After a day of Autogenic Training at the Rheumatology Hospital Berlin-Buch, a patient said:
We have the duty to make ourselves feel well.
The 83-year-old patient was in the hospital because of a severe rheumatic disease (LORA) and had survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz during World War II. She termed her life as a happy life.
It has been known for over 60 years that chronic pain can and does occur without any detectable tissue damage or other “cause” for pain. MRI brain scans show that the pain is real and not imaginary.
We experienced pain through our pain perception, which an integrated network of different brain regions that communicate with each other.
The pain perception can be described as a conference call in which different participants contribute and everyone hears everyone else talking. One participant is the discriminatory-sensory aspect of pain such as burning, stabbing, or bumps. Another one is our pain memories. A third is our feelings of helplessness, sadness or anger. One anticipates the pending doom “Oh no, It’s starting again.“ Still another represents our physical pain behaviors such as groaning with pain, restriction of movement to minimize pain, or the touching a painful shoulder.
The sum of all this conversation scares us, engages us, and we feel ongoing and continuous chronic pain.
We go to a doctor, who may give us a large dose of medication (usually opiates) that our mind adapts to. Opiates block pain receptors and the brain reacts by building more receptors and pathways, which can create a drug dependency and actual increase pain. We avoid the physical activity that could “heal” us, because we think that it will provoke more pain. We term these reactions and conditioning “pain behaviors” and “pain adaptations.” Unfortunately these adaptations often serve to increase our sensitivity and perpetuate our pain, until suffering is part of every day life, no matter what we do or try. Our friends, family, and loved ones try to help and unknowingly reinforce our own pain perception.
At the beginning of the sickness, the sensory participant is the boss. We sense an acute pain such as a toothache, thoughts and feelings occur such as “What a bummer! What should I do now? Who can help me? Darn, it hurts so much.“ Eventually we are brave and go to the dentist. With acute pain, the sensory caller is especially active, while the other participants are quiet and wait. They have not yet “learned” to speak. We are not yet conditioned to be in pain.
In chronic pain however, the other participants are so loud that the sensory input is ignored. We experience real pain even though there is no physical cause. Feelings such as anxiety, memories, a stressful situation, or just the thought of pain intensify the pain. Fear and well-meaning “help” from our partners, along with pain behaviors, reinforce and perpetuate the chronic pain.
If we can cut the connections between the different callers, we won’t perceive the pain anymore. If you think about it, we have all experienced this. Your pain is not always the same. When you are intensively concentrating on a moment that is important, such as a good conversation with your best friend, communication between the callers is not possible and you do not notice (perceive) your pain.
Our treatment – SET – consists of a psychological engagement training, created by Herta Flor and Niels Birbaumer, two of history’s most important pain researchers. We have adapted their discoveries and added a very precise electrical stimulation attuned to your cardiac cycle. We optimally activate your baroreceptors, blood pressure sensors that signal the brain and activate the brain stem. This triggers your central nervous system (CNS) to respond and inhibit increased blood pressure, anxiety, pain reaction, and even glucose production. Our stimulation awakes (re-trains) the baro-responses and other natural body-brain systems. The CNS receives the necessary information to activate and inhibit your pain or to ignore low-level sensory input.
During the treatment, we also focus the other “callers” (thoughts, feelings, and behaviors). To heal chronic pain we use the SET program. When we quiet the coping, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors, the chronic pain is no longer perceived. SET actively encourages curiosity, exercise, openness, and healthy responsive behavior to erase the positive feedback loop between the pain phones.
Thus, you feel well again. Our goal is to cut your chronic pain using the SET.
For more general information on the heart, blood pressure, and baroreceptors, take a look at this video: