Over the past few months I have been working with some chronic pain sufferers. These young women have gone to every specialist they could think of to heal their hurting bodies and yet, nothing they tried came close to stopping the pain they were feeling.
I had just finished reading Dr. John E. Sarno’s book Divided Mind: The Epidemic of MindBody Disorders when I received my first call for help with chronic pain relief. Dr. Sarno explains that chronic pain is created when anger and anxiety are not being addressed. He realized this when his patients were unable to get rid of their pain even after having surgery for the affected area based on his findings through MRIs, CTs and x-rays. Dr. Sarno has concluded that many of those images of damaged muscles, ligaments and even slipped disks in the back had zero to do with anything that would create real problems for most people, though can create a lovely income for surgeons. He came to this conclusion once he understood that the mind of a patient can be so strongly adverse to healing the emotional pain, that the body will take over with decreased oxygen to the muscles and ligaments causing the pain felt to patient. With that understanding as a baseline to work with lets move onto another surgeon’s take on what is happening with chronic pain patients.
Surgeon, Dr. David Hascom wrote an important article on this subject called “Am I Operating On Your Pain or Anxiety?” Here is what he said in his own words:
“My concept of pain has been turned upside down over the last year as I have seen a number of patients who had a tight compression of nerves in their lower back or neck with severe arm or leg pain. I have historically thought that I should be aggressive in surgically solving the problem and dealing with the structured spine care program later. It seemed that it would be too difficult to engage in it while in so much pain.”
Now read what he says later on in his article:
“Conversely I have many patients over the years have a successful surgery for a severe structural problem with no improvement or worsening of their pain. Now I understand. “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Pain, anxiety, and anger are tightly intertwined. As long as the anxiety/anger pathways are fired up they will keep the pain circuits firing.
Surgery may or may not help your arm or leg pain. It rarely solves neck or back pain. It really doesn’t work for anxiety. What relief are you asking your surgeon for?”
Dr. Hascom realized that his patients were coming in to deal with what were really emotional issues. His patients were going through stressful life events be it marital problems, a seriously ill child, loss of jobs, etc. As a result of these problems his patients were not getting much sleep. So he finally came to understand that the office visits were more about helping them to calm their anxiety, it being the underlying problem. He seems to have come to the similar conclusions as Dr. Sarno.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Hascom takes it one step further realizing that the anxiety was more problematic to his patients than the chronic pain they had originally come to him to have removed surgically. He found the out by asking them if they would be okay with their anxiety continuing to progress over the next 30 to 40 years, yet be pain free. They all said that they would not be able to live like that. When his patients realized that getting rid of the pain would not get rid of their anxiety the patients no longer were as interested in having the surgery. Dr. Hascom has a special program that he uses called the DOSS system which helps his patients to let go of the anxiety and with it the pain releases as well.
Dr. Magdalena Naylor, a neuro-science researcher and psychiatrist has been conducting research on her chronic pain patients over the past thirteen years. She has found that for the patients that have completed her 11 week program of cognitive behavioral therapy including the use some of hypnosis, the gray matter and white matter of her patients’ brains has doubled in size. This is a physiological change in the brain due to “talk therapy” as she puts it. She has concluded that pain medications are of no real help regardless of what the patient may say simply because the body’s tolerance level has gotten so high, that the drugs have no effect on the pain. The patients like to think it does, however it does not. This is a conclusion Dr. Naylor has come to after studying this subject for over thirteen years.
I have certainly found this notion of being angry and/or full of anxiety to be a provoker of chronic pain in my clients. The way we deal with it here is to deal with whatever is causing the anger or anxiety through hypnotic means. Many times the client has some broad understanding that there may be some emotional connection to the chronic pain because neither conventional or complimentary medicine has worked for them. Most often for my clients it is all about setting really clear boundaries with the stronger personalities that my clients have a hard time contending with, yet feel they must because it is a family member that is involved.
So, the question remains for those of you who are still suffering with chronic pain: Are you feeling something physical that is being created by something emotional? If so, perhaps you better revisit how you go about getting treatment for it.
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