Understanding Your Symptoms

Why do we experience these symptoms?

I have two ways I like to explain this:

First one: What is going on?

Pain or other physical or emotional symptoms are essentially an output (whether coming directly as a message from the brain or a message from the body, to the brain and out as an output).

These symptoms/outputs are affected by inputs (messages to the brain from our body) and the processing (the brain’s processing and response).

Inputs consist of two categories: our senses (smell, sight, sound, touch, taste) and our nerve endings (receptors in our tissues that detect touch, pressure, vibration, temperature etc). When a troubling event occurs, for example injuring a body part or being bullied, the brain and body captures information in that moment, what you heard, saw, felt. These inputs tell our brain to react.

The brain then processes this information and creates an output. It may create a reflex which requires no conscious thought, for example, quick withdrawal of your hand if you’ve touched something hot. The brain generally creates 3 types of outputs: a hormonal response (for example, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the mind and body to run and get out of danger, or chemicals to start the inflammatory healing response), conscious thoughts (for example, ouch this hurts, I need to get help) and a muscle/tissue response (for example, tensing to protect, or to run, move away from danger).

Think of the brain as a threat modulator, constantly assessing our environment to keep us well. For whatever event we experience the brain creates outputs in response. If the brain is detecting stress or threat it will act accordingly. However if the brain becomes overloaded with threat messages, it can continue to create outputs that now no longer serve us and we eventually experience those outputs as unwanted symptoms, whether that be pain or physical or emotional ill health.

Example 1 - A history of being bullied:

One day a child or adult experiences bullying for the first time. Messages go to their brain…the smell of the bully, the expression on the bully’s face, the location, the punch on the arm. These messages are processed (these processes can be affected by that person’s fears, beliefs, past experiences) and outputs are created (hormonal response, muscle response, thoughts and feelings).

The brain logs this event, to learn from it, to avoid it. The next day, the child or adult sees an expression on someone else’s face that mimics the bully’s and their brain recognises this instantly sends a hormonal response in preparation. But nothing happens and the brain stops the output.

The following day someone knocks the arm, where they got punched, and the receptors are a bit overactive due to the healing and send a big alert to the brain, the brain tenses the body to protect the arm and sends a chemical signal to be on guard.

For some people one event like this may be enough to always guard and protect an area of their body, and later down the road sometimes these compensations can create physical symptoms or pain elsewhere in the body. For others, this event may have not had any long term affect.

For those exposed to repeated bullying, their receptors (nerve endings) and their brain can be on high alert 24/7, just incase someone jumps out, shouts or gets aggressive. This constant high alert mode can sometimes create symptoms of anxiety, panic, headaches, pain or tremors. The mind can be flooded with unwanted thoughts, worries and fears.

Example 2 - A back injury

The same process of input, processing and output occurs for any event. In the case of a person injuring their back, inputs to the brain at the time could include the sound of their back when the injury occurred and receptors telling the brain that a muscle has been overstretched.

The brain processes this information and makes a decision and creates outputs. Muscles go into spasm to protect the area. Chemical changes occur. Conscious thoughts occur.

If that person has developed a belief about ‘having a bad back’, either from their own personal experience or from hearing about other’s bad backs, this can also change the output. Increased worry, or a belief it is damaged can change the duration and/or experience of the injury.

So two people with structurally the same injury can have completely different experiences. Obviously there are lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet that can affect healing but a person’s history of experiences and personal fears and beliefs will also influence symptoms.

Why do we experience symptoms when we do?

This is when I like to use my second way of explaining symptoms:

Second one: Why now?

Think of your whole being as a bucket. From the day you we are born to now, that bucket is being filled with experiences; filled with values, beliefs, achievements, disappointments, injuries etc. You may have experienced something when you were 6 that represents a big chunk of the load in that bucket, it may have had a big effect, and something that happened when you were 30 may have filled the bucket twice as much or barely at all. Once that bucket gets full, it starts to overspill with symptoms. Sometimes you can find ways to reduce the load in the bucket but it doesn’t take much for it to overspill and create symptoms again.

It may often feel like one event has caused a problem; sometimes it has, but often it is the culmination of everything together, that last thing just made the bucket over flow.

So what to do about your symptoms?

Firstly it is important to bear in mind that bacterial infections and viruses can create a lot of symptoms, so ruling that out with your GP is important.

Secondly diet and activity levels will also play a role with symptoms so making any necessary changes to that is important.

With regards to what I can help with, I focus on change to the inputs and processing as referred to earlier by using CRT and IEMT. This then changes the output and symptoms. I also focus training new patterns in through movement and massage to help install change. Please refer to Symptoms, which tells you which treatments I offer for particular symptoms and further details about those treatments.

Pain Management and Health Therapy