Yoga

Understanding Chronic Pain

Chronic pain differs from acute pain in three important ways. First, the body can become more sensitive to threats, sending threat signals to the brain even when the threat is minor or non-existent. Second, the brain can become more likely to interpret situations as threatening and sensations as painful, producing pain responses that are out of proportion to any real danger. Finally, with repeated pain experiences, the boundaries between the many aspects of the pain response—sensation, suffering, and stress—get blurred. In most cases of chronic pain, the mind and body have learned all too well how to detect the slightest hint of a threat and mount a full protective response in all its glory.

Leg Stretch On Pink Sheet

So the things that make pain so effective at helping us survive acute emergencies and handling short-term pain are the very things that make chronic pain so complex and persistent. The pain you feel may reflect a protective mind-body response that has become overprotective.

Pain Again

Why does past pain make you more sensitive to future pain? You can thank one of the great wonders of our nervous system: its ability to learn in response to experience. This ability is called neuroplasticity. Through the repeated experience of pain, the nervous system gets better at detecting a threat and producing the protective pain response. So, unfortunately, in the case of chronic pain, learning from experience and getting “better” at pain paradoxically means more pain, not less.

Yoga On Teress

Both modern science and yoga share this idea: present pain and suffering have their roots in past pain, trauma, stress, loss, and illness. Modern science uses words like neuroplasticity to describe the process of learning from past experiences; yoga uses the word samskara. Samskaras are the memories of the body and mind that influence how we experience the present moment. Samskaras keep you stuck, feeling the same emotions, thinking the same thoughts, and even experiencing the same pain.

The best way to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses is to give the mind and body healthier responses to practice.
Indian Girl Yoga In Red

Samskaras do not always lead to suffering—they also lead to positive change. Just as trauma, illness, pain, and stress leave traces on the body and mind, so do positive experiences. What you practice, you become.

Learning is lifelong, and none of the changes you’ve learned have to be permanent. Neuroplasticity can be harnessed for healing. Your mind and body have learned how to “do” chronic pain, and your job is to teach it something new.

  Shanon Kareil   Friday, 12 Jul 2019   15 Views

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