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Brain-Body Pain Disorders (Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue) - Quick Facts

  • It was not too long ago that the field of medicine dismissed non-mechanical pain.
  • Females with brain-body pain are disproportionality ignored.
  • Brain-Body ailments now have very clear EEG signatures.

‘It’s all in your head’ was the usual phrase most people with Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, elusive nerve pain, and other forms of Chronic and / or non-mechanical pain would hear. To which we respond: “Of course it is, where else would you expect it to be’!  This is not an insult, it is a fact. Mechanical pain is the easy stuff! With a broken leg, a torn muscle or a herniated disk pain travels from injury sight to the brain and back again. The challenge is when that pathway becomes reversed or diffused! Here once again we look to the brain to see if there are classic EEG markers. We also look at the whole person. Brain-body pain, like all pain, is governed by the pain messaging systems –but some forms are highly intertwined with trauma and circumstance. With the EEG as our guide, we work to slowly unravel the braid. Unbinding pain from present and past towards a more comfortable future.


Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue

For pain conditions and chronic fatigue, please book a 5 point ClinicalQ  intake with Dr Hartney or Dr Mari Swingle.

About the Conditions

Pain and fatigue are normal responses to injury and tiredness, however, either can become excessive or chronic due to a number of factors. There is a strong psychological component to chronic pain and fatigue conditions, firstly, because these experiences originate in the brain, which sends signals along nerve pathways to encourage us to avoid pain, rest, and recuperate, and secondly, because the nerve pathways that signal physical pain are also responsible for signaling emotional pain. As a result, chronic pain and fatigue conditions are distressing, and often exacerbated by the emotional exhaustion of living with these unpleasant sensations, day in day out, and because they are experienced more intensely, the more unprocessed emotional “baggage” we are carrying. This may be from past traumatic incidents, such as accidents, illnesses, or violence, or from emotional trauma, including trauma from childhood.

Recognizing the importance of psychological healing in chronic pain treatment does not mean you are imagining your pain – an unfortunate message that many fibromyalgia and other chronic pain and chronic fatigue patients have received by medical professionals. It means that effective treatment involves making both physical & psychological changes to long-standing patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Recommended Neurofeedback Treatment

Pain often overlaps with emotional trauma. Trauma will typically show up as deregulation of the normal alpha wave (8-12hz) response of a 50% increase in alpha waves at the rear of the brain, between eyes open and eyes closed conditions. This alpha “blunting” is associated with a suppression of emotions, and often an impact on short-term memory. As well as being caused by traumatic and stressful events, pain is in itself a chronic stressor, causing constant tension and an inability to relax. This will typically show up as elevated fast frequencies in the beta and gamma range, particularly at the rear of the brain, combined with a deficiency of calming, slower frequency theta waves. Protocols to reverse these patterns, often conducted in a recliner with eyes closed, can help to re-train the brain to allow the client to relax / quiet, and get back in touch with repressed emotions and memories. Occasionally, an opposite pattern of excessive alpha waves is noted, more often associated with dissociation and difficulty staying present and grounded, again, often combined with patterns of anxiety and hypervigilance.

In addition, elevated delta and slower alpha waves are often observed in chronic pain and chronic fatigue. If these patterns are evident in the brain map, clients often report improved energy and pain patterns when trained down with Neurofeedback.

Many clients who have difficulty relaxing / quieting benefit from adjunctive peripheral biofeedback, such as heart rate variability and respiration training, and feedback on specific muscles that have been chronically tense. This helps clients to learn to integrate mental & physical relaxation. In addition, clients may benefit from Cranio-Sacral Therapy (CST), a gentle, hands-on manual therapy that releases tensions as well as restrictions deep in the body, which can develop over years of stress-related tension.

Typically, these adjunctive modalities will be integrated into a regular neurofeedback session with no additional charge.

Additional Recommended Psychological Services

Several psychotherapeutic treatments are helpful for supporting clients with chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be particularly helpful with single incident traumas, such as car accidents, which are often a precipitating factor in chronic pain and fatigue. For more complex pain patterns, particularly those related to childhood illnesses or long-standing patterns of pushing oneself to the point of exhaustion, Schema Therapy can be helpful for changing long-standing life patterns. Counselling can also be a positive complement to Neurotherapeutic treatment.

Recommended Reading

Biofeedback for the Brain

Managing Pain Before it Manages You

Further reading...

Chronic Pain

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Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Disease

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