“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus 540-480BC
Our Brains and Nervous Systems change constantly. They do this via a process called “Neuroplasticity.” “Neuro” refers to Nervous System. “Plasticity” refers to the ability of the Nervous System to change. The brain and nervous system can change in response to our environment and experience. They can change in response to injuries and stress. They can also change in response to mind/body factors such as thoughts, sensations, images and movement.
Repetition is the key to Nervous System change. Circuits that are used repeatedly become strengthened. Circuits that are ignored or go un-used, weaken. Stated another way: “What is fired is wired. What you don’t use, you lose.” The deliberate practicing of new habits facilitates the activation of new circuits and new conscious experience. What seems hard at first soon becomes “easy and automatic” with practice and repetition.
This knowledge becomes valuable to patients with Persistent Pain because brain areas that process pain also process thoughts, sensations, images and movement. Given this, one can use “Competitive Plasticity” or “Counter-stimulation” to weaken pain circuits. One does this by directing the brain to focus on pleasant thoughts, sensations, images or movements in place of the pain. Over time, this weakens pain connections and strengthens more desirable pathways.
Training the brain to distract away from pain is a skill. Like other skills such as learning to read, play the piano or ride a bike, it takes time and persistence to learn. It is a process rather than a quick fix. If you feel stuck, frustrated, or stymied by lack of improvement in pain or healing, we may be able to help. Columbia Pain Management has a unique Pain Education that works with patients one-on-one to develop these new skills. For more information about our Pain Education Program, please contact us at 541-716-6469 or visit us on the web at columbiapain.org. Learning new skills to tame pain and re-wire your sensory system is covered by most health plans when certain conditions are met.