Pain and Healing – Part VI

Over the last month and half I have writing about pain science research to help us broaden our scope of understanding pain and how we can begin to heal ourselves. Today’s review comes from a talk by yoga therapist Matthew Taylor from the United States. He teaches from the perspective of the Biopsychosocial model. This brings all the parts together to make a whole. For example, if you roll your ankle, you experience pain physiologically in the sympathetic nervous system, but also psychologically, your active mind is upset that your weekend plans got ruined and you feel unsupported spiritually. This means we can’t look at the ankle in isolation. When we look through different lenses we help the mind shift perspectives.

Yoga is the science of transformation. Through yoga we seek to shift our state  into the parasympathetic nervous system and by doing so we unlock creativity, clarity and calm. Simply taking 3 sets of 10 deep breaths for a given movement (such as during a yoga pose) shifts the nervous system and turns the solution seeking inward rather than outward.

Yoga asana (the poses) is a process of the how, no the what. In yoga we use attention as a tool to notice how you feel and to gain insight.

Applications for persistent pain: Most people with persistent pain don’t trust their body because the pain is in the body. Try some of these suggestions from Matthew:

  1. Explore your identity around pain.
  2. Pain education and language. When we say “the damn knee” we are talking about it as something other but it’s actually you. 20 minute of pain education can help us to reduce our pain.
  3. Legs up the wall with weight on the belly can create a SIM situation.
  4. Build stamina around hope = possibility.
  5. Have compassion for yourself.
  6. Social media diet – content can raise sympathetic nervous system activation.

Your body is a barometer. Try the Breath test – our breath tells us if something was wise idea. Compare before and after. Fast/shallow breathing is a system in danger (DIM). Think back to the Protectometer. If your breath is long and deep and even you likely feel safe, calm and relaxed.

Salience and interest drives neuroplasticity. Want a stable enough nervous system to non-react to pokes/prodes without looping back into old patterns? A stabilized nervous system lasts 24 hours. So when you practice yoga therapy every day with awareness and attention the results might surprise and shock you. We are complex, we can’t predict anything and we are always changing.

Next week will be the final post on Pain and Healing. See you then.

In health,

Lindsay

Pain and Healing – Part V

 The Food Fallacy: The idea that eating should be pleasurable, social, fun, and comforting is a marketing ploy. This is how food addition begins. When our eating experience produces pleasure, the biological process in the brain is getting a hit a dopamine. We then want to reproduce that experience over and over again. Think about kids and candy, cake, juice – anything with sugar. Sugar addiction is a really hard habit to stop.

When you go to a restaurant there is an “expectation” that the food be beautifully plated, colourful, alluring in smell, sight and taste. We are eating to please our senses, or expectations, our desires – it is no longer about fuelling and nourishing our body.

When we learn how to eat in a way that is appropriate for our nourishment needs – to provide nutrients, to balance the gut and remove toxins we suddenly find ourselves with more energy, more clarity, less pain and illness, maybe we lose weight, have less inflammation, have better skin, sleep better, etc. Our food can still be tasty and flavourful but perhaps the experience of eating becomes duller than when we eat for desire. When our food brings out body and minds back into balance, we no longer need the dopamine spikes to make us feel better. The purpose of eating is to refuel, not to induce pleasure.

Want to live healthier, longer? It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we approach food and eating.

Neuroscience and Ayuvedic practioner Dr. Kulreet Chaudry outlines how we can use food as medicine to improve our digestion and how our gut health is intimately linked with our brain health and thus full body health.

Three ways we can support ourselves and heal our gut through food is:

  1. Tri-Dosha tea: one teaspoon of each: coriander, cumin and fennel. Steep in 4 cups of boiling water and sip throughout the day. This will help improve digestion.
  2. Take Triphala, 1000mg at bedtime. This will help remove toxins and heal the gut mucosa.
  3. Eat your heaviest meal at lunch and the lightest meal at dinner.

Our gut microbiomes is a huge living population that impacts every part of our health. What is often seen as a structural issue is often related to inflammation, as is the case of migraines. The blood brain barrier is mimicked in the gut, so we can prevent neurological conditions through the gut. The majority of neurotransmitters that talk to the brain, come from the gut.

In general, pain is often seen as structural issue. We use medication to hide pain from the brain BUT you are not getting to the cause of the pain. Dr. Kulreet has found that 90% of pain is related to inflammation. Inflammation caused by the food we eat. The blood brain barrier is mimicked in the gut. It’s kind of a like a canary in a coal mine. This means we can prevent neurological conditions through the gut. The neurotransmitters that relay information from our body to the brain, mostly come from the gut. It talks to the brain. She describes leaky gut as a dumb gut. A gut that has lost intelligence because the shift in the population of gut bacteria that prevents inflammation. There is also an autoimmune component so there are lot of things happening all at once.

The take-away? Healing happens on many different levels and effects the physical body Be mindful of what you eat. Consider consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner and find out what you need for your constitution to maximize your health and wellness.

In health,

Lindsay

Pain and Healing – Part IV

 

Today I am reviewing the session with Dr. Tracy Jackson to discusses opioid addiction and pain. She says that anyone who experiences addiction feels a sense of isolation, feelings of failure or a need to be put their dependency in a positive light. They feel stigmatized.

When we are in pain, we are under psychological and physical duress. Our sympathetic nervous system, also known as our fight or flight system is stressed.

A big piece of the puzzle about pain is unpacking assumptions. The first and foremost is that the experience of pain can be different for everyone. Second, often times, patients are not in the doctors office long enough communicate and to be heard. You have your 10 or 15 minutes and are given medication of your symptoms. Having to go back to the doctors multiple times is inefficient and unhelpful. Third, there is little in the way of pain education in medical school. Doctors are not well versed in understanding pain.

So a part of this conference that I attended and what I am hoping to impart to you, the reader, is to empower you to understand what is going on in your body. What we do is not complicated, we just do it often, over and over again. This means we can re-train our bodies and our minds! We are incredibly resilient and the results are durable. yay! Experiencing a reduction in pain mean it can be long term (hope!) (yay!) (double yay!)

Medicine ads tell us to take this drug or that drug to keep going and enjoy life but this doesn’t address the issue or the innate intelligence of our body. While medicine can be life saving short term – it should be temporary while you learn how to retrain your body. Research findings tell us that no pill or surgery that is going to “fix” a body part that is just responding to a brain that is on high alert. We have to calm the underlying stress to be a better ______(fill in the blank).

When we feel unsafe we are pricked with the highest capacity for pain. We experience symptoms like insomnia, adrenal fatigue, depression – we are on high alert. When we feel safe we have a lower capacity for pain. We feel more energized, happy, alert, and creative – we are calm and relaxed. For someone who is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, there is a certain stigma (DIM) but at the same time, the person can feel better just from the diagnosis (SIM). Anyone can endure an illness – we want to be able to channel the “enduring” to make changes.

The challenge is that it is hard to see while in the thick of it. It takes a long time to develop pain or addiction but recovery can be quick.

If you, or someone you know has concerns for addiction, Dr. Tracy Jackson offers these steps to take:

  1. There is hope. It won’t be as bad as you think. Have compassion for yourself because relapse is high.
  2. If you are given a prescription for opioids ask for a referral for treatment.
  3. Keep trying. People are desperate to help you if you want to be helped.
  4. Mindfulness and movement are the most effective ways to cope with pain and addiction.
  5. Self-care. Put your airplane mask on first. This is the same for family members who see another family member in pain.

Opioids can actually make the experience of pain worse. Once you come off dependency, the capacity for pain will be improved and the body will function better (better immune, more energy, etc). If you are taking opioids, come up with a coping plan for withdrawal – make sure your support system is in place.

A part of the coping plan is looking at your diet. Diet is critical because there are lots of inflammatory foods that impact all of our body systems. It is also important to unplug from technology and go out in nature. The Japanese have a term called “forest bathing” for the therapeutic effects of walking and appreciating nature. Dr. Jackson also recommends at least a 150 minutes of yoga a week that is calming.

Next week, I will explore the topic of diet and gut health from the perspective of Ayurvedic medicine and how it relates to pain.

In health,

Lindsay

 

Pain and Healing – Part III

This week I am reflecting the interview with David Butler who is a physiotherapist and educator on pain science. I learned two new terms DIMS (danger in me) and SIMS (safety in me). DIMs and SIMs are used to describe experiences that either increase pain (DIMs) or decrease pain (SIMs). This has implications for our immune/inflammation systems, our nervous system and brain network.

Pain science tells us that pain occurs when the brain perceives danger in the world. The brain perceives safety when we have less pain. Often times in yoga we experience a stopping point. Such as, we gain a certain amount of strength and stop or we are unable to relax beyond a certain point. At some point in our lives we have learned not to advocate for ourselves or we feel too unsafe to be able to let go. From a movement perspective, we can break movements down even more in order to “trick” our nervous system to strengthen more or to relax. From a psychological perspective we can explore beliefs of why we feel unworthy of getting stronger or letting go.

The language we use in how we express our story of pain also plays a role in how we perceive pain. For example, instead of focusing on the negative (the swollen knee), focus on the positive (you are healing already) because you came in for therapy. This is an example of turning a danger in me (DIM) into a safety in me (SIM). Another example of a DIM is blaming your health care practitioner. Change it to a SIM by thinking that your health care provider is trying to help you. Not sure how your use of language frames your pain? Have your partner or friend report on the language you use. Expressions such as “my back is out…” or “it feels like a knife,” are a DIM. The story we tell ourselves over and over again impacts our brain by becoming ingrained. Even the expectation of pain can increase our pain experience.

David described the Protectometer which is a metaphorical device to demonstrate the ups and downs of DIMs and SIMs. The balance shifts up and down. Education and exposure to movement are powerful SIMs. So are taking care of our emotions, well-being, and safety. For example, going for walk (movement) and enjoying the weather (happy emotions) increases your SIMs. Our immune system is impacted by SIMs.

A DIM at one level may not be a DIM at another level. For example, at work your neck hurts but it doesn’t hurt at home. Explore what aspect of work is making your neck hurt.

A SIM or a DIM can be something as simple as a thought. In fact a thought can change a DIM to a SIM. For someone in chronic pain going to the movies for the first time in 6 years could be a SIM. We need conscious awareness to go through this process of recognizing DIMs and SIMs. They tend to hide in hard places to find. A loved one who knows you well, a yoga teacher or a therapist might be able to help you with this process. There could be 30-40 DIMs in someone with chronic pain.

For people in pain, David Butler recommends

1) looking for a health care practitioner who is scientifically aware and believes recovery is possible (very few doctors are well versed in pain science). The biomedical model doesn’t work because it operates on the causal. A biopsychosocial model requires discussion, explaining and curiosity.

2) Look online and familiarize yourself with SIMs/DIMs/Protectometer.

3) Seek out Level A evidence from studies that are a trusted resource.

4) Start a journal of your SIMs and DIMs. There are apps for symptom tracker than can help, if a journal is a DIM.

4) Adopt a sense of curiosity and discuss what you find. Awareness follows and then clarity arises.

5) Be aware of your frame of reference – we may not notice what changes when pain goes away.

Here are 10 Target Concepts to get into this new way of thinking.

  1. Pain is normal, personal, real
  2. Danger sensors, not pain sensors. It is the brain that weighs whether or not it will hurt. We don’t have pain neurons.
  3. Pain and tissue damage are rarely related. It’s all about context.
  4. Pain depends on Danger and Safety. More danger = more pain.
  5. Pain involves distributed brain activity. Different areas of the brain are affects such as memory, fear, future, vision and smell.
  6. Pain relies on context. What we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, say, think, believe, places, people, what we do.
  7. Pain is a protected output. This mean other things change our immune system and nervous system. For example, someone with back pain likely has gut (digestive) issues.
  8. We are bioplastic in that we can change. At any age our brains can change.
  9. Learning about pain can change you. Understand why you hurt.
  10. Active treatment fixes pain. Doing, learning, dealing. Can’t be passive (pill popping).

In health,

Lindsay

Pain and Healing – Part II

Today I am reviewing the talk by Tasha Stanton a neuroscientist from Australia who researches the complexities of pain. I learned that there are many biological variations in every person that could effect the mechanisms of any given treatment. Essentially, the higher the perceived danger is versus the perceived safety, neither of which is not always in our consciousness, can have on impact on our treatment for pain.

Tasha further teaches us that our senses play a key role in our experience of pain. Research has shown that one sense can modulate another. For example, vision plays an important biological role in the experience of pain. When we can see the body part that is experiencing the pain, the pain can actually decrease. Even our perception of how a body part looks can change how pain is experienced. Participants in one study who had rheumatoid arthritis were shown altered pictures of their hands where they look healthier and the patients reported a reduction or elimination of pain. This strongly speaks to how context is critical to how pain is felt.

Here are 5 things you should know if you or someone you know experiences persistent pain.

1) You can become an advocate of your condition. Your recovery should be a partnership between you and your healthcare provider.

Recovery is significantly faster for people who actively participate in their recovery rather than people who passively receive care from someone else.

2) We need to rethink how we define the “causes” of pain. For example, pain in your foot is not a pain signal from the foot to the brain that the foot is hurt. It is a danger signal that something is not functioning optimally. This means pain may not be a tissue issue – this is why stretching away back pain won’t work.

3) There is hope: Our nervous system is often forgotten and the brain interprets in the context of what is going on in your life, your past experiences, beliefs about pain.

4) Surround yourself with positive people that believe in you and who support you. This is critical in how you frame your experience and your recovery.

5) A short reduction of pain or a sensation of pleasure means there is hope for long term possibilities. This means your nervous system/body is giving you an experience of pain that has been modified (no pain!). Worse pain doesn’t mean more damage either because we can have a pain experience without damage!

 

In health,

 

Lindsay

 

Pain and Healing – Part I

Mid November I attended an online Pain and Healing Conference hosted by my teacher and yoga therapist Susi Hately of Functional Synergy. There has been a lot of research in recent years on Pain Science and the implications that has for people who suffer from pain.

Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to work at unpacking some of this vital information in a series of blog posts so you can be more informed and empowered to take back your control from pain and move with hope towards a brighter, pain free future.

Of the 10 speakers from the conference there were underlying themes and concepts that kept arising. My intention is to summarize some of the findings so that you can have a better understanding of the paradigm shift that is occurring with modern pain science research findings so that you will feel more informed and empowered to take back control from the pain that you or a loved one is experiencing.

The biggest and most important findings are four-fold. One, pain is not where the problem is. Two, pain is a protector. Three, pain is complicated and we are complex beings with complex systems so don’t give up. Four, hope is essential and possible.

There is an incredible trifecta of pain researchers in Austraila that are focusing on pain education. Pain research findings teach us that pain is a warning signal or a protector. This means, rather than perceiving pain as something being broken in our bodies, our brain is perceiving danger that something is not functioning quite as it should. This provides hope. Danger means we can get out of danger by doing something. By perceiving that something is broken. We are more likely to give up and see it as something that is long lasting and can’t change. Luckily this simple isn’t true.

Movement is critical in reducing pain at both the level of tissues and the spinal cord.  It is at the tissue and spinal cord level that our body communicates with the brain. Like Skinners salivating dogs, we too can condition movements to be either painful or not painful. Simply by imagining desired movements in our minds, we can reduce our pain and promote recovery.

Movement and visualization starts by reducing our stress. Many of us don’t even realize we under stress. It has become so normalized we don’t recognize it. When we are in pain and/or our body is in a state of stress – there are protective agencies at play.  We need to return our systems to a non-protective state by tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system through breath and movement. Therapeutic yoga is an excellent way to train our nervous system.

The research teaches us that we bioplastic human beings. This means our systems are adaptive. Pain can go. When we change the context, pain can come back. Like I said before, pain doesn’t indicate something is broken. This is really good news!

Here are 5 things to know if you or someone you know experiences persistent pain.

1) Pain is real to the person experiencing it.

2) Pain is a protector. Pain acts as a warning from the brain of what it thinks you might do if you keep going.

3) There are many contributors to pain. There is lot of research that shows pain can come from all over your life – people, places, things external to you can be a trigger, as well as thoughts and beliefs.

4) The good news is we are fundamentally adaptable and recovery is possible. We can train our systems to be less protective.

5) The less good news, it’s not easy BUT everyone has the resources. It’s doable but it’s a journey.

In health,

 

Lindsay

 

My next post will be about neuroscience researcher Tasha Stanton who discusses the complexity of pain…

Intentions, Feelings and Fresh Beginnings for 2018


Happy Holidays! This has been a year of tremendous personal and professional growth for me. As I dug into setting goals for 2018 I found myself basing these goals or intentions off how I want to feel. After doing some soul searching and looking at the different aspects of life from working and lifestyle, to health and wellness, creativity and learning, relationships and society and spirituality, I narrowed down my core desired feelings for 2018. My intention is to use these feelings to direct my thoughts and actions for the upcoming year. As a part of this process  I am excited to announce that in the New Year I am shifting my focus to teaching primarily therapeutic yoga. I will still be available for corporate classes and group classes but I am ready to shift my focus to long lasting, sustainable results for my clients.

I am looking to connect with individuals ages 40-65 years old, who perhaps have older children, are experiencing shifts in their careers or approaching retirement. They are beginning to feel a disconnect in their life in regards to their exercise and lifestyle habits that aren’t making them feel as good as in the past. Perhaps fitness classes at the gym are no longer having the desired effect on the body as they used to. Experiences with illness or injury have created challenges in how they relate to themselves and others. This person is looking for something more meaningful in their life and is ready and willing to invest some time and effort into making a sustainable shift in their well-being.

If this is you, let’s work together. It’s time to take your power back. I can help you close the gap between where you are currently, and where you want to be. Therapeutic yoga is a movement based therapy that empowers you to take control of your wellbeing with support all along the way. I provide the knowledge, tools and skills to help you elevate your current state so you can get back to enjoying life the way you were meant to.

The majority of health care and wellness professionals treat one part of the body or where they perceive the pain to be. The truth is, that we are more than a collection of individual parts that needs to be treated or manipulated by someone or something outside of us. We are a dynamic web of interrelated elements including our physical body, our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, past experiences and our environment. This is why I work in partnership with my clients to develop a customized program that meets them where they are for what they want to achieve.

Sign up now for 12 weekly sessions and we will build a framework for getting stronger, more relaxed and settled in our body and mind. With stability and ease comes strength, calmness, clarity, creativity and joy. Your practice will be progressive so you build on the skills as you master them. Think of yourself as the co-creator of your development as we work together to explore the possibilities.

With love and hope,

Lindsay Keefe

Private Yoga Downtown Toronto

From February 13-16, 2018 I will be teaching private sessions at The Coach House at 7 Admiral Road in the Annex. 

Schedule:

Tuesday (Feb 13): 11am – 3pm

Wednesday (Feb 14): 2pm – 7pm

Thursday (Feb 15): 11am – 3pm

Friday (Feb 16): 1pm – 6pm

Sign up now for a one hour introductory session and find out how rehabilitative yoga can change how you move, how you relate to your body, and unlock your healing potential for long-term sustainable results.

Aging Gracefully

Several years ago, overwhelmed by beauty industry standards of what beauty is and feeling dissatisfied with my own expectations for myself, I learned to let go.

A big part of the process for me was doing a detox that included switching to natural skin, hair and cleaning products. I found a teacher that I admired, who helped educate and encourage me.

I threw out all my chemical laden creams, toners, washes, scrubs and serums. I believe it is vital to educate yourself on the ingredients that go into the products you use for your own sake, your family’s and the environment’s.

There are so many natural, organic  products out there, that the shift is easier than ever. Think about it.  Skin is a major detoxification organ.  Why would we cover it up, inject it with poisons and soak it in chemicals that might seep into our bloodstream?

Eating healthy food gives our skin the nutrients it needs for a healthy glow and may even eliminate skin disorders like eczema and recurring rashes (If you’re reading this, you may want to speak with a naturopath about an elimination diet). If you eat clean and use natural skin and hair care products, you may find that your complexion clears up and your natural beauty shines through.

In recent years, companies have had ad campaigns for natural beauty and allowing your inner beauty to shine through. I am excited that more and more people are starting to get on board and recognize true beauty for what it is – it is our health, our energy, our confidence, our intelligence, not just what we look like on the outside.

While it can be challenging to shift your perspective from one ideal to another, it is a practice like anything else. For me, yoga was my support system. I gradually began to wear less and less make up. Now only on special occasions–save for daily mascara–do I wear makeup. When I do, I feel unnatural and made up.

I am now comfortable in my own skin. I’m still coming to terms with the gray hairs that peak through and still cover up the odd blemish, but I feel lighter, naturally pretty and less concerned about what others might think.

Does this sound like a radical change? It is!

Aside from changing what you put on your skin and in your body, another holistic approach to beauty is cosmetic acupuncture. It is a natural, safe and effective way to improve complexion, reduce signs of aging, to look and feel younger. The process is free from chemicals and pain.

Cosmetic Facial Acupuncture works with your body’s innate wisdom to tighten pores, brighten eyes and improve complexion. Collagen production and muscle tone improve, fine lines are eliminated and deep wrinkles are diminished. Acupuncture also helps reduce bags and double chin, lifts drooping eyelids and helps to slow hair loss and graying.

Fine sterile needles are used in conjunction with facial massage and specialty cream to increase local blood circulation and improves metabolism.  You may find that the process helps reduce acne and scarring.

To complement cosmetic acupuncture, you may also want to try face yoga. Face yoga helps to exercise and tone neck and facial muscles. When you work the muscles of the face, suppleness and elasticity improve. It may stimulate collagen production and allow more oxygen to get to muscles. Face yoga also helps to reduce stress and tension so you feel and look rejuvenated and refreshed. It’s easy to practice for long lasting, sustainable results.

Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture practitioner Daniel Kanner and I are offering Aging Gracefully Cosmetic Acupuncture and Face Yoga packages at 25% off for the holidays. For package details visit my promotions page or www.acuhealth.ca and connect with Daniel for more details.

Yoga Rehab: Workshop for Back Pain

yoga rehab photoPain and discomfort doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. Yoga Rehab is designed for yogis, those new to yoga and anyone who is curious. The aim is to help you live a more functional, effective and strain-free way that is unique to your goals. My principles of movement will help you get stronger and build more stamina, flexibility and balance without pain, strain or tension.

What can I expect in these workshops? You will learn simple (but not necessarily easy) movements that will help improve mobility and decrease pain. For yogis, you will discover a whole new perspective on movement and take your practice to the next level! There will be a focus on breath work, mindfulness and developing body awareness woven throughout the workshop. This is not a typical yoga class so yoga experience is not required.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next 2 workshops are called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, September 30th and October 14th at McMaster Fitness 2-4pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.