BLOG: Pain is in Your Brain

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by Marlene Mayman | Jan 10, 2014 | Brain, Pain, Video

All pain is 100% in the brain. This means it is the brain’s job to receive and interpret nerve signals, to decide if there is a threat to the body and, if so, triggering a sensation of pain. Sometimes the brain makes mistakes, telling us something is painful when there’s actually nothing wrong.

In general terms:

  • Acute pain is less than three months old and often has to do with soft tissue damage.
  • Chronic pain lasts three months or longer and may be a leftover effect after tissue damage has healed.

While there are exceptions to the the three month distinction — such as some forms of arthritis or other auto-immune diseases, where inflammation is fairly continuous and soft tissue doesn’t heal, or serious injury that is left untreated or heals improperly — in terms of trauma to the body, most tissues will mend within a relatively short time period, and pain should similarly dissipate.

When soft tissue heals but pain persists, retraining the brain may be necessary for full recovery. An example of this would be phantom pain experienced by amputees, some of whom are successfully trained to mediate their discomfort using a mirror system of treatment … a form of brain training. Brain training may decrease pain perception or help the sufferer ignore pain so they may live a functional and full life.

Understanding how pain works can also help chronic sufferers. This is an excellent review of Explain Pain, a book by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley and published by Noigroup, which I encourage you to pick up.

Some related approaches:

  1. Retrain Pain: Learn a Science Based Approach to Overcome Chronic Pain (FREE!)
  2. Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach
  3. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
  4. Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider’s Guide: Return to Your Life: Ways to Confront and Relieve Pain Through Avenues Other Than Drugs (book)
  5. Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation (The Journal of Neuroscience)

For an interesting presentation of modern science’s understanding of pain, have a look at this engaging 5 minute video:


I approach my clients’ pain holistically and am happy to discuss your “big pain picture,” set goals for our work together and help guide you towards lasting recovery. If you wish to discuss a condition you have, please contact me for a free phone consultation or schedule an appointment.

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