You probably already know that chronic stress can contribute to poor mental health, but did you also know that it can contribute towards poor physical health too? I have just co-authored an article with Professor Mark Johnson from Leeds Becket University on the subject of pain and how your perception can impact on it.
Owing to the 2020 pandemic of ‘uncertainty’ that continues unabated across the planet, we are in for an overwhelming amount of physical and mental complaints. The article shows that Information from the environment is detected via our sensory system. Nerves transmit coded information to the brain and that contributes to the overall picture of perceptual awareness. You may begin to wonder what if ‘information’ is the driver of good or bad mental health? It could certainly be a new way of embracing the world around you, and more importantly, taking control of your own perception of the universe. There is only you who can hold this reality, as the rest of us are only illusions, angels or devils, according to you, the reality creator.
You may have heard the saying ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ recited by many an ambulance chasing law firm, but have you ever considered ‘where there’s a pain there’s a blame’ this can be seen in an increasing number of imaging studies where there is clear damage with no presenting pain (Brinjikji et al 2015) and there is presenting pain with zero pathology (Endean et al 2011).
Pain as a survival response.The Stress mechanism working correctly
Between 4%-20% of the population struggle with bodily symptoms in response to psychological distress, of which, pain is the main symptom. The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) categorises this as bodily distress disorder (BDD). Therefore, think long and hard about your pain before reaching out, maybe you need to reach in to find the help you need.
Your pain may be preventing you from going somewhere deep down inside you don’t want to go. Perhaps, you were bullied as a child and the same bullies are stored inside your mind within the world of work or simply the world outside of your own front door. All of these can create emotional memory images, that can fire now and again giving acute pain or constantly giving rise to chronic pain.
On the surface you are genuinely in agony, chronically fatigued, etc, but underneath, the closed information system is effortlessly working away to keep you safe, to ensure your survival at any cost. The Kaiser study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) (n= 17,000) qualified: physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or neglect; exposure to domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness; parental separation or incarceration (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention 2020). When you begin to genuinely examine human life, the realisation is that we are fragile gentle creatures at our core, even small things can create emotional memory images, which go on to impact our lives for years to come, if not cleared.
“Emotional memory images act like
bookmarks from the past, exerting a
powerful effect in the present“
Brian, a 48-year-old man was referred to me 2 months ago to see if I could help reduce his trigeminal neuralgia (a painful head/jaw pain). Brian’s pain began in his late teens and culminated in a surgical procedure at age 25. After the operation there was good news – the intermittent pain that had plagued his life for nearly 10 years had stopped, the bad news – it was no longer intermittent it was permanent!
During our 1 hour online session, Brian explored the interplay between his non-verbal responses to certain questions I asked him, which lead to a shift in his internal information flow. The result being Brian ended the session pain free. Now, I expect you should be thinking, that’s not possible, it can’t be real, but as the article points out “Clients presenting with pain ‘uncoupled’ from physical trauma or disease, may have psychosomatic symptoms such as insomnia, weakness, fatigue, driven by untreated mental pain from their past and/or present experiences.”
Brian checked in for his second session last week and there has been no recurrence of the pain or indeed very little recollection of our session as it seemed, “just like a crazy conversation… you didn’t really do anything!” to use his words.
The key, I believe, is seeing the client as a ‘closed information system’. By interrupting the established information, which is triggering unwanted chemical responses, the information system opens up, allowing it to flow easier. The challenge is meeting the client where they are and transporting them to where they want to be.
There’s a whole lot more for you to discover, read the article inside PhysioFirst’s journal – In Touch Spring 2021Or get it here Matt-Mark-publishedDownload
Brinjikji W, Luetmer PH, Comstock B, Bresnahan BW, et al. Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. American Journal of Neuroradiology 2015;36:811-816
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Violence Prevention. CDC-Kaiser-ACE
study revised 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/ violenceprevention/aces/about.html?CDC_ AA_ref Val=https%3A%2F%2F www.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2 Facestudy%2Fabout.html
Endean A, Palmer KT, Coggon D. Potential of magnetic resonance imaging findings to refine case definition for mechanical
low back pain in epidemiological studies: a systematic review. Spine 2011;36:160–169