END YOUR PAIN BY RETRAINING YOUR BRAIN
By: C. Shante Cofield, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF-L1
As Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain always says,
Pain is a request for change.
True pain is not something that occurs in the tissues. Rather it’s the summation of your environment and experiences in your past. Yes, the past.
If something hurt you before, your nervous system will remember it and won’t readily grant you that movement. If something hurt your friend or is perceived as dangerous, your brain will call upon that information under the right conditions to help ensure your safety. Pain is your body’s way of saying this isn’t safe and something needs to change. So does this mean when you stub your toe the pain is all in your head? Well…yes and no.
Nociception refers to the transmission of danger signals to the brain by free nerve endings called nociceptors. When they detect a noxious (translation: bad/unpleasant) stimulus, they send danger signal to the spinal cord that are relayed to the brain. To reiterate, they are not sending pain signals nor are they pain receptors.
They are sending DANGER signals! The brain then weighs the danger signal and determines if it warrants a pain signal and how much of a pain signal. This pain signal in your brain changes your behavior to reduce the threat of the situation. It could mean taking your hand off the hot pan or lifting your foot off that sinister lego piece.
The application of pain-free movement in the presence of acute or chronic pain helps mitigate and manage symptoms in both the tissues and the brain. At the tissue level movement aides in circulation, improves mobility, and helps with joint and tissue health (only to name a few).
As it relates to the nervous system, movement lights up the brain and helps to create new neural pathways; pathways that are associated with movement patterns that are more efficient and are not accompanied by danger signals. Thus movement is medicine, and as such, dosage is critical. The Crossover Symmetry shoulder pain prescription:
- Uses low to moderate resistance to provide a stimulus that is appropriate for the user’s current tissue and nervous system state.
- Modifies movements and resistance to recruit the appropriate muscles, decrease compensatory strategies, and activate patterns reflexively – all while allowing the nervous system to feel safe.
To quote Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran,
Pain is the opinion of the brain.
Dr. C. Shanté Cofield, is the creator of The Movement Maestro, a website and social-media based platform devoted to all things human movement and mobility related. Shanté is a board certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) who practices in Los Angeles, California with specialties ranging from CrossFit injuries to pelvic floor dysfunction. Shanté utilizes a movement-based treatment approach that incorporates manual therapy, NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT), corrective exercises, and techniques such as kinesiology taping and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. Additionally, Shanté is a Functional Range Conditioning mobility specialist (FRCms) and holds a CrossFit Level I trainer certificate.