Dr Lorimer Moseley lectures on pain – and one of his more interesting talks was about the ‘central’ part of the pain experience – the part that happens in our brains. This talk is about how our brain’s physiology, language, and past experience can create the very real feelings of pain even after our tissues have healed.
I dislike his use of the word ‘illusion’ but I think he uses the extreme to make a point rather than shoot for total accuracy. Pain is an output of our brains designed to protect us (in acute pain). This is NOT to say that pain is only ‘in your head’ – as if it is not real – it is to explain how and why pain is affected by the ‘meaning’ we give to pain and the language we use to describe causes of pain. One of his examples, and mine, is that of a ‘slipped disc’. Discs don’t ‘slip’ physically, but visual image of something ‘out of place’ creates a very visual ‘hook’ for hanging onto an idea that is very painful….when many, many people have ‘slipped discs’ and experience no pain.
This is one very sound reason why medical professionals often wait and do conservative treatment before sending you for a ‘scan’.
This is ALSO one reason why chronic pain management often includes social and psychological interventions. As an osteopath with a background in psychology and with training in NLP, I find I use all of my skills of communicating (physically and psychologically) to help people in chronic pain.
Why does something hurt one person and not another? Why do we hurt after our tissues have healed? Why can we sometimes literally ‘feel’ the pain of others? Why is pain always worse when we are stressed out and upset about other things? It’s very neurologically complex, and Dr Moseley helps break it down for us in a funny and intellectually engaging way.