When it comes to the topic of chronic pain, many people have heard the phrase “It’s all in your head”. This is a misleading, ignorant dismissal of the debilitating condition that is chronic pain. Too many pain patients have heard this after medical tests and interventions don’t find the cause, don’t work, or only relieve the pain to a small degree. This is not a reflection on the individual in pain; this is a reflection of a medical system that doesn’t like to admit when they don’t have the answer to a patient’s problem.
No-one creates chronic pain because they want suffering. And pain is not something that’s imagined. It’s real, it hurts and it makes everyday life all the more challenging. I worked for 6 months at a pain management unit at a major hospital in Adelaide. It was an enlightening experience. Patients had access to a multi-disciplinary team that had doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, a psychiatrist and a team of psychologists who are all part of the program offered to those who get into the clinic, often after 6+ months of being on a waiting list.
When new patients would come into the clinic, they would be told “You can expect that 30% of you will have a 30% improvement in pain.” That’s the best that could be offered. I could imagine many patients, having waited and hoped for a miracle would feel deflated at those statistics. Is this really the best on offer?
I first came across alternative methods of pain reduction through various complementary and alternative therapies I encountered over a number of years. There are many alternatives being provided through health practitioners like naturopaths, acupuncturists, traditional chinese medicine (TCM) doctors, just to name a few. I’m always curious to ask pain patients if they’ve tried any of these alternatives and what results they got. The results are naturally mixed, but the general comment is “You don’t know what will help until you try something different.”
I’m all about trying new things and looking outside the box when it comes to improving health and wellbeing. I’m certainly not discounting things “inside the box” or western medicine approaches to conditions like pain. It all has its place. What I’m eternally curious about it is what else is out there that can relieve people’s suffering?
Nearly 10 years ago I trained in a group of techniques including neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Time Line Therapy™ and Hypnosis. In hypnosis I learned how to create a natural anesthesia which would open clients’ eyes to what was possible when it came to addressing pain through the mind. Experiencing that effect both as a client (receiving the hypnosis) and practitioner completely opened my eyes to what the mind is able to do when it comes to relieving pain.
In the Master level of these techniques, I learned a technique called the Pain Paradigm. The concept of the technique is simple – by getting in touch with the emotions we’re feeling (or have avoided feeling), chronic pain symptoms could improve. Even pain that originated from a trauma or injury. When I witnessed this technique make a significant difference for someone who’d had chronic pain for over 15 years as the result of a motorbike accident, I was amazed. It left me with a revolutionary concept that chronic pain has a link to repressed negative emotions.
Several years later, I’ve used the Pain Paradigm and hypnosis for pain with a number of people and it’s empowering for the individual who begins a new relationship with their emotions as a result. The relationship is a complex one, because having pain also causes negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, depression and frustration. Therefore, the approach to healing the emotional connection to chronic pain is two fold: addressing the arising emotions as a result of pain, and releasing the repressed emotions causing the pain. It’s about rewiring the neurology from a deeper level. I’ve researched further into this concept, and have been excited to find there is actually quite a bit of research out there that acknowledges the link between pain and emotions. Additionally, there are several books that address the mind-body connection and encourages patients to learn mind-body techniques to work through the emotions linked with pain.
And of course there is many important practical techniques to add to this treatment protocol, such as activity pacing, thought diffusion, and mindfulness.
If you or someone you love is affected by chronic pain, it’s important to look at this not about blame or fault, but rather as a chance to take greater control of the condition, and work with the mind to get the body in a better place. There are many mind-body therapies that make a difference and work to relieve both the repressed emotions and the arising pain signals. Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
Contact us if you would like to explore ways in which The Mainspring Method can help with chronic pain.
Darnell, Beth. (2014) Less Pain, Fewer Pills: Avoid the dangers of prescription opioids and gain control over chronic pain. Bull Publishing Company, Boulder CO
Hanscom, David (2012) Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. Vertus Press, Seattle
Schubiner H. Emotional awareness for pain. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 100.
Fernandez, E. (1995). The scope and significance of anger in the experience of chronic pain. Pain, 61(2), 165-175
Gatchel, R.J. Peng, Y.B, Peters, M.L.Fuchs, P.N, &Turk, D.C. (2007). The Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain: Scientific Advances and Future Directions. Psychological Bulletin, 133(4), 581-624
Weydert, JA., Shapiro, DE., Acra, SA., Monheim, CJ., Chambers, AS., & Ball, TM. (2006). Evaluation of Guided Imagery as Treatment for Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children, a Randomized Controlled Trial. BMC Pediatrics, 6, 29-38