Emotions Impact Pain

I never understood the impact of emotions on pain until I studied for my hypnotherapy diploma back in 2013 and then took a pain management diploma last year.  I also didn’t realise how changeable pain is, it isn’t constant and it is controlled by our brain.

When people have a bad accident the emotional state of the patient is critical to recovery which is why medics often give high doses of medicines such as ketamine to relax the patient so that they don’t really know what is happening, reducing the chances of going into shock.

When I went for spinal surgery I was quite emotional knowing it was a 5 hour procedure with a high risk of paralysis or nerve damage, I was shaky and trying to be brave but my consultant and surgical team understood how I was feeling.  They gave me IV Ketamine as they were setting up my heart monitors and getting the operating table ready as I had to lay face down for my operation, I did not care what they were doing to me I laughed hysterically as the drug took effect then fell unconscious, meaning I was not stressed at all whilst they were putting me to sleep.

After surgery I began to notice that the more I fought (in my mind) not actually fighting anyone ­čśéwith the pain that came with developing fibromyalgia and recovering from surgery, the worse it got.

Fibromyalgia increases nervous system sensitivity as well as other other important roles it controls the messages that travel to and from our brain for pain management.  Have you noticed that when you’re sad, upset or in another ‘negative’ mood that pain feels worse, but if someone makes you laugh or you spot something that makes you smile inside the pain reduces, even if it’s a brief respite?  Have you noticed that when you wake up happy and the sun is shining that you wake up feeling less stiff and in less pain?  You might be saying to yourself ‘no’ but you do I assure you, it might not be for long but you will. 

I want you to try something for me, the next time you are feeling happy, are laughing, maybe you’re outside with your family having fun, just stop and do a mental scan of your body and compare it to when you have been in a ‘negative’ mood and I promise you your symptoms will feel much better, reduced, maybe give even forgotten about them!!

This does not mean it’s all in your head, pain is controlled through a complex system involving our nervous system which travels up to our brain through our spinal cord and how the pain is felt depends on the individual, emotions, past memories etc.  Some people can handle lots of pain.  Before my operation my twisting spine was very painful but I still went to work and the gym for 18 months and I had to have my painkillers increased to 20-25 a day until I begged the doctor to do something as none of them worked anymore and fentanyl was looking like the next option and no way was I quitting my job!! But now one little episode of pulling my back, a headache, banging my arm or whatever can quickly become so intense I can end up paralysed in pain or hysterical.

I had a very stressful weekend once dealing with some inappropriate behaviour of some I knew last year and the stress brought on a panic attack, something I’ve not had since I was 17.  I developed a migraine that was so painful I could not see, had to sit in the dark, my heart rate and blood pressure were off the chart.  No medication helped and the ambulance service rushed me to hospital for a potential brain scan.  I was horrified and embarrassed when we realised it was nothing more than a migraine.  Only the 3rd time I’ve ever had one and they had never been that painful, welcome to fibro.

Painkillers are a band aid for pain. Some are very effective but the brain gets used to them and more or stronger versions are needed, not a viable long term strategy for chronic pain.  My painful twisting spine was resolved with surgery but Fibromyalgia is in a league of its own as there is NO cure and not a pill that will keep the symptoms successfully under control long term.  

The nervous system is complex, feel free to read more about how it works here. I not only talk from being a qualified hypnotherapist and pain management therapist but someone who has Fibromyalgia.  I believe the messages/chemicals that are supposed to travel back from our brain to our nerves during pain do not work properly and no operation or pill is going to cure such a complex system.  Even if they did invent something to help at what cost would this be to our health.  All medications give side effects as they change our mind and bodies state.


I know some of you are desperate for a cure and hate having this condition and let me be honest I’d give a limb if I thought I could get rid of it but I can’t.  So I do the next best thing and accept it is part of me, fibro will never go away and me and my fibro (I’m thinking of giving it a pet name) have to coexist and get on.  Like you might have to with a naughty sibling or a demanding irritating boss at work.

Learn from your experiences; the most powerful skill you can learn is how to control pain, how to reduce the length of time a flare up lasts and how you react to both of these! 

My flare ups are rare and they don’t last longer than the same day they occur as I use my mind to help me get through it.  I can’t stop all flare ups as I want to live, I want to work, I want to go out with my family and I want to have holidays, but I can change how I feel about them.

My top tips for dealing with pain:-

  • Remember it will pass, pain changes and is not constant, it is like a volume control on a radio and you can change it in any direction you want.
  • Stay positive, if you are struggling then have a good cry and then do something to make you laugh.
  • Exercise helps and reduces pain long term whilst releasing endorphins like a natural anti depressant.
  • Stay away from fibromyalgia support pages that focus on negativity as this will NOT help you at all.  
  • Try yoga, not once but every day for just 5-10 minutes.  Have you ever met a miserable unhappy yoga teacher?  No of course not.  It’s relaxing and gives you focus and mental clarity.
  • Only temporarily increase painkillers then cut back asap.  Remember these are not the solution, they are a band aid.
  • Listen to music, meditate, undertake self hypnosis to lift your mood, clear your head, take you to your happy place ­čśŐ
  • This last one might sound crazy but I actually use my headspace app and focus my breathing through the area that hurts and it changes the pain.

One last thing do not sit and stew about the pain as this will feel increase the pain.  Talk to someone and if you haven’t got anyone you are more than welcome to talk to me ­čśü

Pain flare ups with fibromyalgia

I find there are a few reasons our bodies hurt, for me I’ve put them in to 3 categories:-

  • Psychological; for instance when I get stressed or I am under pressure, say from work, my brain then relays this into physical pain into my weak spots – my spine.
  • Not using pacing; doing too many activities and not resting enough, again my brain warns me by creating physical pain, mostly into my weak spots, my spine or all over aches and pains in my muscles or skin pain by touch, allodynia.
  • An injury, say from twisting my body or falling over.  I find that with fibro I hurt a lot by just simple acts I performed before I had fibro which might never have caused any lasting pain.

It’s important to understand which of these we feel during a flare up.  For example when I developed fibromyalgia and I didn’t know I had it and I was sure I had another serious problem with my back.  The pain was actually my heightened sensitivity to pain and the fact I was trying to undertake lots of activities such as before I had back surgery.  But when I learnt I had developed fibro I realised that my back did not need further investigation and that I had to learn to pace myself and I understood that my brain was increasing the pain signals through my nervous system instead of in a non fibro sufferer reducing the pain signals.  

An example would be falling and hurting your ankle with a sprain that Fibromyalgia could increase the pain and symptoms such as touch and to feel more like a break.  It took my sprained ankle 2 years to heal instead of a normal 3-9 months, even for a bad sprain!

Plus when you understand how pacing works, you can begin to understand your limits and reduce activities to a level that flare ups are rare and manageable.  Keeping logs and diaries are a great way to help you learn about your condition, body and reduce the boom or bust scenarios.  Please read here for more information. 


The above shows you how boom or bust works and learning to pace activities will help to reduce or even eliminate these.

Now I’m not an expert, I came home yesterday in tears as I pushed myself too hard this week at work.  I called my new manager and asked to come and see me this week as I needed to talk through my new role, his and my expectations and make it clear I will not risk my health for work.  He agreed and seemed generally caring, which is a start.

I have tried to deal with fibromyalgia by popping pain pills but this treatment does not work.  Eventually our brains get used to them and then you have to keep moving onto stronger medications.  I weaned off 5 tablets and now find that I deal with fibro much better by just taking them during flare ups, as they seem to actually work and the rest of the time I use a holistic approach, I’ll give you a brief run down of done of the things I use:-

  • Regular massage
  • Magnesium flakes in my bath
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Pacing, spreading out activities with regular rest
  • I use a hydraulic desk and spinal chair at work so I can work standing and sitting
  • Heat, I have hot water bottles everywhere
  • I take a varied amount of natural minerals and vitamins
  • I use positive affirmations all the time, by saying out loud positive things such as I love mornings, I am going to have a great day today
  • I use essential oils in a device click here

I am not sure where you are on your journey with fibromyalgia, but if you understand why you get flare ups and increased pain you can learn to reduce or remove these episodes.