The Theory of Relativity and Your Relatives!

Einstein’s famous theory of relativity proposed that matter can distort space and time. Now, it appears, that pain can distort your surroundings, as well.

A new study recently published in the journal Neurology suggests that chronic pain can have the same effect. Neuroscientists from the University of South Australia, Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy, studied people with chronic back pain, the most common painful condition.

The researchers presented identical vibration stimuli to the painful area and a non-painful area and noted that the stimuli were processed more slowly by the brain if they came from the painful area. The most striking finding, however, was that the same effect occurred if the stimuli were delivered to a healthy body part being held near the painful area. Lead author of the study, Professor Lorimer Moseley, from the University of South Australia, says it was not altogether surprising that, in people with chronic pain, there are changes in the way the brain processes information from and about the painful body part. “But what is remarkable is that the problem affects the space around the body as well as the body itself,” Prof Moseley says.

Experiments showed that if a hand was held near the painful area of the back, the brain would almost ‘neglect’ that hand. “The potential similarity between our findings and the time-space distortion predicted by the relativity theory is definitely intriguing,” Prof Moseley says. “Obviously, here it is not external space that is distorted but the ability of the brain to represent that space within its neural circuitry.”

“This finding opens up a whole new area of research into the way the brain allows us to interact with the world and how this can be disrupted in chronic pain.” So, got a family member you don’t really want to be around? Keep that person on the side of your body that hurts most! Your brain will neglect him/her!

When a Good Poking is Just Not Good Enough

Guess what? Acupuncture again today – YIPPEE! Felt absolutely awful on the day after it last week (supposedly that was my body getting rid of toxins), but I was still excited about a positive step towards managing my FM. Anyway, I’m lying there with the little altar thingy on my belly button and needles poking out of the top of my head, my forehead, my legs and my arms; and thinking about buying watermelon and cigarettes at the supermarket on the way home, maybe an Easter Bunny, too (or two!) and how to make it easier to vote on the entries in the Fibromyalgia Awareness Day Video Competition.

My eyes are squeezed shut as a defence against the fluoro lighting and I realise that I’m not really relaxed at all. So, my brain starts chatting to the rest of me:

Deep breath – ok, relax those shoulders…let them sink into the pillow behind my head. breathe deeply. Hey! this would be a perfect time to meditate! if only you knew how to mediate…hmm, clear your head – am I supposed to be thinking about nothing, something, a beach? think about your third eye (that’s supposed to be the area just above the area between your eyes)…weird shapes forming in the darkness of my closed eyes – watermelon – stop! where did that shape go? There behind that even blacker cloud. Now I can see it…doesn’t that look like spades around a circle? oh, with some clubs embossed on top? – watermelon…I wonder if the lady who will cut up my watermelon is working today – stop. look for the shape…maybe that’s meditation. or maybe I should learn to meditate before I try it for myself – ha! maybe I’ll have to write a post about this – ooh, the shape is zooming in and out…or am I closing my eyes too tightly? concentrate on the shape…clear your head of other thoughts – watermelon…

…and so it went until my acupuncturist popped in to extract the needles.

Supposedly, meditation can help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. Did my mind sound peaceful to you?

The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.[1]

I find it difficult to control my mind (at the moment, as do you, most probably). Many people have trouble with meditation at it seems as if their minds are like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. My mind doesn’t seem to need external stimuli; it hops from one thought to another like a frog in a pond.

Meditation is thought to influence the abnormal neurological pathways that make FM sufferers experience pain differently and have lower pain thresholds than those without the condition. It is understood to be due to an imbalance in both brain hormones and the processing of pain signals. Studies over the last 10 years have demonstrated that a regular meditation practice positively changes the way the brain is structured and how it functions.[2]

Furthermore, American professor of affective neuroscience Richard Davidson states: ‘What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before. Their mental practice has an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice enhances performance.’

It demonstrates,he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.

Accordingly, for me (after I practice some more), meditation is good medicine.

***Tomorrow, I’m trying a Pilates session – stay tuned!


[1] http://www.how-to-meditate.org/breathing-meditations.htm/

[2] Dr Daniel Lewis, Fibromyalgia and Meditation, http://www.fmaware.org/News28b55.html?i=g6jyL5vriNaHZxABsr2ZKA…