Body Gears_July Issue


NEWSLETTER The Newsletter About Your Health And Caring For Your Body


Freeing theMind to Free theBody

Ever heard of a thought virus? Maybe you aren’t familiar with the term, but you’ve almost certainly heard the phrases, “riddled with arthritis” and “everything hurts when you’re 60” and “I’ve got a bad back” and the list goes on. On the surface, these commonplace phrases may seem like offhand remarks but they’re signs of people creating an identity around being someone who’s in pain which continues to perpetuate the pain cycle. A thought virus is any notion that is scary or threatening and though nearly always incorrect, will maintain or even increase pain. Pain is a defense mechanism the brain uses to protect the body. When tissues are damaged, the brain uses pain to stop you from loading or stressing those tissues in order to give them time to heal. However, all of your body’s tissues have the capacity to heal within 3-6 months which means pain lasting longer than this is at least partially influenced by a lurking thought virus.

For conditions such as arthritis or other age- related changes, pain is not directly indicative of tissue damage as many people believe. One of the most damaging things a healthcare professional can do is look at someone’s scans and then say something like “You’ve got the back of an 80-year-old.” The brain of someone younger than 80 immediately interprets this as the body being in danger and uses pain to alter and even inhibit movement, thus perpetuating the pain in a self-fulfilling prophecy. When it comes to age-related findings on scans, remember that the ageing process started when you were 25 and happens very slowly. This means your scan looked the same the day before and likely months or even years before your pain started. In fact, when we look at 5,397 pain-free knees across 63 studies, 24% had cartilage defects (jumping to 43% if we look only at those 40 years and older) and 25% had osteophytes.

Again, none of the people with these imaging findings experienced any knee pain! So then, what is really triggering pain if it’s not merely the presence of tissue changes? The most critical determinant of pain is context and next article in this month’s newsletter outlines a great example of this. There is solid evidence that knowing why we hurt helps us to heal and reduces pain. So, instead of attributing pain to your tissues, attribute it to a protective brain response. Look out for the scare tactics Big Pharma uses in their commercials (words like erosion and irreversible) and build these anti-viral thoughts into your brain instead:

I can be sore but still be safe. I’ll pace it, no need to race it. My brain and pain are changeable. I can do a little more each day.


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