I never know quite what to call the posts in which I share a video.
Every title I think of sounds either click-baity or boring. Like for this one: “Mayo Clinic doctor explains central sensitization.” “Awesome video on central sensitization,” etc. etc.
In this day and age… what do you call something that truly is a “must-watch?” The term is so overused.
But I really, really want everyone to watch this.
Have you ever held something in for so long that, when someone finally validates the way you feel, you end up crying?
That was kind of how it was for me, with this. This video was so great it actually made me cry.
I know a lot about central sensitization, but, honestly, most of that is from my own research. (You can check out the articles and researchers I cite in my Resources section, particularly under “Scientific Articles”).
Of course, I’m grateful to have access to these articles, and of course, to the scientists who wrote them. (Not to mention the education that allows me to understand them– big shout out to my neuroscience professor!).
But when it comes to understanding central sensitization as a scientific concept, there have been many times when I’ve felt pretty alone.
Maybe I shouldn’t feel this way, because, largely, I’ve found the answers I need– my life is so much better since I discovered pain neurophysiology education and the work of Neil Pearson (thank you again, Neil!).
But what I’m talking about is the emotional aftermath of what I went through in all the years before; all the time I spent feeling misunderstood. All the conflicts and arguments with friends and family over the “weird” symptoms no one could understand… I have sometimes felt very, very alone in trying to articulate exactly what’s happened to me.
That’s a big part of why this video blew me out of the water.
Here, Dr. Christopher Sletten, who runs the Pain Rehabilitation Center at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, describes, in patient-friendly language, exactly how central sensitization can happen, and the myriad ways it can affect a person.
On my blog, I talk mainly about pain. That’s been my main symptom, and in some ways it’s the clearest and easiest to write about.
But central sensitization can cause all sorts of bodily sensations to become amplified.
As Dr. Sletten explains, it can make lights seem brighter, and sounds seem louder. It can make you dizzy. It can cause digestive upset.
It can really affect all of the sensory input that is meant to help you protect your body and guide you through the world.
And this, of course, will make you look crazy to those who don’t understand. It can even make you look crazy to yourself.
So I love, love, LOVED the part around the 7:20 mark where Dr. Sletten asks, “So how much of this is psychological? NONE.” Bam.
“The emotions are a symptom, not a cause.” YES.
How I wish the people in my life had believed this, all the times I tried to explain it to them ten years ago.
I knew I wasn’t crazy; knew it wasn’t all “in my head.” But I could never find the right words to convey my reality; to convince people who’d already made up their minds.
It doesn’t mean they didn’t care. But there’s a difference between knowing you’re cared about, and feeling truly believed and understood. There’s quite a big difference, actually, and it can hurt to never get that second part from the people you love. To know they’re tolerating your “craziness,” instead of seeing you for who you really are.
I wasn’t really planning on writing such a personal post today. I seriously LOVE the science behind this stuff, so I was planning to take some notes on important concepts and get more into the nitty-gritty.
But I guess this is the part of my story that I needed to tell today. More of the nitty gritty will have to come later on.
The one sciencey thought I wanted to leave you with right now is that this video provides some great insight into how central sensitization can lead to what are called central sensitivity syndromes.
After all, it’s not just pain. It’s never just any one thing. It’s the fact that the sensory information that’s supposed to give your brain cues as to how to respond to your environment is coming in way too “loud.”
This can create all sorts of different symptoms and sensations in different people. It can lead to chronic pain; some people call it fibromyalgia. It can cause phantom limb pain; it can cause Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
It can cause lead to diagnoses whose names imply more of a specific focus: chronic pelvic pain. Temporo-mandibular joint disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome; other digestive issues.
But they all fall under this umbrella term: central sensitivity syndromes. Despite having seemingly very different symptoms on the surface, all of these conditions can share a common cause, at the level of the nervous system.
So that’s all for now. I hope you get as much out of this video as I did. (And if you do, I hope you spread it around– I seriously want everyone in the world to watch it!).