[Image taken from Neuroplastic Transformation by Moskowitz and Golden (2013)]
In recent posts, I have been detailing how we can harness the neuroplastic nature of the brain to reverse the unnatural chronic pain pathways that have become ingrained in our nervous systems. We know that our brain has the ability to change, and that means our chronic pain can be unlearned.
One of the ways we can do that is through visualization. You can read about this in detail in these three posts: (1) Neurplasticity and Chronic Pain (2) Visualization, Chronic Pain, and Neuroplastic Transformation (3) How to Use Visualization to Manage Chronic Pain. These posts will also give you an introduction to the concept of neuroplasticity to help you better understand this post.
Another neuroplastic technique is to use various forms of external and internal input/energy to shrink the pain map.
What does this mean? In short, there are 9 areas of the brain that process chronic pain. These 9 areas of the brain also have other jobs. They also process thoughts and emotions and various sensations. They are in charge of our ability to smell, remember, and visualize.
We can shrink the pain map by forcing the brain to work on these other jobs so they don’t have time to process the pain. The brain tends to identify the strongest sensation, and if we can make other sensations stronger than our pain, those are the sensations the brain is going to process.
In some ways this is a form of distraction, but it goes beyond that. When practiced over a long period of time, the brain starts to unlearn the pain in favor of focusing on other jobs.
We shrink the pain map by flooding the brain using thoughts, images, sensations, memories, soothing emotions, movement, and beliefs.
Here are ten ways we can practically do this:
- Rub lotion on your skin and pay attention to how it feels
- Hold onto an object such as a smooth stone and rub on it, considering how it feels
- Smell something nice, such as an essential oil or candle.
- Remember what it was like to feel your body move without pain
- Pay attention to what you are physically experiencing other than your pain
- Create and listen to a soothing musical playlist
- Move in some way for just 5 minutes.
- Believe that your brain is neuroplastic and that using these techniques will change the structure of your brain and ultimately make a difference in your pain levels
- Focus on a sense of peacefulness, calmness, and freedom from worry
What other thoughts, images, sensations, memories, emotions, movements, and beliefs can you think of that would be natural to incorporate into your day to flood your pain map?
This material comes from the workbook Neuroplastic Transformation by Moskowitz and Golden. I highly recommend this workbook as a resource to build coping skills for managing chronic pain.
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