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As you saw in the Biological Basis of Pain, pain is processed as an interrelated matrix of activated regions. This matrix of activated brain regions creates the totality of our experience of pain, including its intensity, quality, pattern, and how much fear, suffering, and agony it causes. Getting out of the matrix is like walking through a maze without a guide – each route out can feel like a dead end.

 

Mastering Pain is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We believe there is more than one road for you to take out of the pain maze. Your road to pain mastery may have already followed many paths. Along the way you may have tried a number of different treatment options including medicines, injections, adjustments, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, and a whole host of other products or services. Some of these may have worked, some may not have worked. It is important to recognize that everyone responds differently.

Mastering Pain is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We believe there is more than one road for you to take out of the pain maze. Your road to pain mastery may have already followed many paths. Along the way you may have tried a number of different treatment options including medicines, injections, adjustments, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, and a whole host of other products or services. Some of these may have worked, some may not have worked. It is important to recognize that everyone responds differently.

As you saw in the Biological Basis of Pain, pain is processed as an interrelated matrix of activated regions. This matrix of activated brain regions creates the totality of our experience of pain, including its intensity, quality, pattern, and how much fear, suffering, and agony it causes. Getting out of the matrix is like walking through a maze without a guide – each route out can feel like a dead end.

Mastering Pain is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We believe there is more than one road for you to take out of the pain maze. Your road to pain mastery may have already followed many paths. Along the way you may have tried a number of different treatment options including medicines, injections, adjustments, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, and a whole host of other products or services. Some of these may have worked, some may not have worked. It is important to recognize that everyone responds differently.

Mastering Pain is about empowering you with a guide to the maze; showing you new paths that can guide you out of the pain matrix. It is about discovering new tools to help change your brain, change your body, and change your experience of pain. Some of these new paths may easily work for you, others may not. This is a simple scientific principle – test the hypothesis and observe your outcomes. Mastering Pain is about validating your unique response to these paths and respecting others with their unique experiences. It is about teaching the skills in a way that encourages you to use them on your own – reducing the emotional, financial, and time burdens of relying on other people to help you manage the pain. While we hope and encourage you to keep in touch and share what you learn with others in the pain community, our goal is that someday you won’t even need to be here, you’ll simply be back living life as a master of your pain.

Those of us at the Mastering Pain Institute, are not always fond of the “way things have been done.” In many ways we rebel, whether it is against the overly simplistic 0-10 scale (that confusingly combines sensory intensity and the agony) or against the simplistic understanding of pain, itself.

Building a map is one of our ways of organizing the massive amount of options for changing pain.

In this lesson we focus on Mastering Automatic Physical Systems.

These physiological systems can change the experience of pain in very real biological ways. To organize the biological systems we've created a pain compass - to help us know which direction we want to travel as we discover our path to pain mastery.

Let's take a closer look at our pain compass.- Take a look at the outside of the circle. It says Methodologically Approaching - with Interventions using Neurobiological Gateways. We then notice  the four directions we want to go using our compass, Soothing, Thriving, Empowering, and Relieving. Then we notice the center of the compass. Here you find the PAIN BLOCK. You'll also notice that the pain block identifies four parts of pain. This is because, as you probably know through experience, pain is very complex. When we put this all together it says "Methodologically approaching soothing, thriving, empowering, and relieving with interventions using neurobiological gateways for physical intensity, agony, impact, and negative stigma - MASTERING PAIN!

Then take a look at the 

  • The first part in the upper left corner of the pain block is PHYSICAL INTENSITY. This is that 0-10 rating of how LOUD the pain signal is. This is what we are usually aiming to reduce to when we try new medications or other treatments.
  • The second part in the upper right corner of the pain block is the AGONY of pain. Pain is one of the class of sensations that when it hits the brain, also activates other parts of the brain that create emotional responses. Pain is not alone in this ability to activate more than just sensation. Think of the agitation that is elicited by an itch, or the panic when you catch your breath, or the pleasure of sensual touch. Pain activates the emotional pathway of agony, it is an intense bothersomeness. Interestingly, as you will learn, pain does not have to activate this agony pathway all the time - we just have to teach our brains how to change it.
  • The third part in the lower right hand corner of the pain block is IMPACT. The Impact of pain is all the ways that pain affects our lives. The impact in our lives is far reaching including our sleep, energy, stamina, movement, social life, our ability to work the way we used to, our costs of living, memory, mood, and even our sense of who we are as a person.
  • The fourth part of pain in the lower left hand corner of the pain block is NEGATIVE STIGMA. Stigma is pervasive in our society. The bias against individuals is very real and destructive.

 

In each direction there are two key areas for change, seven are biological systems we address right away in the introductory training course.

These seven biological systems will be introduced as you progress through the rest of the course.

Here is a sneak peak at what is in store.

  1. Activate Endogenous Opioids - Ever wish you could feel that "high" that runners talk about, but know you aren't about to
    go run 12 miles? That high is from our body's own opioid system and it doesn't require running to trigger it. In fact,
    there are a number of ways to turn to the system on. The biological evidence shows that we can do this on your own in just
    a few minutes. While some of the skills might involve imagination, the effect is not imaginary, the opioids are real, the
    response is real, and the science to demonstrate the process is real. These are some of the most powerful IMMEDIATE RELIEF
    skills of the Mastering Pain Method. In person, we have witnessed an average of a 50% drop in pain intensity. Its now your
    turn to discover how well the skills work for you.
  2. Retrain Sensory and Motor Nerves - Learn how to have mastery over out-of-control sensory nerves and motor nerves that are
    keeping muscles guarded and tight or sending signals to the brain that aren't helpful.
  3. Rewire Agony/Suffering Circuitry - Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence
    exists showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the
    agony and suffering that is usually associated with it.
  4. Train Vagal Tone/Relaxation Response - Pain is so overwhelming and activates our danger sensors leading to adrenaline
    bursts from the fight or flight response. To calm this response we can train a special system, the Relaxation Response,
    that is associated with the Vagus Nerve.
  5. Engage Pleasure Circuitry - Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence exists
    showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the agony
    and suffering that is usually associated with it.
  6. Engage Restorative/Anti-Inflammatory Systems - Our body produces inflammation when stressed. And the body is clearly
    stressed by pain. Regardless of the cause of the pain learning how to put a stop to the inflammation is critical - even
    more so when the cause of the pain is an inflammatory condition. Our bodies' are amazing full of different ways to stop
    and start inflammation. Learning to turn off inflammation and turn on the restorative systems.
  7. Retrain Interpersonal Neurobiology - Our body responds when we interact with others. It has certain patterns of responses
    to different environmental cues. These patterns impact our sense of self and our relationships. Learn how retraining these
    skills can improve pain and begin the trend to change the cultural stigma of chronic pain.

 

 

Organization of the Biological Tools

This is what it looks like when we organize the current list of skills according to physical system. Notice that Autogenic Training ( as biological tool you will be introduced to in Mastering Pain 101) occurs in three categories! This is because it is a power tool - addressing pain by changing at least three biological systems. We have listed only these skills because these have enough scientific literature to support their inclusion in the Mastering Pain Method. However, as always, it is important to recognize that this whole process is focused on finding what works best for YOU! Not just what works best for everyone else. If something works for you that is not on the list and it is low risk, then by all means, please keep at it! Knowing yourself and what works is the most important part of Mastering Pain.