Pain is a distressing thing. It prevents us from fully engaging in life and sends us in search of a cause and treatment to gain relief. The Western medical model focuses on diagnostics, such as CT and MRI scans, with treatment aimed at the tissue that demonstrates pathology. This often involves passive treatments such as modalities, medications, and surgical procedures -- a mainstream approach to pain that is not always validated by current research.
Believe it or not, findings like disc and facet degeneration or disc bulge and protrusion can appear on a patient's MRI even though they aren't in pain. (Brinjikji et al., 2015)
It seems odd, but the pain we feel is a perception or interpretation, not a sensation. Altered by our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, and context, our pain is often not an accurate representation of tissue damage.
In his book, Unlearn Your Pain, Dr. Howard Schubiner points out that an individual may demonstrate "...changes in blood flow, muscle tension, nerve-firing patterns, and brain wiring patterns that create pain in the absence of tissue pathology."
These are real changes, but they are not being examined and fly under the standard diagnostic testing radar.. The pain is not in your head; it's in your brain. It is a neural circuitry problem with brain changes that can be demonstrated through more specific examination.
Acute pain resulting from tissue damage alerts us to the need to remove forces from the affected area. For example, the pain from breaking your ankle is a signal to take the weight off that leg to prevent further injury. Fortunately, the body is continually rebuilding and remodelling. If all is as it should be, the bones and surrounding tissues will heal within a few weeks.
However, when pain is chronic or lasts more than three months, the signal becomes reinforced without corresponding tissue damage. The longer our nervous system produces pain, the better it gets at creating it. Depending on your history, you may be more susceptible to developing chronic pain.
Treatment focused on retraining the pain system.
Retraining the pain system is multifaceted and largely involves education. When we understand the connection between trauma, stress, and pain, we can take steps to acknowledge and address these root causes. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks to change through growth and reorganization in response to learning or experience. This means we can retrain the pathway of pain or, in other words rewire the changes in the brain.
A pain-free movement experience.
Another important aspect of treatment is providing a pain-free movement experience. Muscle tension changes our posture, support, and movement patterns. All of which is further compounded by the fear of moving and "causing further damage."
Adara Movement focuses on achieving a pain-free movement experience by releasing muscle tension, using appropriate effort, and retraining functional movement patterns by balancing forces within the body.
Well-coordinated movement feels good even in cases where there may be joint pathology. It is helpful to start with the guidance of a movement professional.
With the sort of comprehensive care discussed, pain can be cured, not just managed.