When I started to grasp the concept of neuroplasticity it shook my world. The brain can change structure? We can grow new brain cells all through life?! In school I was taught that after childhood the brain basically stayed the same, all that happened was that you started losing gray matter at an alarming rate if your were lucky enough to survive puberty. Newer brain science has changed these theories completely.
Now, as a chronic pain patient, I am especially interested in research in neurology and how the brain functions, as any new knowledge concerning the workings of the central nervous system is bound to lead to better treatment for chronic pain.
The little I have learned so far has given me a potentially hazardous optimism on behalf of my ability to change the way my brain works - I am constantly implementing my knowledge and understanding in an effort to minimize the experience of pain and gain best function and quality of life.
For example I have understood that the brain's connector cables - the neurons, or axons - are built according to how we use our brains, and can even be affected by our repeated thought patterns. Connections that are used often are built gradually stronger and faster, like information superhighways for nerve signals.
So when I suffer from chronic pain it's not strange that my nerves are sensitized. The same pain signal is felt stronger and stronger, because it gets a gradually better connection to my central nervous system the more often it is used. I believe my best bet is not to try to subdue the nerve signals with drugs, but to change the way I use both my body and my brain. I do this to build other connections in my nervous system, distract from the pain signals, minimize the pain's nerve connections and also increase my brains natural production of feel good chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine.
Retraining my brain to minimize pain is a way of life. There's no magic on/off button, it's a gradual process that begins with my belief that it's possible, followed by a willingness to try unconventional methods and then a sustained effort to change both the way I think, speak and behave.
That being said, I am very positive to neurofeedback treatment, especially LENS neurofeedback, as I hope to be able to write more about in the future.