Chronic pain, doctor visits, no answers- could chronic pain actually be a nervous system problem? Psychologist Dr. Les Aria thinks so. He challenges that we can’t heal emotionally or physically unless we feel safe. Further inspection of the brain shows that chronic pain and trauma share the same neural pathways. All a person needs to develop chronic pain is a perfect storm of some risk factors (adverse childhood experiences, people-pleasing and perfectionistic tendencies, and chronic stress), an injury or trauma, a transition to fear and avoidance of the pain, and then a new neural pathway is developed in the emotional part of the brain. This leaves the nervous system stuck in fight-or-flight or even Dorsal Vagal, also called “shut down.” In these states, there is no healing but survival-mode and defensiveness.
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is commonly used for anxiety and trauma because it sends the nervous system cues of safety and helps the person to get out of fight-or-flight. Dr. Aria took it a step further and used the SSP to treat his client’s with chronic pain. He has used it on hundreds of people and found the best results for those with headaches/migraines, IBS, and Fibromyalgia. These are such common conditions in our stressed out, busy world so to understand what’s going on in the nervous system and have an intervention to rebalance it is very exciting news!
Missy Horowitz, LPC
Tame Your Tiger Program Director