Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Bit More on Chronic Pain....

Firstly, to whoever found my blog by googling "cute blonde nice butt"...Sorry to disappoint, dude. It's all Native American & Irish up in here.

Secondly, when I wrote the post last week about my physical therapist explaining to me how chronic pain works & telling me it was likely safe to ignore the little twinges I'm still having in my hip flexor, there were some questions about the specifics and if I knew of any research citations. The questions reminded me that during my session my PT said that he'd give me some YouTube links that gave some good "general audience" explanations of what doctors, therapists, & neuroscientists understand, but then we both forgot. I emailed him about it & he sent me a couple of links that I think are very helpful. (Also fun to listen to, since apparently a lot of the best research on the subject comes out of Australia, and if listening to anyone talk about anything in an Australian accent isn't at least a tiny little ear party for you, I am not sure you have a soul.)

This one is short & sweet & involves neat cartoons:

This one is a 50 minute lecture by an Australian PT, but it's for a general audience, not experts, and it's actually pretty entertaining if you've got the patience to listen to the whole thing. It goes into a significant amount of detail about the science without getting too technical to follow:

Research sources are trickier because, unless you have an MD, they really are just virtually indecipherable and assume a high level of prior knowledge. (For example, here is the abstract for one of the papers he referenced. Here's another. Good luck.) And because a lot of the research is very new, it hasn't had much time to trickle down & get translated into everyday-normal-person English. BUT, I did find this page from, which I think does a fairly good job of hitting the high points. (It covers a lot of the same ground as the second YouTube link, just in less detail.)

One of the big takeaways from all of these sources for me was something fundamental about what pain is. For example, before I studied psychology & neuroscience in college, I used to think that our eyes basically worked like a camera: things in the world look a certain way, objectively, we look at it, the image goes into our brain, our brain processes the image, and that's kind of it.

But that's actually very, very far from the truth. Vision is in fact incredibly subjective, and the images we see are put together by our brains based partly on the physical properties of what we're looking at and partly based on environmental cues, past knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. (This is one of the reasons why eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and why many optical illusions work.)

It turns out that pain is constructed similarly. Far from an "objective," black-and-white response to outside stimulus, the experience of feeling pain is nearly always modulated by environmental cues, past knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. The same stimulus can result in two completely different pain (or non-pain) experiences depending on the circumstances. (The second YouTube video goes into a lot of detail about this.)

So the upshot, I guess, is that it's complicated. But super, super interesting, particularly when you're going through it.

* * *

Grand Total: 20.2 miles

    * 14 easy
    * 6.2 race


a.m. strength, lunchtime yoga, p.m. karate/light strength. JESUS I don't know what I did to my adductors on Monday but they freaking felt like ASS for the rest of the week.


5 easy. This was the day I went to see my PT, so I came home inspired to get a solid run in. A bit of hip flexor pain, but having my PT's blessing to ignore it made it soooo much easier to deal with.


Karate / light strength. I stayed up late Tuesday & so decided to sleep in a little, which meant I got to work later than usual, which made me feel guilty about leaving to go to yoga at lunch. :/


6 easy. Felt great. Still a tiny bit of hip flexor pain, but it's staying in that safe 1-2/10 range & not getting any worse.


a.m. strength + 2 easy. I have never been much for "shakeout" runs & was feeling so good Friday evening that I almost didn't want to jinx myself. Finally just went out & did it & felt better for it.


1 warm-up/6.2 race/1 cool-down = 7.2. Pssssshhhhbbbbttt who needs a cool down. Race report here. :)


Hard-earned rest, bitches!!

I'm leaving for Hawaii tomorrow, so it'll probably be radio silence for a week or so. Have a great week!! :D



  1. Thank you SO much for this! Have a safe, fun time!

  2. Thanks for all the hard work, Angela, interesting! I have someone who consistently arrives on my OTHER blog by googling "asshole". "Cute blonde nice butt" seems infinitely preferable!