Living with chronic pain and mind-body symptoms can be debilitating, affecting every aspect of a person's life. Neuroplastic pain, a condition where the brain rewires itself to perceive pain signals as a chronic threat, can lead to hypervigilance, preoccupation with symptoms, and a cycle of fear and avoidance. However, the good news is that neuroplastic pain can be reversed, and chronic pain Warriors can build a more resilient nervous system. This blog will explore the importance of thinking better to break the chronic pain cycle, reduce hypervigilance, and reverse neuroplastic pain.
Understanding the Chronic Pain Cycle:
One's mental health and behavioral patterns are crucial in perpetuating the chronic pain cycle. The fear-avoidance or chronic pain cycle is a negative coping mechanism where individuals panic, despise, or become frustrated with chronic pain symptoms. These responses heighten danger signals and prolong the chronic pain cycle.
The Impact of Repetitive Negative Thinking:
Repetitive negative thinking over long periods can prevent mind-body healing. When individuals become preoccupied with their symptoms and focus on how they have affected their lives, the brain will continue perceiving seemingly neutral sensations as a danger. Thus, intensifying the cycle. This mindset leads to decreased activity, social withdrawal, and diminished self-efficacy while frustration, fear, and pain increase. Recognizing when unhelpful thinking patterns arise and how they affect one's emotional and physical state is essential to mind-body healing.
Thinking Better to Break the Chronic Pain Cycle:
Developing healthier thinking patterns is one of the essential first steps to break the chronic pain cycle. While it is impossible to eliminate negative thoughts entirely, the goal is to identify repetitive thoughts that trigger a survival mode response and then soothe and reaffirm safety. Let's explore five steps to thinking better:
1. Acknowledge: Recognize negative thoughts without judgment. Understand that they are a natural human experience driven by the brain's instinct to protect us.
2. Challenge: Question the validity of negative thoughts. Ask yourself if there is evidence supporting them or if they are based on fear and despair.
3. Assess: Evaluate the impact of negative thoughts on your nervous system. Notice how they amplify pain signals and perpetuate the cycle.
4. Replace: Intentionally replace negative thoughts with positive and affirming ones. These mantras can be personal evidence that you have been resilient, using pain science to remind yourself sensations are temporary or using spiritual teachings to foster hope and patience. All in all, the ideal replacement thoughts focus on fostering safety, hope, and resilience.
5. Reflect: Regularly reflect on your progress and celebrate small wins. Monitor your thoughts and adjust your mindset when necessary.
Tools to Soothe the Nervous System and Uplift the Spirit:
Breaking the chronic pain cycle requires practice and commitment. It is vital to utilize tools that soothe the nervous system and divert attention from preoccupation with pain symptoms. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, movement, somatic tracking positive sensations, engaging in hobbies, connecting with loved ones, and seeking professional support can all contribute to building resilience and fostering recovery.
How Long It Takes for Positive Progress
Creating a safe mental and emotional space to rewire neuroplastic pain requires commitment and willpower. According to the 5 Stages of Change model by Loma Linda University, it takes approximately six months of consistent practice to see significant change. However, even within the first two to three months, healthier thinking habits can lead to increased empowerment, reduced preoccupation with pain, improved social connections, and a higher level of indifference toward symptoms.
Conclusion and Resources:
If you are struggling with chronic pain and mind-body symptoms, I offer a free pain consultation to provide guidance and support in identifying behaviors that may be keeping you stuck in the chronic pain cycle. Click here to schedule your free 45-minute pain consultation.
We offer PRT (Pain Reprocessing Therapy) Coaching certified by the Pain Psychology Center, in one-on-one and group settings. Click here to learn more about these coaching services.
Coming Soon: Fall 2023
Body Amor Wellness will soon launch an online mind-body program called "Pain Unwired," designed to rewire neuroplastic pain, enhance overall well-being, and manage stress and anxiety. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for our waitlist!
Remember, thinking better is a journey, and with dedication and practice, you can break free from the chronic pain cycle, regain control over your life, and cultivate a resilient nervous system.