This blog uses an analogy of green python to explain the experience of chronic pain. It discusses the idea of living a life free from pain. People who experience chronic pain know that it is very real. They experience it in their body, it affects their actions, emotions, and everyday function. It impacts every aspect of their life. In the past, there was a general belief that pain is an indication of something wrong with our bodies. And therefore, a rest and various types of medication (including opioid medication commonly recommended as a recovery.
This often included opioid medication such as MS Contin, Oramorph, Avinza, Kadian, Roxanol (chemical name: morphine); Codeine; Dolophine (chemical name: methadone); Opana, Opana ER, Numorpahn HCI (chemical name: oxymorphone); Dilaudid (chemical name: hydromorphone), etc.
Whilst this approach may still be applied during the initial weeks following the injury. The prescription of opioid medication is no longer recommended for extended uses. Due to associated risks (addictions and overdoses), and its verified ineffectiveness in the management of chronic pain. Instead, currently commonly prescribed advice is that of a more active lifestyle.
The new body of evidence indicates that activity* along with a positive outlook and refined understanding of pain experience works wonders in recovering from chronic pain (Mosley & Butler, 2015)
Management of Chronic Pain By Dr. Lorimer Mosley & David Butler
The national renown work on the management of chronic pain by Dr. Lorimer Mosley & David Butler discusses recent discoveries in the biology of nociception and pain. Their work explores the complex interaction between the neural and immune systems in pain and protection. And the identification of altered sensory and spatial processing in people with pain.
Mosley’s and Buttler’s work “Explain Pain and The Explain Pain Handbook: “Protectometer” clearly demonstrates the need for a shift from our perception of pain. As the indicator of something being wrong with our body to simply perceiving the pain as a signal of danger. (Mosley & Butler, 2015)
Every part of the body has pain receptors that send information to the brain to let us know when we experience pain in this area. In acute pain when there is a new injury, the pain signals are very useful. Telling us there is a danger to our body. That needs to be addressed in order to ensure our recovery.
In chronic pain, the pain signal patterns become so well established that sometimes our brain continues to send them out for months and years after the injury. Even when there is no longer any real danger and even in situations when everything is already healed (I.e no sign of damage can be detected).
New Strategies To Assist in Living Life Pain-Free
What does all this mean? This new body of evidence brings new hope by providing a wide range of new strategies to assist in living life pain-free. It reassures us that there are ways of self-regulating pain signals, the way we can regulate any other danger signals (i.e. either paying attention and acting on them or not).
For example, let us consider a green python snake. Let’s imagine that we spotted the snake on the ground a few meters from us. And our eyes send the message of danger to our brain. We have about 2-3 seconds to evaluate the signal and all the relevant information we know – to decide if we should act on this dangerous signal or not.
If we believe that all snakes are dangerous and know that our friend almost lost his life after bitten by a snake. We would definitely pay full attention to the snake and act on the danger signal (i.e common fight or flight defense mechanism, including running, hiding, trying to kill the snake, or becoming petrified or freezing). If on the other hand, we had a green python snake as a pet in childhood. And know that green pythons don’t pose any danger to humans. We would most likely ignore this particular danger signal and continue feeling safe, carrying on with it it it our previous activities.
Self Management Chronic Pain
The good news is that the same self-regulatory function is available in relation to chronic pain. If we feel pain, we have the choice to decide if this danger signal is indicative of real danger for example, at the time of injury when we are best to address our wounds, or else our blood loss could be fatal. Or else we could decide that the pain is just a false alarm signal and decide that we are safe regardless of the pain (like in situations of chronic pain).
What are the other options for self-regulating in this area? Self-regulating our pain experience is achieved by identifying and redefining the danger versus safety messages. That we use in daily self-talk. Danger and safety messages could include messages about situations, events, places, memories, people that matter, personal beliefs, sensations, things that we do, say, and think.
Examples of dangerous messages include messages about divorce, stress at work, swelling legs, feeling tired and needing rest, being diagnosed with a chronic condition. Memories about a friend who had a similar condition and is now dead. Thoughts, such as “the doctor told me I would never recover”. Or “yesterday I looked over my shoulder and heard a crackling noise in my back’,
Examples of safety messages, include your belief that pain is a dangerous signal that can be self-regulated. Daily exercise to assist your body’s natural healing properties, thoughts about people supporting and reassuring you. Spending time with supportive family and friends, positive self-talk about recovery, and living pain-free. Believe in your strengths and abilities, reconnect to hobbies and interests, and so forth.
The Process of Self Managing Chronic Pain
The process of self-managing chronic pain involves identifying your danger messages and replacing them with safety messages. You may also consider supporting your recovery from chronic pain by applying the following self-management strategies:
- Regular, the exercise of your choice (as recommended by a Physiotherapist or specialist)
- Quality time with nature
- Connecting with your creativity (according to your interest, i.e. craft, painting, woodwork, poetry, writing, dancing, singing, etc)
- Reconnecting with old friends and interests
- Engaging in fun activities i.e. watching happy movies, having a massage
- Engaging in revitalizing activities such as mindfulness and/or meditation
- Keeping a journal with wonderful, happy thoughts, memories, activities in your life
- Healthy eating/enjoyment of good food
- Engaging in hobbies, social groups, or activities
H-L Therapy Chronic Condition Management Program applies Mosley and Buttler’s ‘Explain Pain principles’ in a series of effective counseling and clinical hypnotherapy sessions (and in consultation with your doctor).
The H-L Chronic Conditions Management Program not only explains recent findings in relation to pain processes but also effectively rehearses self -the regulatory process of replacement of danger messages with positive safety messages. To organize an appointment please contact Alicja / Therapist from H-L Therapy on 0490 463 042 or [email protected]