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A Crash Course in Pain Science: and how you can help ease a friend's pain this festive season

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and to celebrate with family and loved-ones!


We hope that all of you are busy doing exactly that, but unfortunately this is not the reality for everyone. For some, the Festive Season can, for a variety of personal reasons, be a time of difficulty and loneliness.


But what has this to do with pain?


Well, to answer that, we need to first understand what pain is, and what influences it.


The out-dated understanding of pain from decades-gone-by was that it came as a direct consequence of tissue damage – a biological origin. For instance - a cut to the skin, a tear in a muscle, a stubbed toe, placing a hand on a hot stove, so on and so forth. In addition to this, it was thought that amount of pain that one experiences was directly proportionate to the amount of damage that the tissue sustained – a linear relationship.


This pain theory has since been debunked. The up-to-date understanding of the genesis and modulation of pain, broadly speaking, reflects something like the following:


Pain is not created in the body, but rather is a sensation created in the brain when the brain deduces, on the basis of all of the available information and stimuli at that moment, that the body is in danger and a change in behaviour is required.


The body tells the brain that it is in danger, not that it is in pain.


The latter is for the brain to decide.


To make the decision to produce pain, the brain must analyse a complex interplay of information from three main factors - Biological, Psychological & Social:


Image taken from Article: https://doi.org/10.1111/jabr.12125


The Brain receives all of the incoming information from these three avenues and identifies potential pain triggers, known as DIMs (Danger In Me) and SIMs (Safety In Me). DIMs and SIMs come in a variety of forms and are different for everybody – they could include:

· Things you touch, see, hear, smell

· Things you do

· Things you say

· Things you think and believe

· Places you go

· People in your life

· Things happening in your body

Examples of DIMs 😫

Examples of SIMs 😀

Someone with tooth pain hearing sounds at the dentist

Hearing that your x-ray scans are all clear

Feelings of sadness at a particular time of year in which a loved one had passed away

Listening to your favourite music

Believing that your insurance is not going to accept your claim after sustaining a workplace injury

Having the belief that your healthcare professional understands your situation and can help

They say that knowledge is power, and in the case of pain this couldn't be more accurate. Having a deeper understanding of why we experience pain means that we can look for aspects within our own lives that could be contributing it and act upon them.


As we diminish or remove DIMs and strengthen or incorporate additional SIMs, our likelihood of experiencing pain lowers.


Having control over whether you experience pain (or the severity of the pain) is absolutely a superpower. You have the power to influence this experience for yourself, but also for others.


So, with that in mind, let's circle back to the start of this post - we all would have somebody within our social circles who has a bit of a tough time during the festive season. For instance - Perhaps they are stuck across the other side of the world and are unable to spend Christmas with their family, or maybe this time of year reminds them of something physically or emotionally painful.


Whether they are conscious of it or not, the chances are that their pain (or perhaps their chances of experiencing pain) could be exacerbated by these specific DIMs.


... and this is where you come in.


We challenge you to think of someone within your social circles who may fit the aforementioned description and reach out to them.

It doesn't have to be anything overly touching - just a message of kindness, or an invitation for coffee. Something small like that might just be the SIM that your chosen person needs.



Spread the love this festive season, and who knows, you might manage to truly help a friend.

#knowledgeispower #movementismedicine



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