Neuroplasticity Offers Hope

Mar 18, 2024

The evidence is mounting: the brain is in charge of pain, even in the absence of a real structural issue. In a recent study published in the Journal of Pain, though 97.7% of study participants had at least one anomaly on imaging, it was determined that 88.3% of them were experiencing neuroplastic pain. Understanding neuroplastic symptoms is vital in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic back and neck pain.

And let’s be clear that though this study is about back and neck pain, any number of mind body symptoms can be substituted: migraines, chronic fatigue and many digestive issues to name a few.

Neuroplasticity offers a path to healing. If the brain has developed neural pathways leading to pain, it can also create neural pathways with a more pleasant destination. Our job is to reflect on the reasons for our pain, meet ourselves with compassion, and do what we can to shift the emotional and mindset habits that led us here in the first place. It is to recognize that factors we may not have thought of before, such as how even seemingly innocent childhood experiences conditioned our nervous system to be on high alert, might have led us into the territory of chronic pain.

Nathaniel Frank, director of the What We Know Project at Cornell University’s Center for the Study of Inequality, wrote eloquently about his own experience with TMS in this opinion piece for the LA Times, and references the above study. Click here to read his article, which is an excellent primer on Mind Body Syndrome, or TMS.

I found his first and last paragraphs especially moving:

As a chronic pain sufferer I sometimes surprise people by telling them that my pain doesn’t have a physical cause. It’s a mind body thing, I say, related to stress and emotions. To many, this sounds like admitting to being a little bit crazy. And when I up the ante by suggesting they’ve probably had this kind of pain too, some become downright angry, interpreting my words to mean their pain is “all in their head.”

Fortunately, my pain is much improved after years of pain education and good therapy helped my brain dial down my nervous system. Everyone deserves access to this new pain paradigm. And that requires ending the stigma still associated with mind-body symptoms, and understanding them as a universal human condition, not as the lot of people who are a little bit crazy.

Suffering with chronic pain can feel like an isolating and lonely journey, made even more difficult by the sort of response the author mentions. To those of you who are clear that you’re dealing with mind body symptoms, stay strong in that knowledge and keep doing the work. This paradigm is becoming more and more understood, and you’re in good company.

If you’re not quite sure if the symptoms you’re experiencing are neuroplastic, or you know that what you’re doing isn’t working, get in touch with me for a free consultation. There is hope, and it lies in the direction of understanding the interplay between the sensory information your brain receives and the way that information is interpreted. With the right diagnosis you can begin the correct mind-body treatment, which is to work with the mindset, somatic and emotional awareness tools that lead to relief. Contact me for help.

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Hi, I'm Karol.

I help individuals facing TMS issues such as chronic migraine or fatigue release pain and get back to the activities they love. Using a mind-body approach that allows them to heal on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level I help them shift into seeing pain as a pathway to greater self-compassion, resilience and self-awareness. I help my clients come home to the wisdom they carry within. 

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