The Brain Loves a Story!

Hey Friends! Welcome to our blog!

Today we’re talking about your brain, stories, how you can remember things better, and move better so sit back, relax, and enjoy!

We had the pleasure of hosting RockTape FMT Basic and Performance over the weekend (if you haven’t taken a RockTape course, check out the link here and sign up!) taught by Jon Mulholland, DC. Every time we host, I always gain another take away that I missed in the course previously. This time it was the RockTape “Process of Discovery” (more on this later)

At dinner the night before, Jon was telling Manish Saha, MD and I about a book he was reading called Lifespan: Why We Age-and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair, PhD. We talked about how the body responds to a stimulus differently IF it knows that it will end. For example, if exposed to a 3 minute cold shower, this is a short term stress response that will end. You are in control. This is much different than being submerged in ice cold water for an unknown period of time. This is stress on the body with no finite end point. Thus, the brain cannot predict when the stress of the cold will end, it enters survival mode.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown and her work. In her book Rising Strong, one of the phrases Brené uses when having tough conversations is “The Story I’m Making Up…”. Brene uses this because it provides honest, transparent, and vulnerable communication. Think about it…how often to you make up “conspiracy theories” about what’s going on because you didn’t ask a direct question and you made an assumption or STORY about it. We love stories.

Netflix has a new Docuseries called The Mind, Explained. On the episode about Memory, I learned the most efficient way for people to memorize massive amounts of data was through telling a story. In the show, one of the they interviewed a young woman who competes in memory competitions. She was able to memorize tons of random numbers by telling herself an abstract story.

In this part of the story (see what I did there?) you’re probably like Nick what the heck does this have to do with movement and pain and the process of discovery? Well friends here we go….

So here’s the thing. Your brain is wired for survival and will do whatever it takes for you to keep going. All the time your nervous system is taking information in through your senses (touch/feel, auditory, visual, proprioceptive, taste, and smell). Before you are CONSCIOUSLY aware of some to this information your brain is making decisions about your next move and is predicting the future (the story) based on past experiences.

So what???

When you are experiencing pain, your nervous system is under threat. Remember that you are wired for survival. Your brain knows the “story of walking”. In response, your body will adapt by making things tight, painful, weak, and overly sensitive. Often, before we are even consciously aware that there is a problem, we’ve begun adapting the way we move and operate in our environment. These compensatory strategies can often overload structures in other areas of the body and causing even more dysfunction.

This is why often when patients come into the clinic for low back or hip pain we might be looking at how well their ankles move. Perhaps, an old ankle sprain (even a minor strain) set up this compensatory cascade and now the hip or low back is constantly being overloaded. Especially if treatment has been focused on the painful areas with little relief, you should look outside the box.

What I hope you take a way from this is a few things…First, remember the power of stories. Knowing that something will end automatically makes me feel less stressed. If know I’m going to go for a half hour run I might feel like I’m going to die during it but I know it will end when my Apple Watch tell me. BUT, if I’m running from a tiger I’m going to be super stressed out because I’m running for my life. Imagine how many of these “low key stressors'“ you have in your life you what you can do to improve them. Second, have the courage to ask better questions. Don’t make assumptions or conspiracy theories up in your head! This is something I’ve worked on a lot. Total game changer! And when it comes to expanding your mind, try this next time you go grocery shopping. Instead of writing everything down (or putting it in your phone), test yourself by telling yourself a story about what you need at the story. It will help improve your memory.

And when it comes to movement I give you this advice…when you walk into our clinic it is our job on the first visit to learn about you. What is your story? We want to watch you walk, squat, lunge, deadlift, throw, etc. Do the things that hurt. Then, figure out why? What story is your brain getting that is making it feel so unsafe that it’s causing you pain, discomfort, or tightness? How can we change this input to get you moving better and feeling better. We need to create a therapeutic alliance so we can work TOGETHER to get you moving better and feeling better. Click here to book an appointment and find out!