Fall Hits 2016: Psychology, Neuroscience, & Pain

Click here for this edition’s Table of Contents


  • “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare

Psychology, Mental Health, Mind Training

1) Buy a djembe and drum up some good vibes.. “When viewed holistically, communal drumming creates a physical and emotional experience of belonging that addresses one of the core psychological components of depression: feelings of isolation, alienation, invisibility and worthlessness.”

2) “What people are paying attention to doesn’t just reveal who they are… it makes them who they are in that moment”’ –Robert Cialdini

3) Your narrative identity is important.  Is your life a contamination story?  Or a redemption story?

4) Dropping forms. “Well, consistency is good, right? Only to the degree that we want to be who we have been.”

5) A different kind of medication – “A single dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, can lift the anxiety and depression experienced by people with advanced cancer for six months or even longer, two new studies show.”

6) Sleep and the circadian cycle continues to show its importance in research.  This latest research shows how disrupting the circadian cycle can lead to “helplessness, behavioral despair, and anxiety-like behavior”

7) Looking at trees decreases your stress more than looking at buildings #GetOutside

8) Want to soothe your cognitive dissonance (both conscious and unconscious)?  Put on some music.  “Thus, because we constantly grapple with cognitive dissonances, we created music, in part, to help us tolerate – and overcome – them.”

9) It’s a dynamic system.  It’s all connected.  “increased levels of inflammatory cytokines are associated with increased rates of depression and psychosis, and that treatment to reduce cytokine levels can reduce symptoms of depression”

10) Marvin Minsky on why our brain doesn’t separate emotion and thinking.  It’s all emotional states.  And emotional states bias thinking.  “The word beautiful means I’m in a state where I can’t see all the flaws in it.”

11) A crime-plagued McDonald’s in Dallas started playing classical music.  Their crime rates dropped dramatically.  Environment matters.

12) The body-mind connection is real.  Here’s a classic study to support it “In study 1, participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a “warmer” personality (generous, caring); in study 2, participants holding a hot (versus cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a gift for a friend instead of for themselves.”

13) We need physical contact for our well-being.  “The answer is that interpersonal touch is a crucial form of social glue.”

14) People are apart of your enviornment too.  “Partners of people with depression are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, research has found.”

15) “Most of the bad feelings you have are caused by irrational beliefs.  Next time you’re feeling negative emotions, don’t focus on the event that you think “caused” them. Ask yourself what belief you hold about that event. And then ask yourself if it’s rational”

16) Intermittent fasting continues to gain momentum…skip breakfast to decrease depression

17) 3 Things That Successful Cultures Share: 1) Good People 2) Dedication to Improvement 3) Social Facilitation

“uses social facilitation to foster an environment of continuous improvement and accountability to the team”

18) Writing your story is good for your mental health – “Professor James Pennebaker has shown that just 20 minutes of writing your story for 4 days has the power to dramatically improve your life. It helps people overcome anxiety, tragedy and heartache. Those who wrote about their problems felt happier, slept better, and even got better grades.”


19) Cortical representation is interesting. These researchers are asking better questions: “That we found no relationship between S1 representation and the duration of CRPS signs and symptoms is intriguing and raises some novel possibilities: is the difference in S1 representation between hemispheres pre-morbid and does it reflect a vulnerability to CRPS onset? Or might the difference between hemispheres arise early on in the disease, for instance soon after injury or during immobilisation?”

20) Now we can tell our significant others that it’s for an altered state of consciousness -“rhythmic sexual stimulation – if intense enough and if it lasts long enough – can boost neural oscillations at correlating frequencies, a process called “neural entrainment.”


21) This is some good shit.  “Swearing can add emotion and colour to a description, salience to a statement or be used as a means of acceptance – the willingness to break a cultural taboo in front of others creates an atmosphere of informality and a sense of community. Swearing can also act as a cathartic means to cope with pain.”

22) Reorganize your pain neurotag:

1) Explore/Find safe movement

2) Go for a walk outside #justamemory

23) “Age, anxiety, catastrophizing and insomnia associated with MSK pain severity” -Derek Griffin

24) “Optimism decreased the negative influence of pain catastrophizing on shoulder function, but not pain intensity.” #BePositive

25) This is one of the better pain articles I’ve read in awhile – “It is important to clarify here that although we talk about the mind, thinking and emotions in relation to pain, the actual experience of pain emerges in the person and is felt in the body or the space in which the body should reside (for many biological reasons). The notion that pain is in the brain or in the head is nonsense. And, we are more than a brain.”

26) This is a great article on Dr. Sarno with plenty of links regarding pain science and the biopsychosocial influence.

 “Furthermore, Dr. Sarno also began to see associations between emotional distress, early life adversity, and certain personality profiles (notably perfectionism and the need to please) and the onset of back pain and other so-called functional syndromes, such as headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. And most importantly, he found that when a patient is diagnosed with having a psychosomatic illness and given a clear understanding of that process, many people have dramatic resolutions of their symptoms, even if they were of a long-standing nature.”…”Over time, a few other physicians and therapists began using Dr. Sarno’s methods and they had equally impressive results. Research studies came out showing that most people with chronic back pain do not have a clearly defined medical explanation and that MRIs are abnormal in the majority of adults who do not have back pain. Studies of surgery for back pain have not shown better results than non-surgical interventions. Injections for back pain have not been shown to be better than placebo injections. Studies of brainimaging show that physical pain and emotional pain are equivalent and that emotionally laden regions of the brain (rather than somatosensory areas) are activated in chronic back pain. And emerging research shows that psychological interventions that target emotionsare showing significant results.”

27) How do you adapt to millions of years of harsh and painful conditions?  Evolve the ability to dim sensory perception to modulate pain.  “Evolutionary tweaks to the amino acids in their pain receptors make naked mole rats extremely insensitive to pain after they are born.”

28) Sure, diagnoses and biomechanical talk can cause fear. But it can also cause ease, understanding, and social belonging. “These results are indicative of social exclusion of patients with pain for which there is no clear medical explanation.”  And remember that loneliness is linked to increased pain…

29) +2000 patient study shows that expectations dictate outcomes

30) I like using the LANSS questionnaire.  I have my patients with signs and symptoms of central sensitization fill it out.  It helps them understand that what they’re feeling is normal.  It helps them feel that others have these symptoms too.  See #28

31) “Insomnia and short sleep duration are risk factors for developing chronic pain” -Mary O’Keefe

32) People always like videos


33) Regarding Opioid Induced Hyperalgesia, “Your biology fights back and says, ‘I’m blindfolded to pain by all these chemicals. I need to be able to sense pain again.” -Martin Angst

34) But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater…”There is no question that in many cases opioids have been used inappropriately (prescribed too much or too little, given at too high or too low of a dose) for many individuals suffering with pain. But, it is also a very effective drug for many people in pain. Opioids help reduce acute nociception and can potentially reduce the risk of developing chronic pain for those in the more acute phase. They can also be an effective part of a comprehensive chronic pain treatment for some. My hope is that those of us in the physical therapy profession educate ourselves properly and understand how to talk to our patients about the use of opioids, because they will ask us.”-Korzy Zimmer

35) It’s an epidemic


36) Ask your patients if they take any pain medication.  Educate them on how to use medicine after surgeries and injuries.  Be a responsible provider.


The main reason I do this blog is to share knowledge and to help people become better clinicians/coaches. I want our profession to grow and for our patients to have better outcomes. Regardless of your specific title (PT, Chiro, Trainer, Coach, etc.), we all have the same goal of trying to empower people to fix their problems through movement. I hope the content of this website helps you in doing so.

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