Pain - have you been hearing "it's just in your head"?
When working with people that are dealing with pain, there is a common thing that they tell me that have heard from other people (including health care professionals)....
"It's all in your head"
They tell me that this sentence often leaves them feeling...
Unheard, and that nobody believes them the pain is REAL
Shamed, as if the pain they are experiencing is THEIR fault and their choice
Hopeless, as if there is no real solution
Alone, that they need to find a solution on their own
In my experience...hearing this has NOT been very helpful for these people.
But it does come from a place that reflects some of our current understanding of pain science....just not explained in a way that provides any assistance or direction moving forward.
The way that we currently understand PAIN - the processes that creates it, and our experiences of it - is that it IS indeed an OUTPUT from the central nervous system (brain + brain stem + spinal cord). Meaning that our experience of pain is primarily determined by the OUTGOING MESSAGES from the nervous system, not the INCOMING MESSAGE from the rest of the body's tissues.
Another way of saying this is that someone can experience pain, even when there is NO TISSUE DAMAGE occurring. This concept is both confusing, and frustrating, when you are someone that is dealing with pain. Our logical mind tells us that if there is pain in my elbow, then there is a problem at the elbow - and if I can fix the problem then the pain will go away.
Unfortunately our bodies, and brains, are weird and wonderful and complex (we are NOT EVEN CLOSE to understanding everything about how our own nervous system works) and so this linear, straight-forward way of negotiating with our bodies often leads not to the desired outcomes.
So if you are someone that has been told "it's all in your head" , it's a pretty short jump to hearing "you are making it up" or "your pain isn't real".
So for whoever needs to hear it today...
Your pain is real.
You are not imagining it.
There is help available.
We need to start looking at the WHOLE person to begin getting an understanding of how your pain is affecting you. Through this exploration and understanding we can potentially start to identify many different contributing factors are meeting together to produce the experience you are currently having.
Next week I will post a useful graph that I found really helpful for showing people some of the contributing factors I am talking about.
PS - To the people that have shared with me about their pain journey's - thank you for your trust.