Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Brain hack.

I'm sharing this with everyone because my response was "WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT THIS?!?!?!" which strikes me as a good reason. It's ridiculous that you've gotta bust yourself up and do hard time in a chronic pain clinic to learn some things. May it help all of you.

Disclaimer, I am not a physical therapist, let alone a neuroscientist. So I'm sure I don't understand 100% exactly how this works. But I do think I got the gist of it, and it's one of those lovely things that is completely safe unless you've got a compound fracture or other massive traumatic tissue damage, in which case, you will know it. It is definitely within the 'can't hurt, might help' category.

As I'm sure we all know, the brain gets massive amounts of information from our nervous systems, and has a protocol for what it ignores. Think about it; you can't pay attention to every signal coming in all the time. You just don't have the attention span for it. And you sure as hell don't need to be aware of EVERYTHING. Right now I bet you're not noticing the feel of your clothes pushing on your body, at least not until you think about it. Once you think about it, oh yeah, it's right there. Then you pay attention to something else, and it fades into the background again. That's the basis for this painkilling technique; distract the brain and give it something to pay attention to.

In the overall big picture, the brain pays attention to movement signals before it pays attention to sensory input (including pain), because it's REALLY important that we know where our arms and legs are and what they're doing. So there you go. Getting a pain signal from your hand? Wiggle it around a little. Your brain goes "ooh! movement!" and tracks on that rather than focusing on the pain. The pain is still there if you think about it, so don't. But this is a fantastic, almost instantaneous way to get dull aches and pains to shut the hell up for a while.

When being taught this, I remarked that it sounds like when you bump into something and then rub the ouch to make it go away. In terms of the brain it's not EXACTLY the same thing, but it's very similar.

The movement doesn't have to be large; it can be a small 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm wiggle. Just enough to get your brain's attention. Don't do it for more than thirty seconds. If it's going to work, it'll work in that first half minute. THIS DOES NOT FIX INJURY, including repetitive stress injuries, so don't knit for six hours straight, wiggle your fingers, and go back to it. But for shaking off the stupid aches and pains we all get in winter, it seems to work.

I've been fooling with this technique since Monday and I'm quite boggled at how well it works, and not just on my stupid hand. With luck it'll work as well for everyone else. And even if it doesn't, hey, no cost, no risk, no allergies, woohoo!

12 comments:

Shoveling Ferret said...

I wonder if this is partly why some people tend to squirm when in pain - depending on the type of pain.

Louiz said...

Explains why when my hip hurts, moving my leg shuts it up for a while.

Ginger_nut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger_nut said...

for some reason the first half of your blog post reminded me of this charlie brown comic

Roxie said...

Wayy cool! Thanks!!

Alwen said...

(I am going to SCREAM if Blogger eats my comment again.)

ahem.

There is a whole bunch of new brain research out there that boils down to the new neurons even adult brains grow, only survive if they get a job. So chronic pain might be a case of too many neurons doing the job of sensing pain, and this might be helping re-dedicate them to new other more-useful jobs.

(presses Publish and waits to see if laggy internet will make her scream!)

Maggie said...

Thank-you......

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I'd cut myself (accidentally) then start yelling and shake my hand around like crazy. I've seen other kids do it since. Now, of course, we have to worry about blood-borne pathogens getting dotted around with the ow-ow-ow-mommy! dance. Sigh.

My ancient cat does it too: she'll hobble a few steps with her poor arthritic hips, then shake her leg like crazy and walk normally.


Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy

Amy Lane said...

That's a good idea! I'll try the next time my feet act up:-)

Carol said...

I have been reading a lot about Tapping. It is called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).
You can use tapping for almost anything from pain to weight loss. It works.

It might work for the same reason that you describe. Here is a You Tube link to see what I am talking about or you can just Google EFT
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6yzIez29Ms

Nicole T said...

You know, I was giving blood the other day and it hurt more than usual. I thought about this blog post and started moving my other hand around a bit and it shut it right up. Way cool.

Willa said...

This works like a charm. Sometimes, when you feel pain, your brain is telling you that something might be wrong there. It it can be convinced that its all OK (movement must mean function so things can't be too bad) it'll just shut off the alarm.

Years ago I was bothered by pain in my hip. It really hurt and even kept me awake. Next time I was at the doctor's I mentioned the pain. He did a few quick tests (reflexes, strength) and told me it was an over extended muscle. "Ooh" said my brain and it stopped reporting the pain... the hip never hurt again.

Freaky but true.