by Kusha Karvandi
In the last post, we explored the pain response, and how your brain perceives pain. We continue here with a more updated theory of pain, along with drills that will help you to retrain your brain.
In the late 1960s, researchers Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall proposed the Gate Control Theory of Pain which asserts that non-painful input closes the “gates” to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from traveling to the brain. This tends to be true, and an example of this would be if you hit your thumb with a hammer by accident your first instinct would be to shake your hand. Shaking your hand stimulates mechanoreceptors in the joint which travel at 300 mph to the brain, while the nociceptors (aka pain receptors) travel at 3 mph, and close the pain “gate.” This theory later manifested into the Pain Neuromatrix model which more accurately depicts how pain works in the body.
By doing the following drills you can give your brain good information so it can create a clear map of where your body is relative to space. They will also help your brain do a better job of safety and prediction which are it’s two primary responsibilities.
Barrier Testing: Find a scar, tattoo, old injury area, or “tight” area of the body and feel the dermal layer. To manipulate the dermal layer requires very light touch, typically just the weight of your fingers will do. Then, test moving the skin in each compass direction to see which direction has a barrier. The barrier will be distinct and will feel like a hard stop. Next, do some type of assessment to establish a baseline such as a toe touch. This will give you something to measure to see if your brain likes the drill or not. Remember, a good drill will bring your brain’s threat level down and increase your flexibility immediately (and sometimes improve pain), so you should see an improvement. With kinesiotape, create an anchor in the center of the skin area your were manipulating and pull it in the direction that gave you a barrier and tape it down. Make sure to rub over this tape several times to make sure it sticks since it has a heat-sensitive adhesive. Now, retest your toe touch assessment to see if your mobility improved. If it did, congratulations, you’ve found a drill that makes your brain healthier and in a few days you will see improvements in pain since you are changing your biomechanics (the way you move). Every step you take with the tape on is teaching your brain a new neural signature that is going to make permanent changes to your hard and soft structures (aka bones, joints, muscles, tendons, etc.).
Gaze Stabilization: Hold a pen at arm’s length and move it in the 8 compass directions, making sure to hold it for at least 10-15 seconds in each position. Don’t go wider than your shoulders, and make sure to keep your head still and facial muscles relaxed. Make sure to retest your toe touch after each compass position so you can find which position is your high payoff. When you find your specific high pay off position, you will want to perform it 3-6 times per day.
3-Dimensional Breathing: From a seated position, wrap a resistance band lightly around your abdomen, touching your lower ribs and mid-back. Now breathe deeply, trying to breathe into the resistance band three-dimensionally. Most of us hyperventilate throughout the day and don’t even know it, which is terrible for your blood chemistry, hormones, and worse – your organ motility. When your upper back is locked up from sitting at a computer all day, for example, it makes it hard to breathe normally and in turn you end up taking shorter, faster breaths from your chest rather than a full breath that expands three-dimensionally and mobilizes the organs. If the organs are stuck in certain positions like this it can lead to organ dysfunction and viscerally-mediated pain, otherwise known as organ-deferred pain. For instance, if you have liver or gallbladder dysfunction you may experience a vague, deep pain that radiates in the right shoulder and neck. After performing some good three-dimensional breaths with the assistance of your band, retest your toe touch to confirm that it had a good response. Sometimes, depending on the person deep breathing can be threatening to the brain so you may have to regress this exercise by lying down.
Performing these drills should serve as your basis for getting your brain healthy, moving better, and pain free! For more biohacks, subscribe to my newsletter at Exerscribe.com.