Chronic Pain & Z-Health


I find chronic pain to be a tremendously fascinating topic.  It’s all around us and it’s mysterious.  Even though it’s 2010 and we’re the beneficiaries of thousands of years of medical advances, we still have trouble fixing various lingering aches and pains.

Reconceptualizing Pain According to Modern Pain Science comes from the wise Australians at Body in Mind.  Much of the world’s population is wracked with chronic pain.  It seems anyone near the age of 30 has at least a little bit of mysterious lingering pain.  Many a neck, shoulder, knee and/or low back has been treated over and over again yet the pain stays.  Why?  Further, chronic pain is typically very different from acute pain.  There’s no blood, perhaps no swelling, and the pain often comes on gradually and for no apparent reason.  Chronic pain is very different from the pain of a sprained ankle or dislocated shoulder.  So what are we dealing with? The article makes four key points:

  1. Pain does not provide a measure of the state of the tissues.  (i.e. Pain doesn’t necessarily = injury.)
  2. Pain is modulated by many factors from across somatic, psychological and social domains.
  3. The relationship between pain and the state of the tissues becomes less predictable as pain persists.
  4. Pain can be conceptualized as a conscious correlate of the implicit perception that tissue is in danger.  (The PERCEPTION of a threat may generate more pain than the actual threat itself.)

Many Z-Health methods are based on these factors.  We recognize that pain may be rooted in any number of sources including emotions and stress.  We also recognize that the nervous system is in charge of pain, and that the site of the pain is often not the site of the problem.  We may be wasting our time if we spend time at or around the painful area.

For example, Z-Health practitioners may make use of opposing joint motion to address pain.  If someone has left knee pain then we might go to the right elbow and ask the client to perform elbow circles.  To take it a step further, we may ask the client in what position does he or she experience pain?  Does the left knee hurt when the hip is extended (leg behind the torso) or flexed (leg in front of the torso)?  If the left knee hurts in hip flexion then we may put the client’s right arm into extension (arm behind the torso) and then call for elbow circles. Many times I’ve seen a client’s pain reduce in moments as a result of these types of drills.

I’ve seen big-toe pain reduced through opposite thumb mobility.  I’ve seen shoulder pain reduced through opposite hip mobility.  Low-back pain may be eliminated through neck mobility drills.  (This stuff is wild!)

Further, if either our visual or vestibular reflexes are faulty then the result may be joint pain.  The nervous system is sending a message: Change something.  Our eyes and inner-ear structures are the seats of very powerful forces.  If these two mechanisms aren’t working together then the nervous system will perceive a threat.  The nervous system can use pain to alert us to that threat.  Addressing the visual and vestibular systems is vital if we’re combating chronic pain.

None of this obviates the need for other diagnostics.  MRIs and X-Rays may indeed show structural problems contributing to pain.  Various drugs may cause pain in some regions of the body.  Some cholesterol meds may cause low-back and leg pain for instance.  The main point here though is that pain is often a very complex issue, the causes of which may not be obvious.  You can have power over your pain if you recognize how it works.

Please go to the link above and read the article to learn more about how chronic pain works.  For further reading on Z-Health, Todd Hargrove’s Better Movement is an excellent source.

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