Do you need to rewire your brain’s safety signals to unlock your movment potential? Your brain has one very important task – to keep you alive but what is your brain’s perception of safety?
Every moment of the day, your brain is being fed information by the nervous system and then makes appropriate responses to that information to enable you to stay alive. That response may be a movement to pick up a glass of water, a signal to eat and refuel, to move out of the way of oncoming traffic, to respond to a question, to raise your heart rate and run for a bus or just to breathe!
Some of these responses happen automatically as a reflex response in your brain stem. They do not need to be rationally considered by the brain because they just need to happen for your base survival needs. These responses are things like breathing, blinking, swallowing and heart rate.
And some of the responses happen in your brain’s cortex, the place where reasoning, memory and cognitive thinking occurs. This is the area where the brain will consider past experiences and rationally respond with a considered, more sophisticated response to the information.
Your brain makes its responses to information based on predictable patterns that it has experienced before.
Information comes to the brain through the nervous system network from internal and external sources. Five of those you will already be very aware of – your senses. What you see, hear, smell, touch and taste all give really useful information to the brain as to whether you are safe or not. If you are walking towards a burning building, your brain will be very quick in letting you know that there is danger by seeing the flames, or hearing the approaching fire engines, smelling and tasting the smoke and feeling the heat. It will send a response to your body through the nervous system that creates a suitable ‘get me out of here’ reaction!
Your brain will perceive these base survival threats before the information even reaches the more sophisticated, thinking brain, so that your fast response can save you.
How does my brain’s perception of safety affect my ability to move?
Now here’s the crux. In movement terms, if your brain perceives a threat or risk, it will literally put the breaks on. It will stop you in your tracks to prevent you hurting yourself or damaging yourself further. It will only give you back the movement when it has cleared the threats from its checklist and deems that you can move safely again.
The brain has a huge filing cabinet of past experiences to draw on when determining if something is a threat to the system or not. This makes previous injuries and surgeries really key to how you are moving presently. Unless these areas are down regulated in the system, sensory information in previously damaged tissues will send glitchy messages to the brain when they are moved through, creating red flags in the brain. When the brain senses these threats, it will create different movement patterns to help avoid the areas, which ultimately leads to inefficient movement fuirther down the line. If the brain perceives instability in an area, it may just lock the whole area down to prevent you moving it and injurying it further.
Risk may not just be about movement. A previous injury will not have just been stored in your filing cabinet as ‘movement’. Instead, it will have been filed away as a whole sensory experience, accompanied by visual and audio references as well as smells. This is a really important factor to remember when things improve in your healing, but then take a set back. Sometimes pain, or lack of mobility is caused by the percieved risk of one of the other factors linked to a previous injury. For example, imagine you fell over and hurt your arm whilst walking by a bakery with the smell of croissants floating of the door…. the smell of croissants is then attached to that injury experience. This means that a flare up in pain of your arm can be triggered by the brain as you walk past a bakery year later, as the brain red flags the smell of croissants as a risk and sends you the ‘remebered experience’ of arm pain as a signal to be careful.
Downregulating your brain’s response to croissants in this case would be a great starting point for your ‘percieved arm pain’.
Not all pain is structual. Get curious about your brain’s threat perception
What you experience everyday is the culmination of many factors including movement, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, alongside many other patterns. I hope this gives you a little more insight into the complexity of pain and helps you ask better questions around what your body is trying to tell you/ keep you safe from, that may have been a previous threat to it in the past.
A brain based approach to pain uses the nervous system as feedback for what is happening in the body. When you move, we use muscle testing to assess and work out compensation patterns contributing to your pain and movement issues.
Muscle testing provides feedback to movement inputs to make sure that the brain is ok with that movement. When the feedback is not optimal, we use touch to different areas of the body (often historical injuries and surgery sites) to find the point that creates a positive change in the feedback loop. And in finding this important area, we can treat what actually needs treating and rewire the movement patterns.
As the brain receives inputs of information through many systems of the body, sometimes it isn’t a physical area on the body that is creating discord in the movement. Muscle testing allows us to test at many different systems including physical, sensory, emotional and cognitive to find the root cause of pain.
Nat is a Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist and pain and movement rehab therapist. She uses a neurological focus to assessing and treating pain and movement with her clients. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, she provides a ‘whole-istic’ approach to helping her clients understand and move more easily in their body. She uses a combination of manual bodywork, neuromuscular repatterning, movement, nervous system regulation and energy work to help you move beyond pain and emotional blocks and back to living life with joy and zest.
Nat specialises in scar work to improve movement, with a keen interest in abdominal surgery rehab, pelvic floor and Women’s Health.
Nat helps with:
- Pain and Movement Rehab
- Post-op rehab
- Scar care
- Functional Movement repatterning
- Postnatal recovery
- Diastasis Recti recovery
- C section recovery
- Pelvic Floor Function
- Perimenopause and Menopause Lifestyle Coaching
- Nervous system regulation
- Hysterectomy Recovery
- Energy Alignment