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Articles    H3'ed 8/15/10

Have You Been Told that Your Pain is All in Your Head?

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If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, or if you suffer from chronic fatigue or chronic pain, which often come together, you probably know how frustrating it is when doctors, friends, and family members don't believe that your pain is real, or that there is anything wrong with you. Perhaps you wake up in so much pain each morning that it's all you can do to move, or maybe you simply cannot stir up the energy to get through the day, no matter how much sleep you get or how healthy your lifestyle is in general. It may not seem like it to you, but these symptoms actually do originate in your brain.

Before you stomp off annoyed at this assessment, read on. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue may actually not have physical causes. Sometimes there is a problem with the way that your brain is functioning that manifests itself as pain--or some other distressing symptom--in your body. Conversely, when your brain receives signals that your body is in pain, it should release hormones to help you get over the pain--but it might not.

Your brain may have become stuck in particular brain wave patterns, and since each brain wave pattern initiates a different emotion or function, being stuck in one brain wave pattern is obviously unhealthy. If your brain is fixed in a mode that makes the body think you are stressed or afraid, what do you think will happen? You may not sleep well, resulting in extreme tiredness, and your muscles will be constantly tense. Over time, this can have some serious consequences.

Chronic pain usually begins with a physical cause, but over time, it can end up being nothing more than a pain in the brain. For instance, if you have a major surgery on your back, you will likely be in legitimate pain for a while. This very real pain tells you that your body is still healing. But sometimes the pain lasts so long that it becomes "etched" into your brain, so when the physical cause for the pain is gone, your brain will still be telling you that your back hurts.

A therapy called neurofeedback, however, may relieve fibromyalgia and chronic pain by targeting them at the source, training your brain to function differently. This type of therapy may actually take your brain and changes it so that it is no longer stuck in the same destructive pattern that causes you to be tired or in pain.

Neurofeedback rewards your brain for moving into different, healthy patterns, and eventually these patterns may become habit just as the old destructive patterns were. And unlike treatment with a pharmaceutical intervention, where the medication will have to be taken for long periods of time - perhaps for a lifetime - to be free from the symptoms or challenges of a particular condition, neurofeedback can often be stopped after 30-40 sessions.

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Dr. Clare Albright is a psychologist and neurofeedback practitioner in Orange County, CA. She is the author of, "Neurofeedback: Tranforming Your Life with Brain Biofeedback" Dr. Albright has been counseling in Orange County for over 26 years.
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