The body does not produce pain. When trauma happens to our tissue cells, it triggers a response from those cells to send a message to the brain for attentional purposes. The brain then interprets the information by recognizing it has come from nociceptors (sensory cells) and begins to send the message to different areas of the brain for our conscious awareness, emotional pre-activation, and stress centers. Meanwhile, at the same time the brain will send a message back to that nociceptor to “feel pain”. This is the brain’s way of getting our attention, letting us know something is not normal, and to specify where the location of injury may be.
How you respond to the initial attention message, determines the tone of each conversation. It is at this time we can either build or dissolve our relationship with our brain and body. And it is at this time where many injury recovery patients begin the process of dissolution and struggle, which unfortunately, is in the beginning of recovery and most important time for healing to occur.
So how do we build a solid relationship with our body, through pain? First, I like using pain-relationship rather than pain-management because management to me depicts a certain hierarchy of influence. Pain-relationships, like most genuine relationships, need to have integrity, respect, partnership, communication, and quality-time together (especially in times of fear and pain).
Most people demand and expect things of their body and brain, and most people find out that it doesn’t work that way for long. In surgery situations, you have physically and intentionally, drugged and caused trauma to the body. In such cases, the brain switches to survival mode and not only demands why you’ve done such things, but begins to question your motives, and your ability to sustain its life. You would too if someone drugged and caused you harm, would you not? This is why communication is sooooooo essential right from the get go, ideally even before surgery, to get every part of your brain and body on the same page of understanding why, as well as in the direction of your ideal recovery/goal.
Anytime you feel like you need to take a pain killer, try to sit with your brain and body briefly beforehand and explain what you’re about to do and why. Use your breath work to calm down your nervous system while having this conversation, it can allow your brain and body to shift into an acceptance mode. Acceptance from the brain and body can have substantial benefits of how well the pain killer works, and how quickly you no longer need them because your brain and body understand what you’re trying to accomplish. This is showing your brain and body that you completely understand your reasons for surgery, completely understand that the body needs time to heal and won’t push too hard too soon, and completely understand that this is a time to listen to what the brain and body have to say in order to build a solid relationship. Basically, you are taking a full leadership role on this journey and have nothing but respect along the way.