What can we do to bring the alarm system back down to a normal resting level?
Simply understanding more about pain and how it works can lessen the pain. Education is therapy. If you understand that a significant part of your pain is likely due to an extra-sensitive nervous system, your alarm starts to calm down. You brain sees less of a threat. Pain eases.
Exercise calms the nervous system. Easy, gently aerobic exercise pumps blood and oxygen around the nerves. That blood and oxygen calms the nerves. Specific conditioning exercises can also make a difference in the nervous system.
In 1966, researchers recruited six college students to literally spend their summer in bed. After just three weeks in bed, the subjects experienced a deterioration in cardiovascular fitness that was equivalent to twenty years of aging.
Thirty years later, five of the six subjects were retested. Only two had continued to exercise with any regularity, and all had gained weight and body fat. Even so, the declines from thirty years of actually aging were less than those they had suffered during the original three weeks of bed rest.
Immediately after being tested, the five men were put on an aerobic exercise program, which included regular walking, jogging, and cycling. In just six months, the declines they had suffered over the previous thirty years were completely reversed. (D. K. McGuire et al., "A Thirty Year Follow-Up of the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study," Circulation 104 (2001): 1350-57) You can read the results of a third study done 40 years after the original here.
I remind myself of this study when I don't want to go for my walk.
The body also contains a natural medication system that we can access to help bring an extra sensitive nervous system back to to its normal sensitivity. The medication system includes relaxation, meditation or centering prayer, sleep, and breathing. Learning techniques to incorporate these practices into our lives can make a difference in our level of pain.