If you are struggling with chronic pain or chronic fatigue I hope this post changes EVERYTHING!
If you believe that Pain = Damage or Fatigue = No Energy please read right through.
WE WERE WRONG!
One of the reasons we have misunderstood chronic pain and chronic fatigue is that up until recently we have fundamentally misunderstood ALL pain and ALL fatigue. We thought:
pain = damage
fatigue = no energy
The breakthroughs in the fields of pain and fatigue science are revolutionary, profound and best of all, open up treatment options to those stuck in chronic pain or chronic fatigue.
BUT……… it starts with changing your thinking.
THE REVOLUTION – The BRAIN’S ROLE
From the ‘eureka moments’ that occurred in labs in Oxford England in the 1960’s, to the slow ripple effect into research and experiments, long term studies and increasing technical advances in neurology and brain and body scans. It took over 50 years to change our understanding of pain and fatigue and the critical role of the BRAIN. But it doesn’t have to take YOU 50 years to figure that out or even 1 year. It just requires you to put aside everything you already think about pain and fatigue and look with fresh eyes. Just like the pioneering scientists before us, it helps to be curious and ask better questions. Are you curious?
Here are some examples that show how the old models of “pain = damage” and “fatigue = no energy” make no sense.
- Doctors once believed that osteoarthritis was ‘wear and tear’ (‘bone on bone’) yet one of the most effective treatments is exercise. How can exercise make the pain go away if the pain is ‘caused’ by structural damage? Pain isn’t about structural damage. It’s something else. Curious?
- If fatigue = no energy, why can marathon runners create energy by merely swishing energy drinks in their mouth to fool their brain?
- The worst symptom of chemotherapy is often crushing fatigue and chemo brain (brain fog). Patients were thought to be run down so told to rest. This didn’t change anything and often set up long periods of fatigue AFTER full recovery. YET when patients exercised during therapy this had a noticeable improvement on fatigue and cognitive function. How can exercise improve fatigue if it = no energy? Exercise is now prescribed for Chemo fatigue. Curious?
- How can a man come into a dentist with a mild toothache and an X-ray reveal a 6 inch nail embedded there? Yes this happened.
- Why do suffers of depression regularly experience debilitating fatigue? If fatigue = no energy – What happened to it?
- If pain = damage how can an amputee feel pain in a leg they don’t even have? NO damage as no leg!
- If fatigue = no energy, why does long periods in bed after an injury often create fatigue? How can not using energy cause a lack of energy?
- If someone is suffering from deep grief they often feel fatigued. If fatigue = no energy, who stole the energy?
- Why, if you take a scan of healthy 50 year olds, 60% show bulging discs, YET they are perfectly healthy and no back pain. We would now say ‘slipped discs’ are a myth.
- If back pain = damage, why is mood and stress the biggest predictor of a back pain event?
- A man looses his leg from shark attack but feels nothing until he gets to shore. Damage but no pain.
- Why do we wake up energetic yet the act of sleeping uses about 370 calories – the equivalent of a half hour cross-country run? How can we wake up having USED energy but feel fresh and energetic? Curious.
- If pain means damage and damage means pain, why can some people have pain-free births, yet for the same person a paper cut is excruciating?
- How can a pill with no medicine (a placebo) turn off pain? How can a pill with no medicine have pain as a nasty side effect (nocebo)?
- How can healthy athletes instantly loose 12% energy capacity just by seeing a frowning face?
- How can a patient under hypnotherapy have teeth removed with no anaesthetics and yet feel no pain.
- How can two people have identical injuries that heal, yet one is back on their feet in no time and the other is stuck in life long pain?
- How can merely reading fatigue related words slow someone’s speed of movement?
- How can telling someone they haven’t had enough sleep (when they have) trigger fatigue and physical impairment?
- Why does merely seeing another person move, trigger pain in some people?
- How can long periods of poor sleep cause all over body pain. Did they injure themselves through lack of sleep?
- Why does emotional pain and physical pain look identical in brain scans?
- Why does a period of stress often flare the pain of an old injury? It can’t be about damage. Curious
- Why do we feel fatigued when we have a virus. Did the virus steal our energy? What did it do with all that energy?
These finding are curious ONLY if you see pain = damage and fatigue = no energy. YET modern pain and fatigue science says all these things make perfect sense when you understand what pain and fatigue actually is and the brain’s critical role.
These breakthroughs offend some BUT only if you think neurological = all in the head (or not real).
THE NEW UNDERSTANDING
All pain and fatigue are real. They just aren’t what we thought. For all people, pain and fatigue get turned on when the BRAIN detects a potential threat. Their purpose is to get our attention, to get us to stop, slow down or change what we are doing. They are turned on to PROTECT us. Always real AND always constructed first in the brain as a protective responses. From the fatigued marathon runner, to the exhausted flu sufferer, to the injured football player or arthritis sufferer. All pain and fatigue are neurological protection responses.
PAIN AND FATIGUE ARE PROTECTIVE NEUROLOGICAL RESPONSES – The brain obviously take into account what’s going on in your body, but also your environment, your past experiences, your mood, your thoughts and beliefs, your stress. All these things influence how the brain decides whether to protect us by turning on a real pain or real fatigue experience.
So that’s ALL people and all pain and fatigue.
If these responses go for long enough, then changes take place in the brain and nervous system so the pain and fatigue continue long after needed. This is a process called Neuroplasticity. The brain has changed and adapted – some times long after injuries have healed, viruses gone or threats past.
POST VIRAL FATIGUE
So taking Post Viral Fatigue as an example. A virus enters the system and the person is so weak that a short walk to the bathroom destroys them. It not the virus that ‘drained the energy’. The brain detected a threat (the virus) so turned on fatigue to slow us down to allow our immune system to work well. The fatigue protects us from doing too much. In time the virus is properly dealt with but the fatigue, (that was created by us all along) can get stuck on. So what was originally useful, becomes unnecessary. Still just as real as in the beginning but now no longer appropriate. We are stuck in a post-viral fatigued state. The brain and body are still fighting and protecting long after it’s needed.
So recovery is not a healing journey but a retraining of the brain and nervous system.
Challenged? So were decades of scientists. But to no longer take into account the critical role of the brain is only slowing down people’s ability to look at treatment options they haven’t considered.