Our brains play an important role in our experiences of pain. In The Brain on Pain series by Eztia, we discussed some of the neurobiology that underlies the mind-body connection.
The autonomic nervous system activates a “fight or flight response” in the face of perceived danger; the limbic system generates emotions and memories in response to painful alarms; and the cognitive appraisal system interprets the significance of a pain signal and decides what to do about it.
Eztia’s Brain on Pain Map was adapted from validated peer-reviewed articles, real-life stories of athletes and artists and simplified for clarity and efficiency.
This anatomy also allows us to understand why we react to pain in the ways that we do. You’ll be relieved to know that so much of our response is in fact innate, or rather built into our subconscious. That’s right - our reaction to pain is often automatic.
That is to say, our bodies have us covered! For example: when you bang your shin on a table, do you notice how you immediately rub the spot that you injured? Well, according to gate control theory, this is an automatic response by your brain to help inhibit pain fiber activity. In other words, your perception of pain is reduced when you increase normal touch sensory information to the injured spot. We have many other tools just like this in our toolbox to help us navigate and manage our experience of pain.
Recognizing the mind-body connection and understanding how it works allows you to steer it in ways that help you through mindfulness practice. The conscious act of taking the time to pay attention to where we are and being aware of our own bodies, be it through meditation or some other mindfulness practice, can be the solution to relinquishing the uncomfortable experience of pain we have all dealt with or are dealing with.
We all already share the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are! We can tap into these qualities that already exist within us with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit ourselves. Check out our Mindfulness series where we cover a mindfulness strategy for chronic pain, a body scan technique for relaxation, and a personality quiz with tailored recommendations for mindful practices.