A common symptom present in many autoimmune and chronic illnesses is pain. Acute or chronic, pain is something that those with conditions such as endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia (to name a few), are told to manage with pain killers and rest.
But what happens when these things don't truly help? And what if there is more to pain than we thought? What if we could find power in our pain?
Patterns and Pain
The thing is - there is a lot more going on when we experience pain than meets the eye. In fact, all of our emotions and experiences are interacting with our pain pathways and how our brain interprets pain.
Essential factors to consider:
Stress and Cortisol, and how this impacts inflammation and pain pathways in the body
The Limbic System - the root of core feelings and experiences like fear, peace, memory, judgement
From these two factors, we can understand something indispensable: The first thing we must consider when someone is in pain is to get them into a comfortable, safe feeling space/state.
The Three Systems Theory
When we feel threatened (red circle pictured) - fight/flight/freeze is initiated and our stress hormones increase. When our stress hormones increase, so too does our sensitivity to pain (this can be explained by the The Gate Control Theory of Pain).
When we feel hooked to strive and achieve (blue circle pictured), our dopamine increases, and we feel driven to pursue, which makes it difficult to feel and be at ease.
To help reduce pain we are aiming to find ways to move into the soothing system governed by oxytocin (green circle pictured).
Get into the soothing state:
Compassion / Self-Compassion felt in the body, not just as a thinking exercise
Move into heart space
Come into the body
Place your hand over your heart - bring to mind a person / pet / memory that makes you feel at ease, allow this feeling to spread out from the heart space and into the whole body
When we experience chronic pain, patterns can be created in the body and brain - such as neural pathways and clinical body memory - these patterns can start to change how we experience pain.
So we want to consider ways we can change these patterns:
Repeat mantras and affirmations
Pitch / sound and their vibrations work on a very deep level in the body; they can encourage cells to eliminate waste and improve vagal tone
The bottom line: incorporate practices that shift you into soothing system every day - even if you only experience pain at certain times - the practices will help to create new patterns in your brain and body, which could radically change the way you experience pain.
Hi I'm Molly, I'm a UK-based Nutritional Therapist (DipION, mBANT, CNHC) and Self-Compassion Coach (MSc) serving my community in Harpenden and online. Here in my little online home, you'll discover the benefits of nutritional therapy and complementary therapies for autoimmune disease and chronic illness.
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