February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

I think I have been a bit remiss in not mentioning this:


which is a great resource for people sufering in pain with education and advice on how to strat getting out of the quagmire of persistent pain and disability.

There are a number of resources, but I suggest you start with the video/powerpoint in “Understanding Pain” (Because, after all, that is the point of this blog!)



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A beautiful analogy

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment


This article is actually a responce to someonesquestion about avoiding procrastination. I really love the cartoon Albert-Snake description of the brain processes. It is very much in the same spirit as the Elephant-Rider-Path concept of change described in ‘switch,’ a great book about change.

Anyway, look at this for a beautiful analogy of our fundamental brain processes:


Actually, he’s got quite a few interesting posts about improvement in general. The kinds of things which are not directly related to pain, but ultimately can all help people deal with the situation they are in more effectively…




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January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Ok, so this:

isn’t purely about pain rehabilitation but I think its pretty inspiring for a lot of people. It shows you how much you can do for yourself with the right attitude – and also highlights how being told the wrong thing can really cause someone’s life to spiral down into horrendous disability..

Some Caveats: I would have to say that he does not directly mention pain as being the cause of his disabilty, but this is still relevant for people who want to rehab themselves from any condition. Reading between the lines of the video, and seeing the transformation he made, I would assume that pain was actually his primary diagnosis but it may not have been. I would have to assume that it wasn’t actually any major structural problems causing his disabilty, or if it was, then this video is an even more powerful demonstration of how there is a major difference between a structural problem, pain, and disability…

Also, when you boil it down, its not yoga or any particular exercise at all that transform’s Arthur -> it’s self-belief. There is a longer version of this video out there where his yoga teacher pretty much says this as well, and you can really see how it was just goddamn hard work which got his where he was – along with his belief that this hard work was really worth doing.


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grin and bear it…

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

grin and bear it…

I can’t help myself!  Another interesting blog based on some recent research.


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Mirror Pain

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Wow! Its been a long time since I’ve hada chance to update anything here.

This is a link to one of the blogs about pain I often read. Generally this site is very much research focused and can sometimes be a bit high-falutin’, but I thought that this particular one was a good little bit of interesting info for everyone out there:




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Optical illusions – vision and the brain…

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a fairly well known illusion, and one used by some well known pain researchers as a demonstration of how the subconscious brain is so unbelieveably fast at processing information before we are consciously aware of it.

This is one video of the illusion that I found online:

So? Why is this relevant to pain?

First, I should definitely say that this isn’t my idea. I first saw this on one of Lorimer Moseley’s videos about pain physiology, and then looked into it later myself. A fair bit of this explanation is a summary of one of his chapters in ‘Painful Yarns,’ which is a cracking book well worth a read.


1. There is no stigma associated with vision, so its a useful first look at some of the way the the brain works. Some of these ways are very similar to things that happen in pain perception as well, but pain gets all muddied up with social and emotional meanings which can make things messy, and people uncomfortable.

2. We like to think that ‘what you see is what you get’, or ‘seeing is believing.’ Light bounces off something out there in the world, into our eyes, through the lens and hits our retina. Cells in the retina convert the light into nerve signals where it goes into our brain (the visual cortex is right at the back by the way) where the signals are decoded and we see the world…

Wrong! Too simple I’m afraid…
If it were this simple, then visual illusions would not work. There is some extra trickiness in there, and its important!

3. I’ve had quite a few people argue strongly with me about this particular illusion. It is so strong and powerful, that even when you demonstrate the proof, people still refuse to believe it! Not just patients either – Its confounded highly educated people, who just won’t believe it!Just read the comments on this video (or any other Youtube video of this illusion) and you will see that this is a common response.

4. Yes, the brain actually takes in alot of information from the eyes, but it then does some pretty astounding stuff: “instantaneously, and without you knowing, your brain calls on all sorts of previous experiences: the things you have learnt – things that you know that you know and things that you don’t know that you know, your expectations, other sensory inputs, explicit memories and implicit memories.” (Painful Yarns, p29)

This activity moulds and massages the incoming visual information, and the conscious experience of vision is created by the brain. “The visual experience is not simply a picture of what is entering your eye, it is an interpretation of that information.” We don’t see the ‘facts’ – we see a sensible interpretation of the world.

5. That ‘sensible interpretation’ is why the two squares look different, even though they are, in fact, identical.

Here is the website of the guy who designed this illusion, with another proof & explanation:


And here is a copy of his explanation:

The visual system needs to determine the color of objects in the world. In this case the problem is to determine the gray shade of the checks on the floor. Just measuring the light coming from a surface (the luminance) is not enough: a cast shadow will dim a surface, so that a white surface in shadow may be reflecting less light than a black surface in full light. The visual system uses several tricks to determine where the shadows are and how to compensate for them, in order to determine the shade of gray “paint” that belongs to the surface.

The first trick is based on local contrast. In shadow or not, a check that is lighter than its neighboring checks is probably lighter than average, and vice versa. In the figure, the light check in shadow is surrounded by darker checks. Thus, even though the check is physically dark, it is light when compared to its neighbors. The dark checks outside the shadow, conversely, are surrounded by lighter checks, so they look dark by comparison.

A second trick is based on the fact that shadows often have soft edges, while paint boundaries (like the checks) often have sharp edges. The visual system tends to ignore gradual changes in light level, so that it can determine the color of the surfaces without being misled by shadows. In this figure, the shadow looks like a shadow, both because it is fuzzy and because the shadow casting object is visible.

The “paintness” of the checks is aided by the form of the “X-junctions” formed by 4 abutting checks. This type of junction is usually a signal that all the edges should be interpreted as changes in surface color rather than in terms of shadows or lighting.

As with many so-called illusions, this effect really demonstrates the success rather than the failure of the visual system. The visual system is not very good at being a physical light meter, but that is not its purpose. The important task is to break the image information down into meaningful components, and thereby perceive the nature of the objects in view.

And here is the rub (thanks to Lorimer…)

This final conclusion is immediately applicable to pain. Look:

The visual PAIN system is not very good at being a physical light DAMAGE meter, but that is not its purpose. The important task is to break the image information down into meaningful components, and thereby perceive the nature of the objects in view NEED FOR ACTION.

More placebo effect

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment

So, after that last post about the placebo effect, I ran into this article on some new research. This isn’t a nice little video to explain it unfortunately, but the summary is this:

The video possibly gets it a little bit wrong…
The placebo effect is can actually occur subconciously without us having any awareness at all of whether something might be good or bad for us.

At first I thought that was pretty obvious, that it was subconscious, but the difference here is that I was thinking that “consciously thinking something is good, will give a placebo effect” While this study implies that “your brain decides for you if it is good or bad before you are even aware of it”

This is a link to the summary I read:


and at the bottom of that page is a link to the entire article if you really want it.

Now, this will lead me into going out there and finding another video demonstration of the way the brain works in vision, and why its relevant for pain…



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The placebo effect

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment


I really like this little video. Its entertaining, well presented and really gives me a feeling of the power and majesty of our brains! He calls it weird, I call it awesome!

I think its quite thought provoking and well worth a view or two!
(just watch out for those unpredictable Youtube suggestions)

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The other 23 1/2 hours

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment


this isn’t specifically about pain, but I do think that this is another one of those nifty live-drawn cartoon videos, this time about all the amazing benefits of physical activity, and why just including a little bit of it in your day to day life can be oh so grand…

As before, watch out for Youtube’s suggestions afterwards, who knows what they’re goingto put up there!

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Pain in 5 minutes…

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment


First cab off the rank.
Its fast. Very fast. Don’t be scared!
The information is good, but I’ll happily acknowledge that it is a very rapid intro to a big topic, and so its a bit overwhelming for some people…

Heres the video. Just be wary of any of youtube’s ‘suggestions’ afterwards! I have no control over these and sometimes I find them decidedly unhelpful



The Art of Manliness

A modern, researched biopsychosocial filter for all that information you see about pain.

HealthSkills Blog

For health professionals supporting chronic pain self management

zen habits

A modern, researched biopsychosocial filter for all that information you see about pain.


A modern, researched biopsychosocial filter for all that information you see about pain.