By Dr. Mark Bellamy, PhD Cpsychol AFBPsS, Performance & Sport Psychologist
Pain is a real nuisance, and when we suffer it, we naturally wish it was not there. We should probably see pain in the same way as we may view negative emotions – we may not like them, but the reason they are so unpleasant is that they really need us to take notice and do something about it. Pain protects us by alerting us to further danger, and often this alert comes before we are badly hurt.
It is important to recognise that pain is not simply an ‘on – off process’, with the levels of pain perceived related to the level of damage or risk. Sportsmen and women often pick up an injury during play, which is not recognised until they come off the pitch, and military personnel will certainly be familiar with receiving major injuries during battle with no concept of pain until much later.
Conversely, under different circumstances, we may feel every bump and knock as though it is a major injury. And sometimes, when there are no problems at all, you may still feel pain when your brain thinks there is danger.
Often, we see clients with chronic pain, where there is little or nothing wrong with the tissues, but pain messages are still being sent and received. This happens when pain signalling is not working optimally for the person anymore.
What we know about pain is that there can be great damage and no pain, or no damage and great pain. In effect, the brain can make the decision that there is still threat and we are in danger and need protecting. Unfortunately, this can lead to pain being felt over long periods of time.
In resolving these problems, understanding the mechanisms behind how pain works and what influences it is critical, as with this comes the power to influence how your mind and body perceive pain. For example, pain is influenced by our behaviour, our emotions, our social support systems, our perceptions and the stresses in our lives.
It can bring enormous benefits if we can learn to understand our pain and how we may mitigate it through our approach to life, the management of our emotions, the coping strategies we are able to bring into being, as well as creating behaviours that dispel with the very common ‘boom and bust’ approach to life that many of us utilise when trying to manage pain.
Bringing the right levels of physical activity back into our lives also gives the opportunity to develop a quality of life and understanding of how we can gradually re-wire the brain to become less threat-sensitive and increase the threshold, at which we can live without experiencing debilitating pain.
Working through this is a process that can be very rewarding.
If you would like to discuss the potential for working in this area or in other areas, please get in touch. Consultations are available via Skype or in person.
MARK BELLAMY PSYCHOLOGY CONSULTING
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Tel: 07941 040 013
Founder and editor of FitNet.
Previously gymnastics coach, massage therapist and personal trainer with 20 years of experience. Former gymnast and dancer.