Maybe it’s Your Nervous System Being Super-sensitive?

Is your nervous system sometimes too sensitive for your own good?

Let’s look at this idea.

Say you strain your back or crick your neck. Ouch!  What happens to the nerves in and around the bit that’s hurting.  Well, they become 'sensitised' which makes you limit your movement and stops you carrying on in a way that makes things worse.

This is quite normal. It’s the way your body is supposed to work.  It makes you be more careful over the following days or weeks and this allows your body to heal.  And as healing happens the nerves gradually stop being on alert and go back to normal. Then you find you can move more freely and the pain has gone.

All good.  Except, sometimes the pain can continue long after the injured muscles or ligaments have healed.  Your pain is now chronic pain. Not so good.

So why does this happen? -- Because nerves in all parts of the body respond to local and systemic body stimuli.  (By ‘local’ we mean things like pressure, heat, or stretching.  And by systemic we mean things like your hormones, your immune system, and the power of your thoughts and emotions).

If you have a nerve that’s constantly stimulated like this, it may respond by remaining way-too-sensitive.  Then, lots of pain can be triggered by movements and situations that are usually ‘not painful’.

Is this quite common? Yes. Can it be treated? Yes. How? 

Sounds almost too simple, but research is showing us that if you tune in to your nerves and take a bit of time to understand how they work and how pain works, you actually experience less pain.  In other words, if you understand the process, this helps to reassure your brain and reduces your stress and worry.  This leads to a reduction in stress hormones and this has a big effect on pain level.  It’s true, your recovery can depend a lot on how you think and feel.

OK so why do I need an osteopath if I can think myself out of this painful experience?  Good question!

  • Your Osteopath understands the pain process and he can explain to you what is going on. This is that important ‘understand the pain and feel better part’ described above.
  • At the same time he can give you advice about posture, diet and exercise. You cannot go from ‘pain’ to ‘no pain’ in one instant.  You need to support the process in a number of ways.
  • And your osteopath will assess the area that’s causing you pain and using hands-on techniques help to relax muscles, reduce nerve compression and much more.

So think well, eat well, exercise well (and carefully!) and visit your osteopath for help with all of this and more.

Posted by: Daniel Hawkins

Daniel Hawkins

Daniel has experience treating a wide variety of conditions, including low back and neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, knee pain, and foot and ankle pain. He has a special interest in rehabilitative exercise and movement utilising a broad range of exercise advice, including breathing and yoga-based postures.