The fastest and most predictable response to an injury is how fast the system responds to it. In the acute phase, the body does its job to heal itself. The most complicated and least predictable response is how much pain you are going to experience from it. Pain scientist, Lorimer Moseley, says that pain never tells you how much is damage, it just tells you to protect the area.
When we think about the information that our bodies have to interpret, 30% of it is through nociception, which is your danger detection signal, and 70% is mechanoreception which, broadly said, allows you to move and navigate yourself. There is a constant conversation that exists within the body to address everything that we are sensing and perceiving, however, if we have an acute trauma or injury or we get a viral infection, there is a lack of mechanoreceptor input as all we get is the nociceptive signal that something is wrong. The danger signals hijack the system and, when we try to decode it, we can run into a problem; all it says is that something is wrong here. The system is on high alert and it is always being revved up, so we are unable to recalibrate.
There is a common group of disorders that are misunderstood and difficult to comprehend because they have no organic or structural cause. Classified as functional neurological disorders, they include such conditions as fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and chronic fatigue, and they are among the most common and least known diseases out there.
When pain occurs in these seemingly inexplicable situations, patients are often given medication, sometimes in the form of opioids. This can become detrimental because of the two circuits that influence our experience of pain. There is one circuit that sends the pain signal, and a separate system that re-shuffles the pain when the system has made its point. Opioids mess with the re-shuffling system so that we don’t integrate the signal and can’t move on from the pain. In that sense, it is like using noise-cancelling headphones when you have a screaming baby, rather than calming the baby. When the system can’t re-shuffle and integrate, the screaming continues.
What I want to make clear, is under no circumstance am I stating that your symptoms aren’t real. You need to be validated for the experience you are having that is going haywire in your system, and no clinician or doctor should ever dismiss it.
The thing about these particular disorders is that the brain is working too hard to do something that it usually does involuntarily. Successful treatment requires a practice that allows you to give yourself a better buffer to handle situational stresses and traumas that may come your way. Spending time driving those pathways now, rather than when you are in the eye of the storm, is more difficult to convince yourself to do, but is beneficial when they are ultimately needed.
There is a certain amount of fear that arises when we realize how the system can go offline. But, if we give the brain a simple task to do, such as counting backwards in increments of 7 or 9, such low level activity of the brain can allow things to re-calibrate and come back online. Even when dealing with symptoms like tremors or dissociative episodes. Engaging with art, sound, or music can also be beneficial in bringing the brain back to task. That is the beauty of this concept of bioplasticity— through the process of sensory substitution, the system can adapt.
Hands on treatment from a skilled practitioner also stimulates the sensory system and can provide the therapeutic touch that elicits a greater feeling of neurophysiological safety. Additionally, you still want to be able to exercise and move to your tolerance to gain that input to the system. If the pain is constant, I acknowledge that relationship changes and it can be a challenge to navigate.
Much of health care is largely based on structural pathology and anatomical systems, leaving some of these functional and less explainable issues on the periphery of care. In the organic tissue model, there are problems to be fixed and we go from there. Yet the real challenge is in knowing what is predictable and what is not, and empowering people to make better decisions, giving them freedom from obsessing over the wrong things.
But the brain and behaviour and body is not a puzzle to be solved, it is a mystery that you embrace.
In medicine, if we don’t find a structural issue, we dismiss it; but there is a beautiful mystery that exists in terms of how you function as a whole. And finding a clinician that allows you to explore and expand the buffer with connection, understanding, and shared outcome can lead to greater healing.
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Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.Check out his instagram at @drt_toronto or visit his website at https://www.brainfullness.org/