Different Pain Management Strategies – Brain Maps


The first part in the upper left corner of the pain block is PHYSICAL INTENSITY. This is that 0-10 rating of how LOUD the pain signal is. This is what we are usually aiming to reduce to when we try new medications or other treatments.

The second part in the upper right corner of the pain block is the AGONY of pain. Pain is one of the class of sensations that when it hits the brain, also activates other parts of the brain that create emotional responses. Pain is not alone in this ability to activate more than just sensation. Think of the agitation that is elicited by an itch, or the panic when you catch your breath, or the pleasure of sensual touch. Pain activates the emotional pathway of agony, it is an intense bothersomeness. Interestingly, as you will learn, pain does not have to activate this agony pathway all the time – we just have to teach our brains how to change it.


The third part in the lower right hand corner of the pain block is IMPACT. The Impact of pain is all the ways that pain affects our lives. The impact in our lives is far reaching including our sleep, energy, stamina, movement, social life, our ability to work the way we used to, our costs of living, memory, mood, and even our sense of who we are as a person.


The fourth part of pain in the lower left hand corner of the pain block is NEGATIVE STIGMA. Stigma is pervasive in our society. The bias against individuals is very real and destructive.

The most important thing about the MPM program is that it is highly systematic and based on the scientific method. As a chronic pain sufferer I know that I have tried many different approaches to mitigate or deal with my pain. I tried pain killers, physiotherapy, exercise, anti-inflammatory drugs, sleep aids, music… even sex and other intense emotional and physical interactions to try to drown out the noise of pain. None of them make the pain go away, but sometimes I have felt some amelioration of the pain. For me the most consistently successful of these strategies has been distraction from the experience of pain by focussing my attentions on some other thing, usually an interaction with another person, or sometimes a creative visualization of an intense subject.

The key to the method taught in my course, however, is not the specific technique itself that worked, or didn’t work, but he careful examination of various approaches using the scientific method, to test a number of potentially helpful strategies, in an orderly manner. Those that seem most promising are then examined in the context of the other methods, with the eventual idea that some of these may be even more effective if combined together.

Interesting enough, the very fact of dispassionately examining what has worked in the past in an organized fashion itself helps to ameliorate some of the pain by lessening my fear that it will continue to be out of my control altogether. No matter how sever the pain seems at any given moment, it is made far worse by my imagining that it will only ever get worse, and the fear itself tends to increase my awareness and sensitivity to my pain. Analysis actually substantive reduces the experience of pain but bringing it into the realm of personal control. Believing that I can control the pain, to any significant degree, actually helps me control the pain, to a degree.

Here is a sneak peak at what is in store for me as I follow the Mastering Pain Management training program.

Activate Endogenous Opioids – Ever wish you could feel that “high” that runners talk about, but know you aren’t about to go run 12 miles? That high is from our body’s own opioid system and it doesn’t require running to trigger it. In fact, there are a number of ways to turn to the system on. The biological evidence shows that we can do this on your own in just a few minutes. While some of the skills might involve imagination, the effect is not imaginary, the opioids are real, the response is real, and the science to demonstrate the process is real. These are some of the most powerful IMMEDIATE RELIEF skills of the Mastering Pain Method. In person, we have witnessed an average of a 50% drop in pain intensity. Its now your turn to discover how well the skills work for you.

Retrain Sensory and Motor Nerves – Learn how to have mastery over out-of-control sensory nerves and motor nerves that are keeping muscles guarded and tight or sending signals to the brain that aren’t helpful.

Rewire Agony/Suffering Circuitry – Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence exists showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the agony and suffering that is usually associated with it.

Train Vagal Tone/Relaxation Response – Pain is so overwhelming and activates our danger sensors leading to adrenaline bursts from the fight or flight response. To calm this response we can train a special system, the Relaxation Response, that is associated with the Vagus Nerve.

Engage Pleasure Circuitry – Change the patterns in your brain that make pain so unbearable. Clear cut evidence exists showing that we can change the way our brains respond to pain and only experience it as a sensation without all the agony and suffering that is usually associated with it.

Engage Restorative/Anti-Inflammatory Systems – Our body produces inflammation when stressed. And the body is clearly stressed by pain. Regardless of the cause of the pain learning how to put a stop to the inflammation is critical – even more so when the cause of the pain is an inflammatory condition. Our bodies’ are amazing full of ifferent ways to stop and start inflammation. Learning to turn off inflammation and turn on the restorative systems.

Retrain Interpersonal Neurobiology – Our body responds when we interact with others. It has certain patterns of responses to different environmental cues. These patterns impact our sense of self and our relationships. Learn how retraining these
skills can improve pain and begin the trend to change the cultural stigma of chronic pain.

From MPM Chapter 3

It often seems highly hypothetical to consider that pain may be somewhat controllable by following a road map of different strategies in an organized and systematic manner. My sincerest hope is that the program is right, and I can learn to have a much higher level of control than I have at the present time. Many years ago I took a training course in personal development which taught me that “understanding is the booby prize” by which the trainers meant that it is in doing something rather than in understanding something that lies the potential for real change in human experience. However, without the “booby prize” of understanding the nature of pain, and systematically examining what works and doesn’t for me, I am highly unlikely to accidently come upon actions which will have any significant effect over the long run, or even have any real impact on a moment by moment basis.

4 thoughts on “Different Pain Management Strategies – Brain Maps

  1. Thanks for sharing this course, Donald.

    I read this post with great interest, as I’ve never been able to afford, or get into a pain clinic/course. I did find some relief with acupuncture, but that depends on the practitioner.

    One of the things I find hard is re-capturing all the methods that worked so well for many years (for all the different types of pain I experience).

    Many years ago, I’d walk too far and find on the walk home, I was in agony and each step took me closer to breaking point, then, I’d lapse into some sort of walking meditation state and would suddenly find myself walking in my front door completely pain-free with no memory of the long walk home. Quite extraordinary.

    Now I can’t walk far with severe advanced right hip OA I’m missing those walks and that extraordinary mental euphoria, or dream-like state.

    I’ve read that Fear of Pain is worse than the Pain itself.

  2. I do not really have any pain. Only constant mild nerve pain in the feet.
    When I was 30 and got it, I really wanted to get rid of it. Now, at 65, I feel the physical symptoms as succinct.
    I only got relief when I accepted the physical symptoms at around 45, very late in my opinion.

  3. I have found the only way to alleviate some of the pain I feel is through distraction techniques, whether it’s physical or emotional pain. I have Crohn’s disease, Endometriosis, Degenerative Disc Disease, and multiple mental health conditions so finding a safe, narcotic free method of pain relief was super important to me and my care team. Thanks for the info!

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