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Pain = signals from the body x sensitivity of the nervous system


Volume buttons (nervous system sensitivity)

All disturbances of the balance in the tissues are picked up by nerve endings. This information goes to the brain, which responds to restore balance. Virtually none of these signals (fortunately) reach our consciousness, most of themgocompletely on autopilot. For example, we 'automatically' move if we sit still for too long. But on the way from the tissue via the spinal cord to the brain, there are volume buttons in at least 5 places. These determine whether a signal is weakened or amplified. In this last situation we speak of sensitization, the nervous system becoming more sensitive. Everyone is sensitized at some point. 

Some examples:

  1. With a fever, your whole body can hurt. This is not due to increased physical damage, but due to the increased sensitivity in the nervous system, as fever can be a threat to health.  

  2. If you have hardly slept for three days, you are more irritable and you feel broken. Due to the lack of sleep, your energy level is low and therefore you become more sensitive in the nervous system and you can therefore experience pain earlier / more.

  3. If you touchedis becomingby someone you're in love with,thanDoes that touch have a pleasurable effect on you? While if you were touched by someone you don't trust, it could be unpleasant or even painful. Contextual factors also play an important role here!

  4. Many women are more sensitive on certain days of the month than others. The hormonal cycle also affects volume knobs in this case. 

The above examples usually involve relatively short periods of increased sensitivity, after which everything returns to “normal”. However, there are also reasons why the nervous system remains extra sensitive for a long time. Consider, for example, long periods of stress, an anxious experience (trauma), neglect in childhood, intestinal problems, relational tension, work pressure and work dissatisfaction.

Pain experience is partly dependent on context

The context in which you move has a major influence on the experience of pain. As the pain formula indicates, both the amount of “physical information” and the “sensitivity of the nervous system” play an important role in the experience of pain. The context seems to mainly influence the second component (sensitivity of the nervous system). Depending on the context, the brain makes a trade-off between a “threatening” or “safe” experience. We try to clarify this with the example below.


A little boy is playing outside with his friends. They have fun, romp vigorously and throw each other to the ground. This all happens in a safe setting and no pain is usually experienced in these types of situations.


Now imagine that the same boy has just lost a game and has become grumpy because of it. If he then gets a little push from his boyfriend, this can lead to experiencing pain. 


The fact that the boy has just lost a game apparently causes a more intense reaction of the brain (a higher sensitivity of the nervous system) to a physical stimulus that would not lead to pain at all during the romp. This is  completely normal, we adapt to the situation and the context.

The guitar metaphor

You could also use the electric guitar metaphor for this idea of sensitization. The volume you hear depends not only on how you play but also (especially?) on how high the amplifier is.


To say something meaningful about pain, you always have to look at both components: the condition of the tissue and the sensitivity of the nervous system. Your fascia therapist can help you with this if you can't figure it out yourself. Both elements can be assessed and influenced. 

Chronic pain occurs when  overflows the bucket. We don't necessarily have to empty the bucket, as long as we get enough out that it doesn't overflow anymore. For one, the most effective way will be to get the tissue back in good condition, for another it will be to express unprocessed emotions, for another it will be to improve nutrition or sleep. Usually it is useful to tackle several elements at the same time.


Practical tips and links:

  • Print this picture and fill it in for yourself. Which factors are the largest pain influencing factors (positive or negative)?

The next time your pain increases, ask yourself if it's because there was a different strain or because your nervous system has become more sensitive (and why)

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