My daughter recently attended an excellent educational seminar given by the specialist pain clinic at Fremantle Hospital.
She learnt something really important about exactly why movement is so critical for people who suffer chronic pain.
I’m going to have a go at explaining this to you as simply as I can.
Movement of our bodies tells our brain that all is well. If any part of our body stops moving for a time it alerts our brain that something is wrong.
Brains are wired in such a way that once an alert goes out chemicals are released into that part of the body to fight off infection.
These chemicals are part of a clever plan to keep us alive.
A problem arises for people with chronic pain who sometimes limit their movement because they are sore. There is no infection but the brain goes into fight mode anyway.
The body is flooded with chemicals to fight a non existent infection. The body also increases it’s own sensitivity to “listen harder” to what is going on.
This increase in our bodies clever listening system can mean an increase in the experience of pain.
So put simply you have to keep moving to send a message – no chemicals needed here – all is well.
We want our brain to turn down the volume on pain not turn it up. This is the story that was told to illustrate how this mechanism can work.
An SAS soldier returned from war with an amputated arm. He suffered terrible pain in that limb. The brain was not recording any movement in the arm. Alarms went off in the brain and chemicals were released into the body to fight off an infection in that limb. The soldier was encouraged to imagine exercising the missing arm by visualising pumping iron each day. This fooled the brain that the arm was moving and all was well. The pain stopped.