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Pain and the Brain (Why Protocols Often Fail)

Video Highlights

-- How does brain-based training work?
-- Individual Neurosignature for Pain
-- Pain research

Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance and today we’re going to be talking about pain and why protocols often don’t work.

If you’re new to Z-Health, we’re a Brain Based training company and that’s really what this whole blog is about. It’s about how brain-based training is supposed to work. For 20 plus years, we have been discussing the idea that everyone who is in pain has a different neuro signature. Basically what that means is that over many years of looking at brains we know that, pain is typically associated with activity in different areas but it’s weighted differently in different people.  Now all of that was theoretical until recently. There was a study that was just published, it’s a fascinating study because what they did is they took 20 people with chronic low back pain and 20 people who had chronic migraines but then they made an important choice; what they did is they tracked them over time. Because often when we do brain scans on people with pain, we look at their brain scan after only one scan. But instead what they did, is they took this group and they did functional MRIs over a period of months: watching what happen in each person’s brain as their pain went up and went down because that’s generally the process that occurs during chronic pain situations.

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Now what they found was incredibly fascinating but it confirms what we have been discussing. What they saw was that over time, every person had an individual neuro-signature for pain. In some cases, that meant that almost no activity was noticed in areas that are commonly associated with this pain neuro-matrix in the brain. Other people, almost all those areas lit up. Now why this is super important to understand is that most of medicine, most of rehabilitation, most of training, is built around here’s a protocol for solving X. Let’s say you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or tennis elbow, or you’re doing a ACL rehabilitation, etc. Now protocols exist as a starting point and they are useful but they are not enough in some cases to really begin to impact areas of the brain that are being affected in some people, particularly chronic pain situations. So a brain-based practitioner’s job is to do lots of testing, to do lots of experimenting. To say, “Hey, if we provide this type of stimulus, this type of exercise, how do you respond to that?” Because whenever we’re discussing dealing with pain, we need to be very careful of saying, with certainty, that something will always help. It would be great if that was how things happened in the real world but if that was the real world, there would be one solution for every problem in medicine and rehabilitation and training would be way easier! So if you’re interested, we’re going to actually include some shots of that paper so you can go read it and more importantly look at the pictures because the researchers did something incredibly cool. They actually put in pictures of the brains of each patient that was involved in the study so that you can visually see that, “Hey. this person has chronic migraines, this one does, and their brains look nothing alike.” That is a huge jump forward in pain research and hopefully it’s a huge jump forward in how the general world begins to understand why we need to look at the brains and people who are having chronic pain issues and really begin to assess them on an individual and personal level. What do you do with this information? Well the most important thing is, don’t stop trying! If you’ve tried several protocols for a headache, low back pain, tennis elbow, and they didn’t work; it doesn’t mean that you’re permanently broken, it just means that you may need to work with an expert or someone who understands this information that we’re talking about so that things can be more personalized for what’s happening in your brain. 

Alright, hope you found this interesting and we will be back soon!

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