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  • colinliggett

Safety versus Function - Pain and Neuroplasticity

Pain is an output of the brain, not an input. If the nervous system feels unsafe, it will likely output pain as a safety response.

Key Points:

  1. Chronic pain results from faulty movement patterns, which are triggered by a perceived threat by the limbic system. The Limbic system prioritizes safety over function.

  2. The baseless “fact” that it takes 3000-5000 repetitions to “re-train” proper movement - is completely untrue; movement can be re-trained in minutes.

  3. SensoriMotor Repatterning (SMR) identifies to the function part of our brain (neocortex) where a dysfunctional response is being triggered in the safety part of our brain (limbic system).

  4. The acupoint system is more than 5000 years old and is an integral part of how we function.

The “reptilian brain” and “limbic brain” are evolutionarily older parts of our brain, primarily operating by prioritizing safety. The “cerebral neocortex” is the newest part of our brain, located on the outer wall. The neocortex prioritizes function and facilitates a complex order of thinking.

I meet many new clients who have spent years in pain and, on their first session, tell me, “Physio A says it’s because of weak glutes,” or “Chiro B says it's due to a bulging disc,” etc. In my opinion, chronic pain is from an extremely complex pattern of dysfunctions caused by safety responses from our “Limbic Brain” (think fight, flight, or freeze versus rest and digest).

Can I tell what is causing a client's pain by the end of the first session? No, but I will have a pretty good road map for getting the client out of pain. This is because I have performed a multitude of tests to assess the neural function of various muscles, discovered inhibitory patterns that have resolved some of these dysfunctions, and started to note bigger-picture patterns that will likely provide long-term solutions.

The biggest takeaway from helping countless people out of chronic pain over many years is that the reason they are in pain is complex, multifactorial, and always rooted in the limbic system, which prioritizes safety over function.

There is good news! Our neocortex is a supercomputer, profoundly faster and more efficient than the most advanced quantum computers currently being developed by Google and military R&D facilities worldwide.

If only Western medicine, in its reductionist approach, could zoom out and see the bigger picture, they would understand that discoveries in neuroplasticity describe how the brain can solve pain mechanisms with an efficiency profoundly better than repetitive elastic band exercises.

“It can take 3000-5000 repetitions to “re-train” the proper movement.” Ever been told this by a therapist? It’s completely untrue - there is no research to back this up, yet in rehab it is a very commonly stated “fact”.

I can change faulty movement patterns in a matter of minutes. How? Faulty movement patterns result from the limbic system incorrectly changing movement control due to a perceived threat (from a previous injury, trauma, faulty sensory input, etc.).

The neocortex, however, wants to be as functional as possible. If the neocortex is shown a dysfunctional movement, such as an inhibiting left hip flexor, when a client stands on their right leg that previously sustained an ankle sprain. The neocortex identifies this as a non-functional response and wants to correct the movement pattern. In SensoriMotor Repatterning (SMR) I am simply identifying to the function part of our brain (neocortex) where a dysfunctional response is being triggered in the safety part of our brain (limbic system). Given enough specific information, the neocortex will immediately repattern the limbic response, creating a beautiful functional movement pattern and exhibiting the wonderful neuroplasticity of our supercomputer brain.

To my clients, it seems like magic, as the changes are so profound and quick. But it is really just neuroscience applied to a deep understanding of the nervous system in the context of the acupoint system. You know, that system used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), now known to go back at least 5000 years due to Otzi, the mummified Iceman, found to have tattoos over his body that correlate with acupoint locations. In the East, the acupoint system is still a very integrated part of medicine in hospitals and other healthcare environments.

Alas, I have no special powers, my kids would love it if I did! As my clients come to realize, via a thorough testing process of isolated muscle function, then larger muscle systems tested in functional movement positions. The most powerful computer in the world (your brain), is really really good at solving its own pain problems; I’m just the person who points it in the right direction.

You can book an SMR appointment with me here


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