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“You old self healer, you” – Neuroscience Nugget No. 6

By David Butler Neuroscience Nuggets 03 Jun 2014

I picked up this lovely neuroscience nugget from Tim Cocks.  No matter what the problem a person has, after an injury there will nearly always be evidence of healing – maybe swelling, useful scarring, bruising, or perhaps the person has found a better way of moving or has become aware that healthy thoughts can relate to a healthier body.

Inflammation though, with its cardinal signs of calor, dolor, rubor and tumor (heat, pain, redness and swelling) is often unwelcome and a source of worry and concern for the person experiencing it. Anti-inflammatory drugs, creams, lotions, potions, tinctures, oils, bath salts and foods abound and with all this effort to reduce, stop and banish it, the fact that inflammation is an evolutionary marvel, tightly linked in with the neuroimmune system and absolutely essential for healing and recovery, is often lost.

If you drop “you old self healer, you” at the right time, it can be very enlightening and even engender pride. It’s all about enhancing awareness of active rather than passive contributions to health – an “I did it” rather than “you did it” awareness.  The nugget could be powered up with some education on how tissues heal and how robust the process is – after all; smashed bones can heal in 6 weeks.

Try it on your next patient with an acute swollen ankle or knee  – “well done with all that swelling – that’s handy stuff for healing, it will disperse when the job is done and you can help that process. But for now, well done you old self healer”. They may look at you oddly, but the nugget is already bubbling nicely in their brain

Makes inflammation and swelling seem good and useful, which it is.

-David Butler


Explain Pain 2nd Ed, the Graded Motor Imagery Handbook and all noigroup courses are all bursting at the seams with the latest and greatest neuroscience nuggets; click on the links to get your hands on a copy or to find a course near you.


  1. Agreed; great way to promote self efficacy. Similarly, at follow ups with patients, as we are reviewing their progress and need (or perhaps lack thereof) for further supervised rehab, i often like to tell them that they’re “not done getting better”. The intent is to help them grasp the behavioral changes they have implemented, how that has improved their health and physiology, and importantly, if they continue to do so that they will continue to improve. That is often met with a smile and increased sense of empowerment.

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