What causes an extra sensitive alarm system?
It's a good question. Often it has to do with everything you went through during your initial pain experience. Just the fact of dealing with pain every day adds stress. Pain can cause tension at home and at work. Maybe treatments are not working or you've gotten conflicting diagnoses. So you end up confused, upset, and frustrated.
As long as you are confused, afraid, and/or stressed, your alarm system is likely to remain extra sensitive. Also, our beliefs and fears about our pain carry a huge significance in keeping our alarm system extra sensitive.
I can't tell you how many times I've felt that little twinge in my back and suddenly found myself quaking inside, saying "Oh, no. Not again." I'd expect to be two weeks in the bed, normal life over for the duration, and fighting depression as a result. I believed pain was bad, that lying still was the best solution, that I shouldn't do any bending or twisting or any movement that might increase the pain while I was hurting. I believed I might make things worse, damage my spine or my muscles, and never be well again.
Honestly, the fear of pain is the more debilitating than the pain itself. I was irritable, anxious, and depressed.
But here's the truth. Extended rest was the worst thing I could do for myself. It only made the healing slower. It allowed me to withdraw from normal life and sink deeper into depression.
I didn't have a regular job, other than being a homeschool mom, but people with difficult job situations, ones where they don't make enough or they don't like their work or the co-workers or their boss, often find the need/avoidance to go back into the work environment also adds stress.
These things are what clinicians call yellow flags. They're not red flags. Serious health issues should already be ruled out. Yellow flags are the caution signals. If these are present, stress is heightened, there's less room for movement, and we need to pay attention to our bodies.
At Christmas this year, we had all four of our children and their spouses and our nine grandchildren here for about five days. Some were here longer on the front end of the holiday and some longer on the back end, but for five days I had 18 people in and out of my house. I've gotten lots better at delegating meals, not trying to plan out all the time, and enjoying each family member. But this is a yellow flag for me. It is a wonderful, joyous gathering, but it can also be stressful, a yellow flag. So I pay attention to my body and rest when I need it. I'm mindful my alarm levels could be higher than normal. I take care of myself.
Everything you go through during your pain experience can keep the alarm extra sensitive.
*Fear *Ongoing pain *Failed treatment *Different explanations * Work or family stressors
Can you name your yellow flags?
Next week we'll talk about what we can do about them.