What’s somatic tracking and how can it help my pain?
Great question. Somatic tracking is a tool for brain re-training used to change the way your brain judges sensations in the body. And this impacts how you feel pain. To explain:
With primary pain, the brain is misinterpreting signals from one (or multiple) parts of your body as dangerous, and so it assigns pain to them to protect you. But, like anyone with a highly protective parent, guardian, or older sibling knows, sometimes that protection is helpful, and sometimes it is not!
Somatic tracking is used to change the brain’s “sensation interpretation” process over time. When we feel pain or discomfort, the instinctual reaction for most of us is fear - will this get better? Do I need to fix this or do something different? Rather than trying to analyze or change the sensation you’re experiencing, with somatic tracking you’re trying to watch it with curiosity and lightness. Paradoxically, this tells the brain “hey, this pain is here, but it’s not a problem, so you don’t need to keep trying to protect me.” And after reinforcing this skill repeatedly over time (like you would if you were trying to learn to roller skate or fold origami), your brain understands that the area in pain doesn’t need protection, and so it stops assigning pain. This is easier said than done though, so having some guidance can be ~super~ helpful.
NOTE: somatic tracking is one of many tools you can use to reduce or eliminate pain! Some folks don’t need tracking to feel better if they get benefit out of other tools, like emotional awareness and expression or stress reduction techniques.
@jkelley that makes a lot of sense - thanks! but how would I know if somatic tracking could help me? and is there a place I can try it?
Somatic tracking can help anyone in pain, but is especially helpful if you have Primary Pain. I’d try checking out the posts above on Primary Pain if you haven’t already!
Somatic tracking is the most important component of Pain Reprocessing Therapy. It involves looking inward at your pain with light curiosity. The purpose of somatic tracking is to teach your brain that sensations are safe. When done regularly, over a period of time, somatic tracking changes how your brain responds to sensory input. Somatic tracking should be done when pain is moderately low. When it is done during high pain it can backfire and reinforce the belief that pain is dangerous.
Although some people get immediate relief, most people do not feel a change in pain levels while tracking. That’s normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Some people find somatic tracking to be difficult. In those instances, there are some variations for tracking, including using a home base or alternating uncomfortable and pleasant sensations, that can be helpful.
I prefer somatic tracking on my own. Guided exercises are great for getting started, but, in my experience, my recovery really took off once I learned how to do it for myself. I like being able to adapt the length and type of practice to fit my needs in the moment. For example, I prefer to track for 3-4 minutes using a home base/anchor.
A similar exercise, leaning into positive sensations, is also super effective for teaching your brain that sensations are safe.
The beauty of somatic tracking is, once you know the basics, you can practice it any place, any time. And if you have Primary pain, it will help you.
Thank you@mimik…I view somatic tracking as a way to hopefully “dial down” the current pain. But if that’s not the outcome I still feel that I have accomplished something with either or both physical/& or emotional somatic tracking. I totally give myself credit for my actions, which I feel is a positive way to think & view this situation. Jodi