frequently Asked Questions
can I really use my brain to overcome pain?
Studies have shown that most people with chronic pain respond well to mind-body techniques. Your mind is the ‘software’ for your brain. In most cases the mind is playing a hidden but significant role in the maintenance of chronic pain and it can play an even more significant role in overcoming it.
If you haven’t already done so why not take our 2 minute assessment and see whether your mind could help you overcome pain.
If you've Recently developed Pain
The information on this site should not be taken as medical advice or used for self-diagnosis.
If you have recently started experiencing a new pain please talk to a medical professional.
(Read our disclaimer)
Let's cut to the chase
how long will it take?
We are all different. Some people seem able to flick a mental switch and their pain disappears very quickly. For others it takes a little longer. Chronic pain is a complex multifaceted problem. We work with a natural process called neuroplasticity, which enables changes to be made to the way the brain processes information that is currently being interpreting as pain. Obviously, by its nature this isn’t an exact science, so how far and how fast pain fades will depend on many factors, but most people will start to see significant improvement after a few sessions.
In a nutshell
unlike acute pain, Chronic pain is usually caused by a faulty pain alarm system - not physical damage or disease
what do we mean by Mind-Body?
The scientific understanding of how cognitive and biological process work together
Biochemical reactions to thoughts and feelings occur not just in the brain but in virtually every system in our body – the nervous system, immune, endocrine and digestive systems. And it’s a two way street. Biochemical changes in those systems influence our thoughts and feelings. What happens in the mind directly affects the body and what happens in the body directly affects the mind.
We may not realise it but we experience the effects of this mind-body connection every day. Have you ever noticed how simply thinking about eating your favorite meal can cause you to salivate? Or talking about head lice can make your scalp feel itchy? We also see it in the physical symptoms of psychological unease – I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve had butterflies in your stomach or sweaty palms before doing something a little scary.
This connection between the psychological and physical means we can use physical changes to improve psychological wellbeing (e.g. endorphins after exercise or a walk in the country) and we can use psychological changes to improve physical wellbeing – including how we experience pain.
Everything we experience, every thought, every feeling, every sensation, including physical pain, is generated by the brain.
how does the brain overcome pain?
You have the power
There's a problem
The brain responds
Signals are sent from an area or areas of the body, through the central nervous system to the brain. The brain can then do everything from ignore those signals (soldiers in battle who don’t feel pain from wounds) to sound the pain alarm way louder than it needs to be (why does a paper cut hurt so much?)
This decision – alarm or ignore – is controlled by all sorts of factors, all of which are processed by the brain. And while it’s notoriously difficult for medication to deal with issues like this we do have some software that we can use – our mind. And it includes a number of powerful natural tools that many of us don’t even realise we have.
We can influence that response
Part of the therapy process involves helping you unlock these abilities. Not only are these tools fantastic for dealing with chronic pain but once you’ve mastered them they can be used to enhance other areas of your life.
These are the same natural abilities that elite athletes use before a race or high achievers access when they’re operating in a state of ‘flow’.
What are Natural Pain Control Processes?
We use proven psychological techniques to alter the brain’s perspective and change how and even whether pain is experienced. Three of the key tools we use to unlock your natural pain control processes are Suggestion, Open Awareness and Psychological Flexibility
Much more than pain relief. The psychological techniques used to overcome chronic pain are the same techniques elite performers use to give themselves an edge
While around 90% of people have this ability most remain unaware and never utilise it
This is such a waste.
Like most things, the natural ability varies from individual to individual. For some people it seems to come easily while others take a little time to develop the skill.
This ability was originally called ‘monoideism’, meaning a fixation of attention on one idea. This name, while more accurate, didn’t catch on so the term most people use today is Hypnosis. The American Psychological Association defines this ability as:
"A state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterised by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion"
But why is this an ability? Don’t you just have a hypnotist who hypnotises you? What ability do you need? The truth is hypnosis is a skill that you can develop for yourself. Forget what stage hypnotists may claim – they don’t have any ‘power’ and are simply guiding people to tap into their own natural ability for enhanced focus. ultimately all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
While this natural ability has been shrouded in mystery for many years (partly because of the outlandish claims by stage hypnotists and others) it’s actually been a mainstream science for well over a century. Several major universities, including Stanford and Harvard undertake hypnosis research and it’s used daily by clinicians all over the world.
We can use this ability to change how the brain perceives the signals it is receiving from both outside and inside the body. It’s how dental hypnosis turns the sensation of drilling being interpreted by the brain as pain to being interpreted as a mild vibration.
There are no hard and fast rules to say who has or hasn’t got this natural ability but as a general rule of thumb if you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming or completely absorbed in a book or film there’s a very good chance you have.
find your path out of pain
Book a consultation or take a quick online self-assessment now
to see if therapy could help you overcome your Pain
What The Brain is able to Process
What our conscious mind is able to process
The brain decides which 50 of those 11 million bits of information we should be made consciously aware of – including pain.
What if you could influence that?
Turn off autopilot
The decision about what we should be consciously aware of seems to happen through a process that includes a process known as the Salience Network. As the name suggests, the SN is looking to see what is most important for us to be aware of in any given moment. This process takes its cues from a number of sources – including what we’ve already been paying most attention.
Unfortunately most of the time our mind is on autopilot and we seem to have very little control over what takes our attention. Left to its own devices, our mind – constantly on the lookout for threats or opportunities – is easily drawn to things designed to capture its attention, like pain
Imagine how powerful it would be to be able to break this cycle and take back some control of where and how we use our attention – and in particular how we use it to help overcome our pain experience.
One of the best known ways to develop Open Awareness is through mindfulness.
Open Awareness is simply the act of becoming fully aware of what your mind and body are doing. This allows you to recognise early warning signs and pain patterns before they develop.
This can play a big part in helping to overcome pain. It has proven to be particularly effective in treating one of the leading causes of chronic pain – stress – both overt and hidden stress.
Don’t worry if you’ve tried meditation and found it wasn’t for you – FADE is not a meditation based therapy.
While meditation can have enormous benefits for those who are able to practice it (and we certainly wouldn’t discourage it), our approach to unlocking the benefits of this type of mindfulness is through small, practical steps that we feel can be easily incorporated into daily life.
And in addition to the direct benefits of Open Awareness it also allows us to unlock another even more powerful process – Psychological Flexibility.
Thoughts affect pain
No delete key in the brain
you can't control what thoughts you have
But you can control how you respond to them
For protective reasons these sticky thoughts are often be the most negative – and most likely to contribute to our pain. What if we could unhook from these thoughts and take away their power to influence our behaviour? Psychological Flexibility is the ability to do just that.
Why It's natural to be negative
Your brain’s No1 priority is keeping you safe. And that means always being on the lookout for threats – that’s what it’s evolved to do.
Imagine it’s many thousands of years ago. You and a friend are out walking through the plains of Africa and you hear a rustle in the grass. Your friend things it’s just the wind and carries on. You think it could be a sabre tooth tiger and get out of there.
Suppose it turns out you were wrong – it was just the wind. You’ve been inconvenienced but no harm done.
But if your friend was wrong and it was a sabre tooth tiger…
The mind has evolved to think negatively. It’s the safer option.
It's estimated our brain will think 4 negative thoughts for every 1 positive
How does psychological flexibility work?
Living with chronic pain is like being in quicksand. The more you struggle, the worse things get and the further you sink. The best way to deal with both situations is to stop struggling.
Now you may think that’s easier said than done. But have you noticed how your pain often feels better when you ‘take your mind off it’? Using Psychological Flexibility we can learn to shift our energy away from the struggle with pain and into living according to our values and the things that matter most to us.
It’s not about distraction (which only provides a temporary respite) and we don’t try to ‘ignore’ pain. We recognise that some pain is part of our lived experience at the moment – and that’s okay – but that we have other priorities.
Through this process we are effectively signalling to the brain that we don’t need the pain alarm – we accept it’s there but it isn’t as a high a priority for us. This helps to create a virtuous loop where ‘danger signals’ from the body are less likely to be interpreted as pain.
"Pain is just your brain's opinion on what's going on in your body"
Professor lorimer moseley
neuroscience pain specialist
Isn’t it time you changed your mind?
Are you ready to overcome your pain?
Book a consultation today and see how FADE therapy could help you.