Chronic Pain and Sensitivity Brain Hacks

Photo By Kat Jayne

The truth about chronic pain

Most people don’t realize that refusing to deal with your pain will ensure that your pain will worsen.  Your system will become more and more sensitive over time.  This means that your body will need less reasons and less triggers to feel pain later.  Your body will just increase in its sensitivity and reactivity until you are in so much pain that you cannot bear the pain at all.  The pain and sensitivity won’t lessen over time just by ignoring it, and it won’t get better without intervention. In fact, your body will make a point by ratcheting up the pain because it is signaling to you that something is wrong with you – and that you are ignoring it!  Your body will start to ensure that normal everyday things start hurting you, including getting a hug or hand squeeze from a loved one! Imagine that irritating buddy; he keeps trying to get your attention to show you his new car.  You keep on ignoring him and ignoring him.  Does he get the hint and go away?  No!  Most of the time, he will continue irritating you until you either file a restraining order (which will probably make him continue finding other ways to irritate you to make his point) or you look at his new car! Your central nervous system is that irritating.  It has a message to give to you, and it is angry that you are ignoring it.  If you keep making it angry, it is going to get louder and more sensitive.  It’s going to keep sending you signals and annoying you until you pay attention to what it is trying to say to you. Your body is sounding the proverbial alarm bells.  You keep trying to turn off the smoke alarm so you can get some sleep – it keeps chirping in your ear until you take out the batteries!  Eventually, like your body, the house burns to the ground – because you ignored all the signals that were telling you the house was on fire! Listen to your body.  It is telling you something is wrong.  Your sensitivity isn’t normal.  In fact, the increase in sensitivity and pain due to chronic pain and sensitivity is referred to as central sensitization (in the central nervous system) and peripheral sensitization (in the peripheral limbs).  Even worse, your muscle memory memorizes episodes of chronic pain, and sometimes your pain is all in your head (triggered by stress and memory of a past pain episode rather than by a new cause that can be treated directly)!  The book “The Body Keeps the Score” tells all about how people get bouts of pain on anniversary dates of traumatic incidents or surgeries.  The body holds in trauma and distress that it went through, and it recreates these episodes at later dates with triggers.  People who suffer from chronic trauma due to childhood trauma and relationship abuse often have untreated CPTSD that is causing underlying pain and sensitivity.  Again, the body and brain are signaling to the person that they need help – but we ignore the trauma and the memories of trauma because we don’t readily know how to fix what ails us and it is easier to ignore it.  People who suffer from pain on a chronic basis find that their pain lasts longer and longer each time than someone who rarely gets pain.  Pain that is localized often starts to farm out referred pain to all the other areas near that pain site.  If the pain isn’t dealt with, it can move to complete central nervous system malfunction – the body and brain are in so much pain and agony that it doesn’t quite know what to do with itself anymore.

Stress and tense muscles due to anxiety and stress increase the pain exponentially.  Often times, if the person would simply settle down their stress, they would be able to relax and hypnotize or meditate themselves into a state of having no pain at all!  This might sound crazy, but women all over the globe are doing it with a technique called hypnobirthing where they can meditate to the point they don’t even need so much as a Tylenol to control pain during childbirth!  Sounds amazing, right? They struggle more and more to get rid of their pain; something that once worked for their pain doesn’t work for future episodes of pain.  Their pain becomes amplified, and it worsens drastically over time.  If you tell a person you will put them into pain by pinching them, they will inevitably feel pain before you even pinch them with the anticipation of pain!  The brain and central nervous system really are tricky, aren’t they!?

People who are traumatized experience other enhanced conditions of sensitivity, including sounds that are too loud (a condition called hyperacusis).  Your chronic pain isn’t normal.  Your stress isn’t normal.  Your anxiety isn’t normal.  Just because you have been ‘living with’ your pain and sensitivity all your life doesn’t mean you should be just putting up with it. If you have been to a doctor (or even a pain doctor) about your chronic pain, and if they haven’t given you much in the way of relief – it is because you haven’t gotten to the root of the problem.  Putting pain meds onto your pain is simply putting a band aid on a gaping, bleeding gunshot wound.  It might slow things down; but it won’t stop them by any means.  You must get to the root of the problem before you can get rid of the chronic pain and sensitivity in your system. If regular doctors haven’t given you the answer, and if the suggestions in this book don’t help resolve your chronic pain and sensitivity (a clean and healthy lifestyle, sans caffeine/dairy/sugar and including exercise) – it might be worth it to make a trip to see a homeopathic doctor.  These doctors can run tests to determine whether your biological functions in your body are off-balance (a cool Eastern Medicine doctor can probably do it by feeling the pulse on your wrist, and an eye doctor can diagnose you probably just by looking at the health of your eyes).  These methods aren’t magical or rocket science.  The body gives a lot of signals (including pain and sensitivity) that tell us which organs in our body are failing.  Your eyes can tell your liver and your thyroid health.  The color of your blood and skin tell stories about the health of your body, too.  The smell of your breath can help a person detect whether you have diabetes.  The number of times you go to the bathroom or get a drink, and the urgency of both, during the day can help diagnose diabetes, too.

Health conditions that overstimulate us

People walk around with pain, anxiety, depression, trauma and sensitivities.  But we don’t stop to think about what caused all of this turmoil in our system in the first place. There are several disorders that you might not be aware of that might cause your sensory overstimulation.  These disorders are often not caught until it is much too late and the damage is already done to your body.  You would do your due diligence in checking with your doctor to ensure that you don’t have some of these conditions starting in your body.  If you cannot get answers from one doctor, it is sometimes wise to seek out multiple opinions.  Doctors are overworked and overstimulated just like you; they miss things in their overstimulated state.  Take your health into your own hands and be sure to follow up on the root cause of your pain rather than allowing someone to just give you pain medications.  I’ve seen patients suffering from severely chronic pain from spinal stenosis, Lyme’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, thyroid disease, dementia, herpes, hepatitis, brain tumors, fibromyalgia, diabetes, migraines and more.  These conditions in the people I knew weren’t followed up on by doctors.  The doctors wrote a prescription for pain, and my friends went home with the disorders continuing to brew inside their bodies undiscovered.  All the while, the conditions continued festering and damaging their organs until it was much too late. If you are having generalized and chronic body pain (nerve pain), the root causes of this nerve pain is generally something that is slowly eating away at the myelin sheath (the protective covering of the nerves).  If your television’s cord was chewed through by your dog, you would probably get a new one to stop anyone from getting shocked by the electrical pulses in the cord.  But most of us don’t think about the damage our bodies go through if our protective covering on our nerves gets destroyed, thus allowing our nerves to be damaged further by free radicals in our body.  We suffer severe pain from nerves, and we try to just cover it up with pain medications (many times over-the-counter pain meds). People who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis often don’t understand what the disorder is, and thus they don’t bother to ask their doctors whether they have it.  Multiple Sclerosis is damage to the central nervous system caused by a number of factors.  Factors that can contribute to the damage to the central nervous system include dairy (through excitotoxicity), bacteria (including those found in the meat of the cows and deer we eat), sugar, salt and more. Most human beings pay little to no attention to whether their immune system is functioning or not.  If your immune system is getting overrun by too many toxic products, your entire immune system will start to attack your entire body (instead of launching localized attacks).  It just sees that everything in your body looks toxic, and it thinks that it should fix it.  Cells start to die off at a rapid pace, your body can’t keep up – low and behold, next thing you know it – you have full blown dementia and you’re on dialysis because your organs are shutting down. If your immune system is overrun and overwhelmed with working against toxins, free radicals, cancerous cells, stimulants and more, it can’t focus on getting rid of bacteria, viruses and fungi.  It will get confused, and it won’t work on killing what’s most important.  It will start to attack healthy cells in your body until various systems in your body simply start to fail. Sounds dreadful, right? People who don’t put protective things in their body fail faster than people who do put protective things in their body.  People who live in an environment that is stricken with winter for a better part of the year are shown to get multiple sclerosis more often than people who live in sunny environments.  Why?  Scientists postulate this is because they have less vitamin D (due to the lack of sunlight).  We can go a few steps further: we can postulate that people from the sunny areas probably exercise more (another protective factor).  They probably don’t eat as much venison and beef (cutting down their odds of getting foodborne bacteria that may be related to the bacteria responsible for chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease).  People who live in sunny states (and are less prone to getting Multiple Sclerosis nervous system damage) probably get more oxygenation to their cells (extremely necessary to the biological processes that the cells require to remain alive instead of dying off).  They probably spend less time inside and on the computer (reducing the level of EMF pollution their nerves are exposed to from inside walls with improperly grounded electrical cables and reducing their overall time on gadgets in their homes). Our careers and our time in school probably increases our vulnerability to suffering from central nervous system damage related to Multiple Sclerosis.  For example, a nurse who works in a hospital probably has a higher likelihood of catching the myriad of bacteria that is said to be partially responsible for Multiple Sclerosis.  Or, a teacher who is exposed to a high number of students might catch the bacteria more readily from her students than one who has few students.  Maybe a child who grows up on a farm and eats livestock more often has a higher likelihood of coming into contact with foodborne bacteria that might be responsible for Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis isn’t the only condition that causes overstimulation and damage to our central nervous system.  Many people are prediabetic without knowing it.  Some of us even have full-blown diabetes.  This silent killer can damage our organs without us even being aware of it.  We have blood sugar highs that damage our organs, then we have blood sugar dips that cause us to have brain lapses and ‘hangry’ mood issues. Most people aren’t aware, but having your blood sugar spike and dip radically actually causes damage to our nervous system and directly to our nerves.  This damage (and the pain associated with it) is called peripheral neuropathy.  Diabetes and multiple sclerosis can silently go on for decades causing a lot of chronic pain in all areas of our bodies without us even being aware of it until it is much too late. There are supplements that can reverse myelin sheath damage (damage to the protective covering around our nerves), such as biotin.  The body needs a lot of amino acids, proteins, building blocks, nutrients, minerals, and more.  If we lack any of these things in our diet, we are at risk of getting malnutrition.  You may wonder why the food industry (and the government) allow us to eat bad things that make us sick?  We all told the government to stay out of our kitchens; we wanted the freedom to choose what we put into our mouths and fed our kids.  Now, the world is suffering from pandemics of disease that we may never recover from.  I cannot tell you what to feed yourself, either.  I can write and educate you (and hope you don’t leave me a bad review for telling you not to order Uber EATS for dinner tonight).   It is up to you to educate yourself on what should and what shouldn’t go into your body.  If you are in pain and experiencing sensitivity, your body is trying to signal you that something is seriously wrong with your chemistry and biology of your entire system.  If you don’t listen to it, you will find that it will fail over time.  You will grow sicker and in more pain until it is much too late for you to deal with it at all. By the way, there are healthy alternatives to ordering out food every night (like HelloFresh) that deliver healthy meals to your door so that you don’t have to become a chef.

Sleep hygiene and chronic pain

Most people this day and age don’t get enough sleep.  We constantly have to be somewhere.  We are on schedules.  Most of us work too much.  We aren’t allowed to take time off, even when we are sick or on our death beds.  Society is running around us at breakneck speed, and we hardly even get a moment to ourselves.  Someone always has a request, and we are not always ready to respond to it appropriately or with enthusiasm. One of the ways we can reduce our chronic pain and sensory sensitivities is by ensuring we get enough sleep and rest.  Some people use their travel time to do activity-intensive ‘fun’ things, and then they feel like they need another vacation the moment they get back home.  Then, they have to go to work, still keyed up and stressed out.  These types of people end up in a burnout state of chronic pain, anxiety, over-stimulation and sensory sensitivity. There is a huge problem with overstimulation.  The more we are overstimulated and cannot get rest for our muscles, brains and bodies – the more our brain and body will start to have pain hallucinations as an excuse to cue us to sit down and take a break.  If we don’t, our brain and body smartly ratchets up the pain hallucinations until we get the hint (if ever we do get the hint).  Or, we get an injury and our pain is out of proportion with whatever it is that is causing pain.    If you don’t take time to relax and rejuvenate, you will build up a sleep deficit for decades until your body and brain start to fail.  Your body and brain require sleep to heal your organs and the neural connections in your brain.  Brain cells die off in your brain for a variety of reasons.  If you don’t sleep well, eventually you will start to feel the sleep deprivation building up.  Eventually, the sleep deprivation will result in a steep cognitive decline; often one that you cannot rebound from. Most of us don’t make our environment conducive to get adequate sleep.  We watch television late at night, which stimulates our brain to stay awake via our circadian rhythm processes.  We play on our phones and our computers, staying up much too late rather than going to bed at a scheduled time.  We don’t allow ourselves to sleep in because our friends and family members always have something for us to do.  We are constantly doing things for other people rather than asking people to help take a load off us. We don’t delegate tasks out enough so that we can sleep in.  We don’t use room darkeners to keep the sunlight out on Sunday morning even when we do have some extra time.  We don’t make sure our beds are so comfortable that we want to sleep longer in them.  We don’t make sure our sheets smell warm and inviting.  We don’t surround our bed with mood lighting and candles that make a nice atmosphere to sleep in.  We don’t play soothing music and positive affirmations to fall asleep to; instead, we listen to our noisy intrusive thoughts and let our worry hijack our brains.  We are creatures of worry and anxiety.  We stay up all night worrying about that thing we needed to do for our boss the next day.  We over-dedicate our time to other people, and we let our boss think that he or she owns us. Most of us can’t get to sleep even if we want to.  We are jacked up on nicotine, caffeine and other stimulants.  Then, we try to take sleeping pills to cancel out the triple mocha latte we had earlier in the day.  We drink and eat just before bed time so that our stomachs are full and bloated, and then we wake up in the middle of the night to our bladder beckoning for more attention.  Once we are awake, we stare at the light on our phones and wonder why the light is tricking us awake at 3am once again. Chronic pain and sensitivity will only worsen if you ignore your sleep hygiene.  Put yourself on a strict sleep schedule, leave your gadgets outside your bedroom, and stop eating and drinking after 6pm to help yourself settle in for the night.  Read a book to help you get sleepy before bed.

You are what you eat (and drink)

People wonder why they cannot sleep.  They spend their day agitated, overstimulated and fidgeting.  They roll around and fidget even more once they get into bed.  Part of the reason they are fidgeting and restless when they are in bed is because of the chronic pain and sensitivity.  Another reason they are fidgeting and restless is due to what they are putting in their bodies all day long.  People don’t directly attribute food, drinks, stimulants, smoking, medications, caffeine and sugar to their chronic pain and sensory distress, but they should. If your system is overwrought, you should be automatically trying to cut all the stimulants out of your diet.  Your system is overwrought usually because you tried to make it overwrought and reactive in the morning to stay alert.  This is a bad cycle to get into: take a stimulant to get yourself alert, then you can’t get sleep the following night, then you are still tired the next morning because the stimulant no doubt kept you awake all night when you wanted to sleep. People who struggle to wake up and get motivated automatically reach for the stimulants to wake their body and mind up.  If they didn’t put chemicals in their bodies in the first place, they would find that they don’t need stimulating at all.  The body, on a natural diet, operates just fine without brain fog, grogginess, lack of motivation and fatigue.  Overstimulate your body with stimulants throughout the day, and you will often still be overstimulated when you don’t want to be.

Some people think that the answer is to take a supplement like melatonin.  This is what I learned from a health store: Don’t take melatonin because it actually stops your body from making its own natural melatonin, and melatonin is necessary for your circadian rhythm to tell you when to sleep. Don’t put other stimulants and drugs into your body that aren’t necessary.  Pay attention to everything else you are putting into your mouth that might be overstimulating your central nervous system.  Dairy causes excitotoxicity to your central nervous system if you are genetically intolerant to dairy (which many of us are).  L-theanine in green tea helps to reverse this excitotoxicity from dairy. Sugar overstimulates your brain and your body.  If you don’t believe me, hand out birthday cake and ice cream at a kid’s birthday party.  It will take less than 30 minutes to realize the hoard of kids have turned into hyperactive little monsters.  So many people give their kids sugar these days that we attribute this to ‘normal childhood behavior’.  I assure you, children who eat a healthy diet of vegetables don’t act aggressive, agitated, and hyperactive.  They also don’t do weird stimming behaviors (pulling their hair, rocking, chewing their nails, hitting others repetitively, chain smoking and more).

Managing our time and learning to say ‘no’

Most people don’t realize it but learning to manage our time is crucial in ensuring our brain and bodies stay operating efficiently.  In today’s world, there is too much stimulation and too many requests coming in at any given time.  Constantly giving your time away to others means that you have no time or mental energy left for yourself.  This even applies to constantly interacting with other people online. If we pay attention to what we can and cannot handle, we can make sure we don’t over-extend ourselves when it comes to other people.  We must learn to say no to things that aren’t important to us.  We need to learn that we have a limited time here on the planet, and we will wear ourselves out by constantly devoting our time to doing things for other people. People who have a decent amount of dispensable income coming in start to recognize that paying someone else a few dollars helps to reduce the load (and reduce their own stress levels).  The stress hormone cortisol wreaks havoc on our bodies.  It overstimulates our bodies.  It puts us on high alert.  It makes us anxious.  It makes us continuously scan our environment for threats.  Once the cortisol overstimulation occurs, our bodies learn to stay needlessly alert.  The stress rewires our brain to think that there is constantly a threat somewhere around us. We aren’t living in the dinosaur age.  There isn’t a monster ready at the helm to step on our heads.  Most of us don’t have to hunt and forage for food; we punch in Doordash on our phones to order something in if we cannot run out to pick it up ourselves.  We can use Instacart and Walmart Pickup to have someone else do our grocery shopping and carry 27 bottles of Aquafina up 5 flights of stairs at our condo. Many of us don’t have to take our car into the garage anymore; wrench.com allows us to hire someone to come and fix it in our driveway (if you are lucky enough to be in an area they service).  We can hire a Postmate to pick up something from BestBuy so that we don’t have to run and get it ourselves; even when our phone charger breaks at work.  We can order Amazon products to an Amazon locker so that we don’t even have to wait for the mailman! If you do choose to delegate your menial chores out to other people, take advantage of the time you just freed up.  Reconnect with yourself.  Put down your cell phone and your laptop.  Do something body-wise and nourishing to your soul.  Do something that is low impact and low stimulation.  Teach your body how to relax and slow down.  It will take some time to get your brain and body used to the quiet, but you will eventually appreciate a low-stimulation environment.  Over time, you brain and your body will start to feel better and more able to cope with the busy environment around you.

We are almost never alone

I recently read a post from one of my traveling friends online.  It said something to the effect of: “I climbed to the top of a mountain thinking I could finally get some peace and quiet to myself.  After a few moments, a toothless hillbilly climbed up next to me offering to sell me [weed]…” Today’s world is busy and full of people – over 7 billion of them.  All of these people are vying for resources at an increasing rate.  We can see this in the explosion of people quitting their jobs to sign up for the gig economy jobs like Doordash, Postmates, UberEATS and more.  We can see this population explosion in the way that everything decreases in pay and increases in price.  We can see this in the way that the government and the businesses are taxing and charging for literally everything now because there is a demand for all of it.  There is more demand than there is supply these days in nearly every industry.  There are so many consumers and customers that businesses are getting more and more lax on their customer service, and they are turning consumers away in droves because they don’t want to take on their business. Twenty years ago, a person could go to a park and relax.  Today, everyone can look up the parks and their location online.  People are moving about and traveling more now than they ever did with the advent of the internet.  People are living alternative lifestyles.  The number of people living in RVs, vans, cars, campers, tiny homes and more is increasing exponentially.  The secret ‘local’ spots aren’t secret anymore.  For example, freecampsites.net is becoming increasingly more popular to people who are seeking free spots to park and sleep while they are travelling.  Instead of locals enjoying the park, travelers are coming in droves.  Sweet private spots near Joshua tree park are not overrun with tourists.  Travelers can no longer keep secret spots to themselves, they must share them online to earn friends and likes.  The next year they try to go to the spot they found last year, they find that there is no room for them because so many other people found out about the secret spot that it isn’t secret anymore. I have travelled to the remote areas of the United States.  In my travels, I have realized that this is an accurate statement.  I try to get up and drive at 4 a.m. thinking I’ll have some quiet time.  There is nearly always a car traveling behind me on the road.  It is like the law of extroverted attraction.  I can park in the middle of a desolate parking lot, and nearly every time – someone will find me and come and park next to me.  Some of us are more comfortable when other people are buzzing around us all day long.  Those with chronic pain and sensory sensitivities sometimes need time to themselves, and we often don’t get it in this busy world – especially not when we are looking outside our homes for it. The best place to find time to yourself is to build a quiet sanctuary for yourself.  Some people build a sensory room.  Some people build a room in the attic or basement for themselves, or they build a den.  Some people find a spot in their garage to put a workshop and a television in.  Still, others build a shed in back of their house to put an art room in.  Some people wait for their kids to move out, and they convert an extra bedroom to a sewing room or craft room. If you can’t find a solitary space, build one.  Soundproof it.  Install a nice lighted ambiance, Himalayan salt lamps, ion generators and more.  Everyone needs time to recoup in today’s busy world.  We need quiet time to meditate and connect with ourselves and our bodies.  If you are experiencing pain and sensitivity, it is crucial that you get some time where your brain and your body aren’t being stimulated in a negative way.  You need a room and some comfy things to yourself to soothe your body and mind down from its overstimulation.

Fixing the source of the problem

There are many things that we can use to fix the central nervous system, the brain, and more.  We can do things that cause neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) to correct things that are going awry in our sensitive brains that are contributing to the failure of our bodies.  These helpful aids that grow new brain cells include: Omega 3s, exercise, calorie restriction and Gingko Biloba.  We can take nootropics that help our brains and the signaling to our body to correct themselves.  Nootropics that help the brain work better and more efficiently and correct problems inside the brain include: NAC, lithium orotate, Propanolol, Creatine monohydrate, BSO, Oxytocin, Kanna, Etizolam, NADH, Ashwa Ganda, Phenibut, Rhodeola Rosea (actually regrows brain cells), SAM-e, and St. John’s wart.  Many of the nootropics listed here are touted by experts to work in reversing the damage that trauma has on the brain and body so that the brain returns to normal (non-stressed and non-traumatized) brain functioning. We can be sure that we get enough nutrients in our diets to reverse brain cell death and cell damage in the brain, including vitamin D, E, and B complex vitamins.  We can be sure to take vitamins that help to rebuild tissues, nerves and other structures in the brain and body, including the myelin sheath that is the protective barrier to the nerves.  These vitamins and supplements include collagen (which can be found in bone soup or in supplement form) and biotin. We can remove things that we put into our body that cause overstimulation to the cells, including dairy (vitamin D and calcium can come from parsley and other vegetables or from almond milk).  We can remove sugar and simple carbohydrates out of our diet so that our blood sugars don’t spike too rapidly and fall too sharply to cause damage to our brains and bodies.  We can remove excess sugar from our diet so that our insulin reserves are not used up, causing our organs to work overtime to remove the excess sugar.  We can lower our salt intake so that the excess salt in our bodies doesn’t trigger pain in the exposed nerves where our myelin sheath was previously damaged.

Conclusion

We can start listening to the alarm systems in our bodies that are telling us that something is wrong like a baby warns us that its diaper needs to be tended to.  We can tend to ourselves with sleep hygiene and a friendlier schedule.  We can get rid of barriers and complications in our life that cause us stress.  We can clean out the closet by getting rid of stress and relationships that serve no useful purpose to us.  We can seek a healthier job if that doesn’t suit our plight for less pain and less stress. If we don’t tend to the centralized alarm system that is going off in our bodies, the alarm bells will eventually sound so loud that there won’t be a single pain reliever at the doctor’s office that will even help anymore.  A diseased and unhealthy brain and body never stop sounding the alarms – something is wrong and it is up to you to work to put out the fire.  Nobody has to live inside your temple but you.