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Pain and the Grandma Map

We've been helping you understand pain better every month. We know that by teaching you what is happening and why, you are empowered to take better care of yourself.

By understanding why you feel what you feel, you can properly interpret that information to make the best decision for you.

That sounds like an easy thing to do, and it sounds like it's an easy decision to do it.

The brain is not that simple though. It's the most intricate, complex, and developed organism in the universe. Can you believe it's right inside your head?!

Your brain has millions of connections. There is a stat about your brain having more connections than all the stars in the universe or something like that. Check out This Cool Article and graphic from Universe Today for a visual.

Each and every nerve cell (neuron) connect to others, and through this web, they all communicate with each other.

The system is too robust to break down into individual messages, but we can talk about groups of nerve cells and how individual groups function.

Here's an example of how your brain groups areas based on purpose, and how your brain remembers that information to access later on:

Close your eyes for a minute and think about your grandma or someone else you know/knew very well, and have good memories of.

Do that now.

When you think about your grandma, what do you think about?

You can see in your mind how she looks. You can hear how she sounds. You can smell her. You know how she moves. You have a feeling that your grandma gives you.

The Grandma Map

How did the single word grandma give you all that information?

Your brain remembers all those details of her because she was an important person to you. These memories are stored in different areas of your brain.

One area is based on how she looked. Another how she sounded. Or smelled. Or moved. Or made you feel.

All of those areas are connected and they all turn on when you hear the word grandma. This is your grandma map. Every grandma map is unique, just like every grandma.

We've previously talked about how your pain experience is unique to you. Need a reminder? It's right here.

The same way you uniquely experience pain, you also uniquely remember grandma.

The things that I recall when I hear grandma are certainly different than what you recall. Of course, that's going to happen. We had different grandmas!

Even if we had the same grandma, we would have different memories of her, and other people that knew your grandma don't remember her the way you do either.

Do you see how your memory and your experience are unique? Do you see how your life has created a one-of-a-kind memory, that's all yours, and no one else's?

The same way your grandma map lit up different parts of your brain to create this lasting memory of grandma, your pain map is similar. Your pain map also lights up different parts of your brain that create your lasting memory of pain.

When we said grandma, all those areas in the grandma map turned on at once. When we experience pain, all those areas in the pain map turn on at once. If you need more to understand the pain map, then read this story about an elite dancer in chronic pain.

The Pain Map

Now, here is the big takeaway.

When your brain experiences pain, the pain map affects multiple areas of your brain.

There isn't an area dedicated to pain, so instead, pain takes over other areas. Those areas are responsible for jobs such as:

  • Focus

  • Concentration

  • Attention`

  • Decision making

  • Logic

  • Problem-solving

  • Memory

  • Fear

  • Addiction

  • Sensation

  • Motivation

  • Movement planning

  • Stress responses

When you're in pain, you're not good at those jobs. Does that sound familiar?

Each person has a different response in different areas based on their life experiences, and this is why we all perceive pain uniquely. Since your pain is unique, treatment needs to be tailored uniquely to your pain.

Don’t let anyone tell you how pain should or shouldn’t be. It’s your experience, and your pain is very real. Your treatment plan needs to be specific to you. Understanding that is an important step to helping you solve your pain problem. #snowbeastperformance

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