Pain and Nervous System
“One in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain, children are not spared and the prevalence increases with age.”
(Moulin, Clark et al. 2002; Schopflocher, Jovey et al. 2010)
There are three important facts about pain. First, all pain is real. Second, pain is a protection mechanism. Third, the great knews is that we can change pain in our bodies.
How does pain show up and how does it relate to the nervous system?
Pain is a protection mechanism. It originates 100% of the time in the brain and tells you when it thinks you are in danger.
Chronic or persistent pain involves a sensitization of the nervous system, where physical healing is long complete, yet the nervous system still perceives a real imminent threat to its health and safety.
To reduce pain a multifaceted approach must be taken. You will see how SomaYoga therapy and its associated techniques support ease of the nervous system and a shift away from pain.
The real distinction of the SomaYoga therapy model is re-education of the neuromuscular system.
The SomaYoga Approach to Pain Reduction and Elimination
1. Create the space for healing to occur
The first and maybe single most important factor in shifting pain in the mind/body results from getting quiet enough to listen to and witness the messages of our "soma" allowing space for transformation and healing to occur. The skill that is required here is called Interoception. It is the lesser-known of our senses that helps us understand and feel what's going on inside our bodies.
How do we do that?
2. Cultivate diphragmatic breath and improve body awareness - this calms the nervous system and restores balance in health.
When we are stressed and in pain the first thing to change is our breath. We shorten our breath, our body tightens and the pain gets stronger.
Conscious breathing practices to lengthen the exhalation engaging the respiratory diaphragm in a way that shifts the nervous system into a parasympathetic response. This important ‘rest and digest’ response, increases our oxygen uptake, improves nutrient flow and circulation, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, reduces muscular tension, and stimulates digestive and healing functions.
Our nervous systems were never designed be in a continual state of alert dictated by the demands of our over worked, busy, competitive, attention diverting, multi-tasking, social media oriented lifestyles. - Carrie Meyer
With our nervous systems and minds in low level perpetual sympathetic response, it is no surprise that getting a good night’s sleep is even a challenge. Our bodies and minds are on overdrive from the buzz of our stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol running through our systems. This "flight or flight" nervous system response increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels wrecking havoc on our health, leading to most of today’s chronic medical conditions.
Through body awareness practices we cultivate the essential skill of interoception - bringing us on a journey home to the truth of who we are.
3. Educate yourself as much as you can about pain, the nervous system and the mind-body connection.
Research shows that those who educate themselves about their condition, about how pain works, and those who practice mindfulness have less pain.
4. Restore functional movement patterns using somatic re-education – Change the way you have been stretching and moving your body.
You can easily counteract involuntary muscle holding patterns caused by disease, trauma, stress and repetitive actions in life. Sensory motor re-education discovered by Thomas Hanna Ph.D. is one of the most effective ways of clearing up the innate reflex and muscular holding patterns that lead to all kinds of uncomfortable symptoms.
Adopting a regular somatic movement, breath, mindfulness meditation practice, allows our bodies to spend more time in a parasympathetic state, resulting in a return of easeful fluid movement and breath and whole body healing.
Neuroplasticity means that we can learn how to release old patterns, trauma and pain, restore functional movement, better health, well-being and quality of life.
We can learn to re-wire the mind-body connection, to slowly reduce the number and frequency of pain signals in the body.
5. Practice Consistently, Consciously and Patiently – Our brains are hardwired to learn and to rebuild connections among nerve cells.
Developing a consistent, positive home care practice is what reminds our nervous system of where it needs to be. In order to restore easeful, functional movement we must practice. Conscious repetition matters.
The more often we repeat appropriate movement, the more the brain and nervous system respond.
Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Change your outlook and scope of focus to the subtle and positive changes you are experiencing as a result of your practice. Learn new ways of responding to pain. Notice how your body responds to how you feel?
For example, notice where you feel lighter and are breathing deeper.
Notice when you get up easier, can sit longer and rest more easily.
When you notice this, how you respond to this new information and how your body and pain shifts as a result.
A SomaYoga Therapist can help you with tools to gain more control over your mood, sleep and how you are in relationship with your body, your mind and with others.
On your journey to getting back to the things you love...
As you start to have less pain you will start to make choices about returning to doing the things that you love. At this stage, it is critically important to listen closely to the nervous system to assess the appropriate amount of load and the type of activities that your body can handle. Listen to the subtle messages before a much louder scream sounds, and you will stay on track to getting out of pain.