Week 1 Relieving Skills for the Physical Intensity of PAIN

What you will need for this week's lesson: 

  1. Internet connection capable of viewing video.
  2. A quiet place and audio capabilities to listen to audio files of skills.
  3. A notebook for taking notes and tracking responses to each skill practiced.
  4. A way to set a timer for 2 minutes.

The Biology of Natural Opioids

Here we go! This first lesson introduces you to your body's built in pharmacy and its own pain medicine. In this lesson learn about this system and how we can activate it when we need it!

We developed this skill set from the information gleaned from scientific studies that examined brain activation patterns when pain is present. These studies showed that by changing the brain's focus the signals in the brain change and activate the Periaqueductal Grey releasing those endogenous opioids down our spinal cord.  The Passive Sensory Attention skill set capitalizes on those parts of the sensory strip in our brain that have the most brain space because more brain space means more neurons and more neurons means more sensitivity of sensations from the associated brain areas.

Brain Space of Sensory Strip = Amount of Neuron Cells = Sensitivity

Here is an image of the sensory strip. The view point is as if you are looking at a person's face, right into this particularly cross-section of their brain. The body drawing on the outside demonstrates the region of that strip that is typically devoted to sensations from those body parts. Thus, you can see just how weird the proportions really are with very large face and hands compared to everything else! When we introduce this skill we also choose to add the option of a focus on the feet. Although the sensations from the feet don't take up a huge amount of brain space, they are are still proportionally larger and on such a different part of the sensory strip that it can really move the attention away from other painful parts.


Okay so now you have seen the basic science behind this skill. So, let's get to work .

To introduce this skill we, therefore, have built these skills around the the face, the hands, and the feet. To try out this skill for the first time, try to choose the area of those three that has the least amount of pain for you right now. You'll notice that each skill asks you to rate the intensity of your pain before and after to help you keep track of how well you respond, because the most important part is discovering what skills you want to adopt on your Master Plan.

The Passive Sensory Attention skills set has quickly grown into one of the most favored skills. So, are you ready to try?

Here are three versions of sensory attention. You are encouraged to try all three at some time. For now pick on the one that most interests you. 

BEFORE YOU BEGIN - Rate your pain from 0-10. Go ahead and write it down somewhere. Now, pick a skill below. Perhaps start with the body area that does not currently have pain or has the lowest pain right now. 


Active Sensory Attention is different from Passive Sensory Attention in that it doesn't focus on the part of body quietly, but rather actively adds a new sensory stimulus to change the sensory perception. This might be rolling a small object in your hands that has a variety of textures, temperatures, or moisture. Perhaps it is playing with a squishy substance or hard object like a rock or your keys. It can be done holding ice cubes or a warm mug of tea. It can be done by placing the feet in a cool bath or walking on something sharp that grabs attention. Holding something that vibrates, is pokey, or applying pressure. Clearly there are limitless ways to engage the Active Sensory Attention skill.

Biologically, Active Sensory Attention has the same potential to reduce the pain intensity as passive sensory attention, but it uses the SENSORY nerves as a Gating system in our spinal cord where other sensations compete with the pain signals. When this gate is activated it changes the pain signalling pathway.

Here is an uber technical explanation of the Gating System

In your Mastering Pain notebook write down several objects that you believe you could use to ACTIVELY add new sensations to your awareness. Here are some ideas and objects we commonly use in training sessions: 


Now take a moment and go collect 2 items from the list that you made.








Rate your pain from 0-10 before you begin holding the object. 

Now set a timer for 2 minutes (either using your phone, the microwave, kitchen timer... whatever is handy).  When you press start either start holding the object with your hands or touching it with your feet. While the timer is going focus intensely on the sensations. 

When the timer is done rate your pain again. Did it change while you were holding the object and playing with it in your hands or feet? Write down your results. 


Go to WEEK 2


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