No brain, no pain!
These days every neurobiologist interest in pain research seems to be wearing a t-shirt with this slogan.
But what does it mean?
That pain is all in the mind? That pain is an illusion? That I can think pain away?
Not at all.
Pain is very, very real for those experiencing it.
But what it does say is that pain is an interpretation of ones brain based on messages sent from the body and its function is to protect us. That does not make the pain experience an illusion.
Furthermore it says that our perception has a huge influence on how we experience pain.
The statement, no brain, no pain shows just how much the brain can influence how much discomfort we feel.
That is one of the reasons I do not subscribe to the no pain, no gain philosophy of massage.
As I have no way of experiencing what you experience I have no right to minimise what you are living through.
Your experience of pain or discomfort is based on so much more than what you feel in your body at any given time.
Add to the pain perception mix, your current state of body and mind, your temperament, your medical and personal history such as previous trauma, family history, familial approach to pain and disease and so much more.
And then there is the role of stress, the ever-present mental, emotional, or physical strain of modern day life.
So many people seem to permanently live in a fight-or-flight state. The last thing the massage therapist should do is cause the messages that go to the client’s body to the brain to be interpreted as threatening. It will make whatever pain experiences they are having worse.
For a clear (and light-hearted) discussion on the topic, take look at this TEDxAdelaide talk by well known Australian physiotherapist and pain researcher, Lorimer Moseley called Why Things Hurt.
And next time you go for a massage, think no brain, no pain instead of no pain, no gain.
PS. This is my blogpost for Day Three of the 7 Day Bizblog Challenge put out by South African Business & Blogger Tribe and Sam Posselt, Speaker of Hashtags #rsabizblogs
Body-mind or mind-body? If you are struggling with physical and mental pain and feel that the dominant health paradigm’s dualistic approach to mind and body seems inadequate to explain anything, I want to talk to you. Join me under the tree in my garden for a cup of rooibos tea and let’s talk massage and SomaSense!