I’m Life coach and counselor Peter Winslow, and this is part three of our series on the science of natural recovery from chronic pain. How is it possible? Neuroscientists describe the process through a phenomenon called “neuroplasticity.”
In cases of head injuries that cause blindness, neuroscientists have observed amazing changes in the brains of the victims. Using brain imaging scans they have isolated electro-magnetic energy emitted by the visual cortex, a portion consisting of approximately one third of the brain, and found that this region has adapted and retrained itself in these patients to supervise completely different skills.
Neuroplasticity is the process by which many blind people develop their highly acute senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell and are often able to master completely new tasks and creative endeavors that the rest of us find challenging and even impossible to do.
Until the mid-1990’s it was believed that brain cells do not regenerate beyond the formative years of development, after about two or three years of age. Scientists now know that’s incorrect. Through a process called “neurogenesis” brand new neurons are created when you enrich your environment by taking up new and interesting mental exercises like learning a foreign language, or utilizing mind-body practices like meditation.
Tackling challenging skills like these helps to ward off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia because the process increases cognitive ability and rebuilds memory function. This means that new and challenging mind-body activities enhance neuroplasticity in the brain.
Here’s the catch: doctors say the initial changes are only temporary because you have to be emotionally engaged in the process to retain the results.
Permanent plasticity occurs when you feel passion, élan, savior faire and a zest for life because positive thoughts and a sense of wellbeing are critical for the release of the specific neurotransmitters and the other brain chemicals that enable the changes to stick.
Your new skills must be taxing, interesting and highly motivating for the results to become permanent. This is solid proof of the mind-body connection: you must consciously choose to feel passion and motivation before your brain can make the physical changes lasting and permanent.
I’m life coach Peter Winslow, and the subject of this post is natural healing from chronic pain.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the human body possesses to ability to heal itself from many chronic conditions. How? Emerging new neurological science has discovered that it all comes down to the wiring in your brain.
To really grasp this, I realized that a few things must be understood. In training to become a professional life and health coach, I studied anatomy and physiology in college. There I learned an astounding fact: the body you lived in just yesterday is a different body than the one you’re in today.
In a process called cellular mitosis, the cells in your body birth new cells repeatedly and die off naturally throughout your lifetime. In fact, in a few years you’ll have a completely different body altogether.
The body rebuilds itself again and again throughout your lifetime and it’s plainly evident. Watch a youngster grow up and age over the years; what you’re witnessing is the process of cellular growth and regeneration that occurs with the passing of time.
Some cells reproduce faster than others. The cells that lined your stomach two hours ago have already been replaced with new ones whose daughter cells will soon be born; other cells reproduce in a matter of months.
Neuroscientists tell us that brain cells, called neurons, are programmed a bit differently than the other cells. They adapt to their environment depending on what you learn and what new behaviors you acquire.
In a process called “neuroplasticity” the map-like structure of the brain can be remodeled. Using MRI technology, doctors have observed the process in patients who’ve suffered head injuries and are creating new neural pathways to compensate for the loss. This is a compelling field of study for the brave new frontier of natural recovery from chronic pain.
I’m Peter Winslow, a health and life coach in private practice. I experienced first-hand the healing power of the human body when I recovered from the pain and symptoms of a chronic autoimmune disorder called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.
It’s important to point out that the word “chronic” when applied to disease means that doctors and drugs cannot cure it. AS is considered to be “incurable” because there isn’t a medical treatment to reverse it. Yet people have recovered from this and other chronic conditions through the healing power of their own bodies. How is it possible? Neuroscientists say it happens through a phenomenon called neuroplasticity.
Webster’s dictionary defines neuroplasticity as “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.”
“Neuroplasticity is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual’s life course. The term gained prominence in the latter half of the 20th century, when new research showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered even into adulthood. This notion contrasts with the previous scientific understanding that the brain only develops during early childhood and from then on remains mostly unchanged.
Neuroplasticity can be seen at multiple levels, from changes in individual neurons to larger changes such as cortical remapping in response to injury. Behavior, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions also cause neuroplastic change which has significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from illness and injury.”
So behavior, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions cause neuroplastic changes. That is where natural recovery from chronic pain begins.