Imagine yourself winding along one of the many accessible trails on the island. The path is carved out like a scar between tree stands and muskegs, and rain is merely a drizzle, so you are feeling confident that the upcoming bridge won’t be too slick.
Later on, as the emergency room nurse is icing your intensely throbbing foot, you declare how surprised and angry you are feeling about falling and twisting your ankle. This is the point where your brain braids an emotional response to a physical injury.
Essentially, the sensation of pain comes from your brain.
The good news is that your brain can be retrained to think about pain.
How your body responds to an injury is connected to how your brain perceives the context of the event. Where you go from there can feel like walking off the well-beaten path into the dark woods. This is precisely when the expert guidance of local physical therapist and pain specialist, Bridget Hitchcock, is most valuable in helping folks understand how “the brain decides pain.”
According to Bridget, there are two types of pain and each type has its own trajectory of long and short-term impacts.
- Acute pain refers to a sudden event resulting in sharp discomfort, inflammation, and tissue damage, with an average of 3-6 months recovery time. An example of acute pain would be a sports injury, the hiking trail anecdote above, or a surgical procedure.
- Chronic pain refers to long-term, persistent discomfort or suffering. An example of chronic pain would be subsequent to a motor vehicle accident, violence, or any sort of injurious event in which there are additional factors impacting how the mind is perceiving the pain.
While acute pain can be effectively minimized during the short-term healing process with pain-blocking medications such as opioids, recent academic research reveals that these same drugs are virtually ineffective for chronic pain sufferers. Furthermore, the critical consequences of extended opiate use is currently so well-established that most medical providers require pain contracts for chronic pain patients.
If surgery is invasive and not always an effective solution for those with chronic pain, and medication is either addictive and ineffective for resolving long-term misery, then what other options are available? Bridget contends, “Your pain response is not your fault. Your brain took over and decided your pain. Education, however, is a non-invasive treatment.”
The upcoming Explain Pain course is based on the revolutionary book by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley, and is an ideal path towards understanding and managing the pain→brain→retrain connections. It is a holistic approach to pain management with the following objectives:
- Explore how the context of an injury is related to how the brain perceives it
- Look at how certain lifestyle modifications can help with chronic pain
- Learn how to retrain your brain’s perception of pain
With over ten years’ experience teaching this class, Bridget Hitchcock, PT will be offering it next on September 12, 2018 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Sitka Community Hospital, Classroom B (located on the Basement Level of SCH, two right turns past the cafeteria). She will be joined by local clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Cindy Westergaard, who will be providing a mindfulness & meditation component to the course.
Explain Pain is free and open to the public.
The next offering will be on December 11th and 13th, both days from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm.