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The complexity of pain





Pain is such a complex beast

Pain is such a complex beast as those of us with a chronic illness will tell you! I wanted to write a really short piece on this and something that empowered me last week. There is a lot of scientific research now concerning pain and the brain and I will write something about that at some point. But for today I wanted to share my recent experience as I think there is a good lesson here for us all.

To put things into context

Last year when the AS kicked off for me it started in my sacroiliac joints and basically rendered me pretty much unable to walk. To say this was shocking was an understatement. I had literally been hiking up a mountain a few days before and then my pelvis gave way!

Eventually after 9 months of agony and lots of failed attempts to remedy the situation I was diagnosed with AS and the pain in my pelvis as sacroiliitis and degeneration of the SIJ. Looking back at this now and with my therapy hat on I feel there was also some physical trauma that had occurred in these joints basically an injury of some sort.

Sixteen months on and my SIJ feels mostly good. I work at this every day with specific exercise to activate certain muscle groups that support the joints. I still use walking poles to support my pelvis and take the weight off this area when I am out hiking.

Doing too much

Last week I had had a particularly physical few days doing various chores and things in the house. My energy levels were quite high, and you know how we are when we have energy, we often end up doing too much! I actually and rather stupidly now on reflection moved a small piece of furniture to clean behind it. Directly afterwards I felt OK but later that evening the pain in my SIJ struck me. Immediately when this happens, I panic and start to catastrophise about my SIJ breaking again! I allowed myself to panic for about 2 minutes then I said to myself stop!


Recognising the type of pain felt and de-sensitising ourselves

In telling myself stop I started the process of re-wiring my brain when it experiences pain. The SIJ pain that I get from time to time is a massive trigger for me as it’s something that caused so much physical, mental and emotional trauma for me last year. Suddenly not been able to walk unaided has this effect!

After telling myself stop I began to rationalise and talk to myself (internally!) explaining that the pain I felt was most likely caused by over doing it and that most people would probably feel similarly after doing so much. My worry eased almost instantly, and my pain also lessened significantly.


Lessons learned

My learning from this experience are as follows:


1. Respect my body and be aware of my own limitations and not do too much at any one time.

2. Use the Stop technique to immediately halt the process of catastrophising and help desensitise and re-wire my brain.

3. Not all pain comes from the AS, sometimes it is normal pain i.e. the pain that results after doing too much.

4. We do have power to heal and once our body gets into a more relaxed state our pain levels can and do often decrease.

The next time you are feeling pain in your body maybe try the stop technique to begin the process of brain desensitisation and re-wiring.

I will write about other techniques that I also use for this is another article.

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