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Monthly Archives

July 2017

Blog 5: The Plastic Brain

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The brain has been discovered to be plastic. Not Tupperware plastic but neuroplastic meaning the brain has the ability to change and form new pathways over the course of a person’s life. We can train our brain in the direction we desire, hence why everyone is keeping their brains active doing daily Sodukos to avoid deterioration and risk of Alzheimer’s disorders. The plastic nature of our brain can result in negative outcomes however, like in chronic pain. Our brain rewires based off our own experiences and if these experiences involved danger, damage and risk the brain insures you respond in a way that is protective ie. Pain and fear avoidance.

Let’s use the back as an example. Any past experience associated with your back contributes to the way your back is today. In my own example, my brain remembers I hurt my back on a rowing ergo so every time I sit on a rowing ergo my back starts to ache and tighten up- that’s before I even start rowing. Kind of annoying really knowing my back should be able to tolerate the load since the injury was years ago and I can run, jump and squat, meaning my back can definitely tolerate the load of using a rowing machine for a few minutes. This demonstrates the power of the brain and how this past experience has created strong neural pathways to prevent me from rowing in the future. So how do we change this?

We know how brain is plastic so surely we can reverse these strong negative ties caused by our previous experiences. I propose two actions to help do this.

  • Start to associate your back with positive experiences. Think of all the awesome things you do where your back feels good. Eg. A social activity where you are distracted and don’t notice the pain or a purposeful activity aimed at relaxation or pain relief like massage, spa or a heat pack. If you start to associate your back with all of these positive experiences, new neural pathways will be created and strengthened which can only improve future outcomes in back pain.
  • Desensitise the situations you associated your back negatively towards. De-sensitising could be as simple as taking a deep breath to increase relaxation prior to the activity, using gradual exposure, playing calming music or doing the activity with a friend. In my case, I used my best mate Spikey to massage my back muscles prior to using the rowing machine and gradually built up my time from 30 second intervals- which I have now built up to 10 minutes with zero back pain.

Make the most of the plastic nature of our brain and start flooding your brain with positive experiences associated with your source of pain- you can’t change what has happened in the past but you sure can take actions to control the future.

Please hit me up if you have any questions or comments. This stuff fascinates me and would love to chat to anyone who feels the same.

Claire Samanna

E: claire@tailoredhealth.com.au

Blog 4: The Brain

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A big part of taking control and managing my own ongoing pain was to understand how pain occurs from a physiological point of view.  Opposed to what I once thought, level of pain and severity of injury do not have a linear relationship. One person can have a disc buldge in their lower back and not experience any symptoms and then another person can have exactly the same disc buldge and be experience debilitating ongoing chronic pain- injury is not equal to pain.

Have you ever heard that saying: ’It’s all in your head’?

When it comes to pain, it’s true! The sensation of having pain is all in your head. This doesn’t mean pain isn’t real. Pain is so real and very present but the truth is, it’s all in your head.

We know skeletal muscle is always adapting to changes in the physical environment however, if a mechanical stress exceeds the muscles adaptability, an acute injury occurs. Exposure to a new mechanical stress is how acute injury occurs and often results in muscle cell membrane damage. This leaves the muscles more vulnerable to increased damage and in order to prevent further injury the body goes into defence mode. This results in inflammation, pain and stiffness all to protect and begin the repair process at the site of damage. This all seems very biological but it is important to understand that the body’s repair and protection systems result in the physical symptoms of inflammation and pain at the site of injury opposed to the injury itself.

As a side note let’s take a moment to appreciate how good our bodies are at repairing themselves. When you break a bone in your arm, you might be in a cast for 6-8 weeks. Why is it then that a strain in the back can result in years of chronic pain? Is the back still strained after all these years?

In chronic pain, the acute injury process becomes over sensitised. Even though the cell membrane is no longer damaged there continues to be protective mechanisms in place. The brain detects the inflammation and sends out the pain response to the site as it would with any acute injury. This is where chronic pain develops, escalated by our own conscious protection thoughts ie. ‘I can’t bend down as I have a sore back mentality’-(see lasts weeks blog!) There is no such thing as pain receptors. The brain detects information ie. Inflammation and responds with a pain message. If you can change how your body interprets these signals then you can change how it responds. I will talk about this next blog and how the experiences we have influence on the pain we feel.

Hit me up with comments and questions: claire @tailoredhealth.com.au

Until next time 🙂