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What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is a very real and often disruptive or debilitating experience of physical pain that may have originated from injury or illness or may have had no known physical cause, but persists nonetheless even after injury or illness may be determined resolved.
Most people with chronic pain have tried multiple doctors and specialists with multiple medication options and still found insufficient relief. The medical model is not wrong or bad, it’s just incomplete and doesn’t take into account the full picture of how the body and brain respond to pain.
How does Chronic Pain in the Body impact the Brain?
The brain contains specific nerve cells dedicated to processing pain. When activated these cells alert our conscious awareness that we are in pain, and the brain works hard to deactivate the pain generators. When pain becomes chronic and persistent, however, the brain changes in very real physiological and anatomical ways. The activated nerve cells literally steal cells from other regions of the brain which strengthens the pain pathways in the brain. Additionally, the regions of the brain from which cells were stolen, experience difficulties functioning. This explains why many individuals with chronic pain also suffer in areas of mood regulation, attention, concentration, movement and beliefs about their pain.
How do EMDR along with CBT interventions help with Chronic Pain?
Researchers have discovered that we can disrupt the pain pathways in the brain and nervous system and re-wire them to an improved state of functioning thereby reducing the experience of pain. EMDR can be a helpful, non-invasive intervention to disrupt the pathways and open up the opportunity for new learning. Alongside EMDR, there must be a repetitive and relentless practice of self-soothing and thought changing in order to reclaim the appropriate functions of the stolen nerve cells.
In summary, once the pain networks are disrupted and prompted to re-wire, they can be strengthened in their original roles prior to pain. It is through this disruption and re-wiring process that we can literally change the pathways in the brain and nervous system thereby changing the experiences in the body.
“One of the key practical lessons of modern neuroscience is that the power to direct our attention has within it the power to shape our brain’s firing patterns, as well as the power to shape the architecture of the brain itself.”
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