Sometimes gaining a fuller understanding of pain is enough to change it. More often, however, pain is changed most effectively with a combination of knowledge and action.
The resources we have for you today will help you make a practical Pain Care Plan that's customized especially to meet you where you are.
Photo by Bich Tran
It snowed last night and you're up early to go skiing in the fresh powder. You're the first on the slopes and as your skis first cut a path through the pristine snow, it's easy to go anywhere you like and change your course if you want to. You find a route you enjoy and run through it several times, your skis carving a deeper groove each time. By the afternoon, your pathway is so well-established, you don't even need to steer yourself anymore. In fact, the grooves are now so deep that it would actually be difficult to change course if you tried.
This is a picture of how the human brain works. Our brains learn and change throughout all our lives. When a connection is made in the brain, a neural pathway is formed. If a connection is made frequently, it becomes stronger and the pathway becomes easier and easier to travel down. It becomes the preferred pathway. Meanwhile, connections that are made less frequently are weaker, the pathways less established, and it takes more effort to travel down these paths.
A few days ago, we talked about the cycle of nervous system hypervigilance leading to pain, and pain leading to nervous system hypervigilance. When this cycle repeats itself, it is forging and reinforcing particular pathways in the brain, and the brain gets into the habit of being- and staying -hypervigilant. To change pain, we need to interrupt this cycle. We need to rewire our brains, making new, more helpful connections and get in the habit of using the neural pathways that lead to less pain. We've seen that there are numerous ways to interrupt the pain cycle: by consciously regulating physical cues like breathing and muscle tension, by intentionally guiding our thoughts, by establishing stronger personal, interpersonal, and existential connections. This is excellent news and reason to hope for a better future, but the truth is that this change does not usually come quickly or easily. That is why it is essential to get organized and formulate a plan for how this change will happen. Use the worksheet attached to this email to assist you in identifying the strategies you will use to rewire your brain, when you will use them, and how often. For this plan to have the greatest effect, your pain care practices need to be not only regular, but frequent. Practicing rewiring your brain for 5-6 minutes, 5-6 times per day is best, but you could also do your practice all at once, like taking a full-length Pain Care Yoga class.
Your plan for overcoming your pain will include practices to calm your nervous system, as well as practices to build resilience.
Join Rachel for a Pain Care Collective Calm-style class that is calming and soothing.
Join Michelle for a Pain Care Collective Build-style class to increase your resilience in movement.
If you found this email series helpful, try taking the next step and start a 2-week free trial of Pain Care Yoga.