Calming Your Nervous System

My life finally changed six years into my struggle, when I found an amazing physical therapist who was able to help me understand my pain.

Tim had been trained in a relatively new approach to chronic pain treatment, called pain neurophysiology education (or PNE for short).

PNE is based on the principles of modern pain science.  The idea that learning how the nervous system works can change how a person views his or her pain.  Pain normally operates outside of our conscious control, but with a little bit of knowledge, the patient can begin to control how he or she responds to it.  This can help to weaken the vicious cycle that people with chronic pain are caught in.

In this section of the blog, I will be discussing some of the things I learned in treatment, and how I incorporate them into my own life.

The main concepts of PNE:

How a physical therapist helped me through my lowest point (the story of my own experience as a patient):

  1. Hitting rock bottom
  2. Finally, an approach that made sense
  3. Why we need different treatments for acute vs. chronic pain
  4. When the brain thinks everything is dangerous
  5. At the intersection of pain and mental health
  6. Readjusting my concept of what is “dangerous”
  7. The importance of exercise that doesn’t increase pain
  8. The one caveat, and looking toward the future
  9. How I’ve (mostly) made sense of my issues

4 thoughts on “Calming Your Nervous System

  1. I am so happy I found your blog!

    It is very informative, from the view of someone who actually experiences chronic pain.

    I was diagnosed with Fibro in 07′ after a car accident. And developed CRPS/RSD in March of 2012, after breaking my foot. 18 months later, I found the best doctor who actually knows what CRPS is, & has a lot of experience with treating it. Although, he did an ultra sound on my nerves in my leg (on the 3 major nerves that travel from your thigh to your foot) and all 3 are severely damaged, which is aggervating the CRPS, which has actually caused bone marrow edema in 2 of the bones that I originally broke! So, I’m a hotmess lol.

    I read that you had Compartment syndrome, did you suffer any kind of trauma to the body before that??
    4 yrs ago, my brother had it in his entire thigh, and he was only 15 :-( it was so hard to watch.
    He didn’t have any kind of trauma, but they had to rush him to the hospital and he had emergency surgery, cutting him from his upper thigh/hip all the way down to his knee! And left it 3 inches open! Every other day, he had a surgery. Each surgery, they closed it 1 inch.
    I felt so bad. But, now I understand what my family feels like, when they are with me. Which I wish they didn’t feel bad or helpless. They are my strength. <3
    I love your blog. Thank you for sharing everything you've learned about pain.
    Love, Heather Lynn

    1. Hi Heather– Thank you so much for your kind words!

      I’m glad you were able to find a doctor to treat your CRPS. I’ve heard it can be a bit of a struggle to even find someone who knows how to treat it.

      To answer your question, I developed compartment syndrome while training for track in high school. It wasn’t any one acute trauma– I was just running way too much (45 miles a week). That’s pretty crazy that your brother ended up needing emergency surgery. I actually waited a few years to have surgery, although in retrospect I wish I’d just had it right away.

      I’m so glad you found my blog, and I’m looking forward to following yours!

      1. Hey!

        I’m hopeful that my doctor will be able to treat my crps…but they can’t give me a 100% yes on anything. :-(

        It was so weird with my brother! He wasn’t an athlete in high school (except for the occasional ball game after school with some friends)
        Him and a small group of friends where playing soccer that day. He came home and told my mom that he thought he pulled a muscle in his thigh, so my mom gave him Motrin and told him to relax (he’s always been a baby lol).
        But, as the night went on, something wasn’t right. Suddenly, my brother screamed for my mom, and started crying (that’s when my mom knew there was something wrong- my brother doesn’t cry). So she called 911.
        They came to the house and said it was probably just a pulled muscle. And if he wanted them to “rub it out”…
        My 15 year old brother looked at the guy and said “Don’t touch me. This is not a pulled muscle. There’s something wrong. I need to go to the hospital”
        So,they took him,even though they thought it was a waste of time.

        Once he got there, the nurse had a weird feeling, and called the on call pediatric surgeon (it was 4:30am).
        Technically, doctors on call have up to an hr to show up to the hospital. This doctor lived in walking distance. But told the nurse that he’d be there in 45min-an hr.
        BUT! Right when he got off the phone, he said he had a bad feeling about this…and ended up jumping out of bed and actually getting in front of my brother within 15 min.

        If that doctors intuition wasn’t working right, and if my brother would have gone another 30 min, he would have lost his leg.
        They said that the compartment syndrome reached to the point, where basically his muscles were exploding inside his skin (is how they explained it to him, for him to understand )

        The reason why they immediately took him into surgery, was bc they had to relieve the pressure before his lost too much muscle. Which is why they left his incision 3 inches wide! Then, every other day, they closed it 1 inch. It was so scary.

        Needless to say.. My family gets the Weirdest things! And they are all rare syndromes! lol.

        But I’m very happy I found your blog.
        I’m going to share it with my brother (although he’s a 19yr old boy who probably doesn’t know what a blog is lol.)

        I hope you have a great day!
        I have 2 other blogs too!
        1) (health related)
        2) (a beauty/lifestyle blog) :-)

        I need to update LRTR’s blog a little. But you may like it! :-)

        Heather Lynn

        1. Hey there, sorry for the delayed response– my computer has been having a lot of issues recently, and it doesn’t like to let me online :)

          That is totally nuts about your brother’s surgery– I’d never heard of anyone needing separate, back-to-back surgeries for compartment syndrome. Mine was cured with just one procedure (although they did have to do all four compartments in each leg). And that’s also pretty crazy about the doctor somehow knowing he had to get to the hospital quickly. I can only imagine how mind-blowing it must be for you and your brother to imagine what would have happened otherwise.

          Thank you for letting people know about my blog :)

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