pliable inflated therapy ball, such as the Coregeous ball, could provide non-painful stimulus to the nervous system.
I strongly recommend you find a practitioner in your area who can guide you through this process as every pain story is unique and complicated and it’s definitely not one size fits all for any of this.
Check out this Ted Talk below with Dr. Elliot Krane where he shares a specific patient case study in which they used physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy in addition to the pain-killers to help a 16-year-old girl overcome chronic pain.
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