Locker Room Talk & Shots Podcast: Neuroplastic Pain Could Be Affecting Your Sex Life
Has chronic pain put a stop to your hot sex game? I sat down to talk about sex and chronic pain with Rose Covenant, also known as the Pain-Free Mentor on Locker Room Talk & Shots Podcast. She hit the locker room ready to offer her insights into recovering from chronic pain using approaches such as pain science and neuroplasty education, mind-body connection tools, somatic healing, and inner child healing. By the end of our chat, she mapped out what chronic pain (neuroplastic pain) is, how it can affect your sex life, and how to start healing and get back to banging like the hot sex goddesses you know you are.
You can watch the full interview here:
You can listen to the audio-only interview here:
Chronic Pain, Sex & Healing: What You Need to Know
In my interview with, Covenant she shared her personal journey – from her struggle with chronic pain to her rediscovery of sexual pleasure. She explains that there is stigma around discussing chronic pain’s impact on sex lives. Whether it’s from the lack of understanding of chronic pain in the medical world of the shame around taboo topics like sex, people with chronic pain tend to struggle in their intimate lives and relationships. She says, “Remember, it’s not just about the pain; it’s about understanding it, communicating it, and forming a trusting relationship with your body”. In my conversation with Covenant, she debunked some common myths about women’s pleasure and offered tips on establishing effective communication and boundaries in one’s intimate life while introducing listeners to neuroplastic pain.
Understanding Chronic Pain
The realm of chronic pain is a vast and complex one, intertwined with various aspects of our lives – from our day-to-day functioning to our most intimate moments. The impacts of chronic pain extend far beyond the physical, often seeping into our mental and emotional states, our relationships, and our overall quality of life.
The world of pain neuroscience presents an intriguing landscape that holds the keys to understanding and overcoming chronic pain. It revolves around the concept of neuroplasty, which pertains to the brain’s remarkable ability to change and adapt. As Covenant explains, chronic pain often results from our brain and nervous system getting stuck in a loop of danger signals, even after our physical bodies have healed. This is called neuroplastic pain. Retraining the brain to understand that these sensations are no longer dangerous is a crucial part of the healing process.
What is Neuroplastic Pain?
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize and adapt by forming new neural connections throughout a person’s life. It can be both beneficial and problematic when it comes to pain perception. In the context of chronic pain, neuroplasticity may refer to changes in the brain’s structure and function that occur as a result of persistent or long-term pain.
Chronic pain can lead to alterations in the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, as it adapts to the ongoing pain signals. These changes can sometimes result in heightened pain sensitivity or a perception of pain even when there is no apparent tissue damage. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “central sensitization.”
Managing Neuroplastic Pain & Our Intimate Lives
The mind-body connection is another integral aspect of managing chronic neuroplastic pain. Our emotions and mental states have a profound influence on our physical well-being. Often, chronic neuroplastic pain can be a manifestation of accumulated stress, suppressed emotions, or long-term survival mode. Acknowledging and addressing these underlying issues can be a significant step towards alleviating chronic pain.
A less-discussed yet crucial aspect of chronic pain is its impact on our intimate lives. Convenient candidly shares her personal experience with this issue, highlighting how chronic pain can create a rift between our minds and bodies during intimate moments. It can lead to a disconnection from our physical selves, resulting in sex that feels more like an obligation than a source of pleasure.
Challenging the common misconception that only a few women can experience pleasure from penetration, Rose emphasizes that every woman is capable of enjoying it. The key lies in establishing effective communication, setting boundaries, and fostering a trusting relationship with our bodies. It’s about being fully present during intimate moments, consciously checking in with our bodies, and ensuring that we are a ‘full body yes’ to the experience.
Covenant uses a unique approach to helping people heal from neuroplastic pain- the Recalibration Effect. This method involves overcoming the analytical mind, rewiring the brain, regulating the nervous system, and emotionally reprocessing. The emphasis is on mindfulness practices and creating safety both internally and externally.
Chronic Pain & Getting Back to Good Sex
The following outlines the steps that Covenant walks her chronic neuroplastic pain clients through in order to free themselves from pain get back to enjoying a healthy intimate life:
- It starts with getting past your analytical mind. This may involve going through the peer-reviewed journal articles so that your analytical mind can really accept, yes, your brain is causing the pain and yes, it can cause pain that is this severe, and yes, all pain is real. It step also includes going through your timeline of symptoms. Often, once you go through your timeline, you discover, oh, I’ve actually had symptoms for many, many years. Maybe it was anxiety before, maybe it was nausea before, and maybe it was headaches before the pain started.
- Next is brain rewiring. This step is a mix of mindset work, So bringing yourself out of those self-critical, negative rabbit holes and being in a place of anxiety and worry. When you’re in pain, you’re always thinking about it and wondering things like, “Can I go to dinner with friends? Because then I’m going to have to sit. Can I do this?” And that it takes up a lot of bandwidth. So bring yourself back more into the present. The pain reprocessing techniques for this are basically bringing the fear down. Your brain processes emotional and physical pain in the same place. That’s why your brain can misinterpret emotional pain and flick on the physical pain signal. So bringing down the fear is going to also start dissolving the pain cycle at the root.
- Then we get into nervous system regulation. This is a mix of somatically getting into your body and breathing to be able to manually bring your nervous system out of fight or flight and into rest and digest, back into safety.
- Emotional reprocessing this is the biggest piece. This is basically working through whatever accumulation of emotional stuff that you have from the past and also starting to let go of some of those behavioral or thought patterns that we have that are ultimately related to something our great-great-grandmother passed down. A lot of it goes quite far back. The work is getting into new patterns and then learning how to be okay and present and aware of big emotions coming up, allowing them to come through the body instead of contracting and compartmentalizing and subconsciously suppressing them.
- Then we get into the boundaries and the communications, because when we’re talking about safety in the body, it’s also creating external safety. These are the big courageous conversations with partners. And the theme throughout all of this is also a mindfulness piece. Being able to keep your body out of fight or flight as much as possible. It’s just about shifting your body’s default, your brain’s default, from hypervigilance back to safety. Most of my clients notice, within the first six to eight weeks, a shift in their intensity of symptoms. Some clients will even see no symptoms at all.
- Finally, there’s that transition point where you’re continuing to give yourself messages of safety. This can include doing some of the inner child work, really tending to the different parts of yourself that are calling for safety.
Chronic neuroplastic pain is not merely about physical discomfort. It’s about understanding its roots, communicating it effectively, and forming a trusting relationship with our bodies. With guidance from experts like Rose Covenant and a commitment to healing, it’s possible to reclaim our bodies, regain control over our intimate lives, and alleviate chronic pain. This journey is about redefining our relationship with chronic pain, pleasure, and everything in between.