Our Pain, Our Brain and Our Nervous System

Most of us felt cynical, and disliked the physio and doctors enormously. We’d talk among ourselves, ‘Oh it’s all right for them to tell us so and so, they’re not in pain.’ “Like most in the group, I’d been protecting my painful body, using the old reasoning, if it hurts, rest it. I’d bundle my arms around me and pick things up with my toes. My life had become massively restricted.” Source: Barbara’s Story The University of Sydney

That is Barbara Walker speaking about her initial introduction to a new approach to managing her chronic pain (see definition below). While Barbara was skeptical, the approach worked so well she and her family were instrumental in establishing the centre in Melbourne.

The following short video covers a lot in five minutes, please do take the time to watch it.

I was very surprised to learn 1 in 5 people worldwide suffer chronic pain. This is not a small percentage of the population. Think of all the people in your family, your workplace and your circle of friends. 100 people? I like round numbers. So it is statistically probable 20 are suffering or will suffer chronic pain.

I am writing this as a patient, just like you or someone you know. My objective today is to highlight there are evidence based approaches to living with chronic pain which you may like to consider. Referral information and other details about the Barbara Walker Centre for Pain Management are found on this St Vincent’s web page for those in Melbourne.

Because I am not qualified to speak on the topics of neuroplasticity or the finer points of nerve receptors and neurotransmitters, I’m not going to. This is actually sad, because I’d LOVE to, it is interesting and exciting stuff! It is also very specialised and the multi-disciplinary team have many years of clinical experience. Providing patients with an in-depth understanding of how pain works is a vital component of this approach to improving our quality of life. The relationship between our nervous system and our brain is very much a part of the solution. No, the pain isn’t “all in our heads” – but our brain is involved.

Ask yourself what are all the things you have tried to date? Has your quality of life improved as a result, or has there been only brief periods of respite? How often have you felt you had to choose between taking pain meds OR going to work, because invariably doing both is not an option? Is it worth trying something different, as Barbara did in 1995? As I have done and continue to do.

I feel as if I’m writing an advertorial for others, when if I should be writing one for anyone, it should be for my services! The truth is, while exercise and movement are part of the equation, there are other variables, some of the practical ones I have addressed in previous introductory articles. I would be remiss if I didn’t draw attention to the work being done and the support available in this sphere. After all, I didn’t know of pain centres until I was referred by a general practitioner.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that continues after the initial cause of the pain (injury, surgery, inflammation etc) has healed. Those of us with chronic conditions/illnesses/diseases may have ongoing causes of pain – so perhaps a mix of chronic and acute pain but the approach should still help us.

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Published by

Robyn Dunphy

I offer exercise guidance to those with chronic medical conditions where exercise is beneficial.

13 thoughts on “Our Pain, Our Brain and Our Nervous System

  1. Great video there. Strange that the brain itself does not register pain, but is the receptor of pain in other parts of the body. Oddly ironical ??

    I believe emotions and emotional health, can contribute to pain – – or the easing of pain, depending on how one goes about regulating their lives, especially on emotional levels – ( which takes a great deal of introspection and honesty with oneself, and is often not at all easy ).

    Good article Robyn ……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The brain is the interpreter – the brain “decides” whether to “translate” the messages received into pain.

      Certainly stress can heighten our experience of the pain. Mindfulness exercises can be very useful, although that is one technique I have to work on – I’ve never been very good at just “being in the moment”, I am trying to learn!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not at all easy to be ‘just in the moment’ …. constant distractions are a curse to tranquility. Probably why I am a night person and a bit of a loner. Always did my art ( landscape painting ) at night – children in bed, nobody phoning etc. …. and that worked well. Hence I spend time now, uninterrupted at night to catch up with computering, sorting photos on iPad, phone and camera, and trying to reply to many emails, not to mention Facebook which I would like to give a big miss. !! …. Sooo much negativity on there I find. Also study and reading. But – I am getting slower as I age, which doesn’t sit well with me !! … and have to re-arrange a few things in my life – it is ultra slow progress, but … IS progress.

    Pain killers ? I am supposed to take ( for inflammatory arthritis ) 2 x Panadeine Forte x 4 pd – but if I took the maximum number of painkillers I am permitted in one day, I would figure myself fit for hospital !! …. Thus, I back off on pain-killers as much as possible – and use heat or cold ( cold face washer on forehead does wonders – relaxes greatly ). Pain that makes one feel like wanting to vomit though, is another matter. I do take them then.

    Cheers Robyn ……


    1. My primary objective is to stay off painkillers. I have Tramadol in the cupboard and that is where it stays. I can’t remember the last time I took one. I am on DMARDs for the autoimmune arthritis and trying to reduce my daily dose – achieving that slowly.

      We all get slower with age at some point! Like you, I’m putting that off for as long as I can!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Didn’t think Tramadol was stlll available here. Goes to show how much I know about pain killers availability. Hope the Tramadol you have is at least within a year or so of expiry date ( considering you haven’t taken them for some while ).

    Good for you Robyn, that you try to stay away from them. I also try – and succeed much of the time, but there are times I MUST resort to them. Damn it. Have never had to have DMARDS’ …. and hope I never get to know about them, although the imflammatory arthritis is a bit of a worry.

    Onward and upward, Robyn … great challenges to beat these nasties. 🙂


    1. DMARDs are Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs. Very useful in the treatment of rheumatoid and psoriatic (both inflammatory) arthritis. Also used for other diseases, but naturally my personal interest is those two. Very useful in my experience. Next level up is biologics – have a friend who has had great results but we have to “fail” the cheaper drugs to qualify.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I just completed an 8 week chronic pain management course, Earnest. There are options other than opioids! Not that I was ever a fan of pain meds. It is good to see the medical professionals working on the alternatives.


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