Here’s one way to describe pain sensitization: I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ – the 80s mockumentary that chronicles the rise and fall of a rock band trying to make it. But there is one classic scene where the lead guitarist is showing the filmmaker their new amp.
He says: “You see this amp? It’s very special. Most amps only go up to 10. But ours goes up to 11.”
Now while there’s some humour in this (you can make as many numbers as you like on a dial) there is another comparison I could make.
For people with pain sensitisation, their pain dial goes up to 11 (or even 12, 13, 14 or 15.)
When people’s pain system is sensitised it can even affect things like site and hearing. For example, sometimes in my waiting room I see people wearing their dark glasses indoors.
When I ask them why they say – “Everything seems too bright. And too loud as well.”
So if you have pain sensitization, and your pain goes up to 11+ the most important question is – how can you turn it down?
The answer to this is multifaceted. If there was a simple one-step way to do this – then it wouldn’t be chronic pain and you would have sorted it out months or years ago.
However, there are things that can make a huge difference in turning the pain dial down. Some techniques will work very well for some people and others work better for others.
I’m going to share one technique which is deceptively simple, but for some people it transforms their life.
It’s this – breathe with your diaphragm – not your chest.
Essentially, there are two ways you can breathe. The one way (diaphragmatic) is efficient and calming, the other way (using your upper chest) will hype your pain system up.
The simplest way to practice diaphragmatic breathing is to lie on your back and put one hand on your chest – and one on your tummy. When you breathe – notice which hand moves. If you’re using your diaphragm – as you breathe in the hand on your belly should rise up.
Changing your breathing may seem like a small, simple thing, but I’ve seen it have a huge effect on people’s day to day stress. This then turns down their pain levels.
But only if they make it a consistent habit.
So that’s what I’d recommend as a first step to shift your pain dial down from 11 and back to normal settings. There are several other simple strategies you can adopt to bring calm and control into your daily life – and turn down your pain.
I’ve made a short quiz that gives you an idea of your pain sensitization level, followed by a free series on what you can do to turn it down.
Can amplified pain cause inflammation?
The answer is No.
Inflammation is the healing response of the body which has become uncontrolled. Amplified pain is a reaction/malfunction of your pain system to that primary pain cause. Amplified pain is usually secondary. There are problems like Fibromyalgia where the amplified pain is the primary cause, but you don’t have that.
Can inflammation cause amplified pain?
The answer is Yes.
Amplified pain often is turned on secondary to a chronic inflammatory condition. However, it may continue long after the inflammation has settled, making it difficult to sort out how you are doing, since your pain is still there.
Can nerve damage/inflammation cause amplified pain?
The answer is Yes.
It is the same reason as above, where amplified pain is turned on secondary to a painful condition – in this case neuropathic pain
Your pain system will become sensitized or amplified in all the areas which show chronic inflammation, damage or evidence of neuropathy. It is very difficult to know what proportion of your pain is due to the underlying inflammation/damage and how much due to sensitized/amplified nerves.
The only way is to do the work to reprogram your pain system, whilst you and your doctors sort out all the other complex painful processes.
So, doing the work with Neuromind practices and the other techniques we discuss in our program may make a huge or only a small improvement of your pain. The only way to find out is to try.