Practise creating your own Pain Stories to illustrate Target Concepts – key ideas helpful for everyone to understand pain. Here’s one that we prepared earlier!
The Crying Baby
- Pain relies on context.
- Learning about pain can help the individual and society
- Pain is one of many protective outputs
All parents will recognise those times when you’re on high alert listening out for your baby’s cry. This can happen when you’re a new parent, when your child is sick or maybe when you don’t want to wake others in your house. You’re looking out for any noise that resembles that cry. The baby three doors down cries and you jump up to check on your baby. You check the baby monitor every few minutes regardless of whether you hear any noise. You creep around the house trying to make as little noise as possible and reinforce this behaviour in anyone else present! You might sleep lightly, notice that your heart races at the slightest sound or get easily irritated with the smallest problems.
Pain can have a similar effect on us. Perhaps you have new low back pain. You find you’re looking out for the pain, attentive of any and all sensations coming from your lower back. You change the way you move being careful not to bend or strain too much. Perhaps you tell everybody about your back pain or make those painful (ooooh or arghhh!) noises when you move that help signal something’s wrong. You notice your sleep’s affected, you wake regularly, each time you move you wake and notice the pain. It puts you on edge and starts making you feel stressed or irritated.
There’s similarities between the crying baby, and pain and attention. In pain we would refer to this as a ‘gain’ in the (neuroimmune) system. In other words, you have turned up the metaphorical volume button to all sensations from the painful body part. This means a shift in the sensory systems, relaying information from your tissues and the attentional systems, looking out for information from the painful body part.
If there’s evidence of gain then treatment can be directed toward approaches that shift attention e.g. knowledge and understanding about the state of the tissues or meditation practices that direct attention elsewhere in the body; or treatment can be directed to the sensory input e.g. graded exposure to movement or touch of the painful body part so that the person can get more comfortable with them.
Ultimately, it’s understandable to be vigilant to your newborn babies cries or exhibit gain to those sensations from an acutely painful body part. We’d expect these to change and lessen over time, as you learn your baby’s cries or the tissues heal. If things don’t change though they can benefit from specific support and input.
-Tim Beames and the Noigroup Europe team