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save yourself - break the chain of pain

A recent shooting at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa (USA) earlier this month re-focused minds & media on gun violence. In this case, the gunman was suffering from chronic pain - he shot his surgeon, members of staff and a former patient before turning the gun on himself.

Now, as someone who specialises in supporting people with long-term, chronic pain this, for me, is also a story about how surgery and medication protocols for treating chronic pain are not getting good results. If these approaches were working - the number of adults suffering from chronic pain conditions would not have risen to epidemic proportions.

Don't take my word for it - check out this interesting article written by US orthopaedic surgeon & author, Dr David Hanscom. An unusually honest and heart-felt reflexion on the failings of surgery as a 'cure' for chronic pain conditions. Dr Hanscom admits that he and other doctors do not have the tools or the training to help people with long-term pain conditions. He points to extensive research from Australia that shows surgery for chronic pain conditions doesn't work and often the patient is left in even more pain than before. This seems to be the case with the shooting and suicide in Tulsa.

So let's take this opportunity to transform how we think about chronic pain - or at least bring ideas that are working into mainstream practice. There is another way that could result in a sharp decrease in suffering, suicide, pain-med addiction and ultimately more success stories. Who doesn't want that?

According to various studies (CDC 2019 & European Pain Federation) 20-20.4% of adults worldwide experience chronic pain which impairs their ability to live & work. In America, it is the number-one cause of long-term disability (The Good Body).

Integrative practitioners know that the way forward is to support the person in chronic pain to relax & release the underlying stress, emotional tension & trauma factors triggering the pain signals - not treat/fix the pain itself. In other words, a whole-person approach and not a uniquely structural one.

This is a fundamental shift in thinking and there is extensive research on non-invasive ways to relieve chronic pain that are effective, efficient and far less costly. These include a greater focus on inner wellness, meditation, energy balancing, somatic release & art therapy including expressive writing, journaling, mindful movement, dance therapy to name just a few. In my professional experience, these are just some of the many ways people can safely lean into their pain and release it from within, take back their power and heal themselves.

Chronic pain affects 20.4% adults globally (source CDC, 2019) & 20% of Europeans (approx. 80 million adults). The knock-on consequences are heavy, for the person in pain, their family & friends, the heavy financial burden on the individual and an already over-burdened health system not to mention the loss of creativity and activity.

Many of us ask why the research, which has been around for decades, is still considered ground-breaking and 'new' - we have accessible inexpensive solutions that work. So, why are we stuck doing what doesn't work? As Dr Hanscom writes in his article - why are we still prescribing surgery for chronic pain conditions when much of the evidence tells us it doesn't work?

We've known this for decades - Dr John Sarno (c.1960's) observed and researched how a mind-body approach brought, sometimes instant, pain relief to patients diagnosed with various structural spinal conditions. He observed some patients, with the same structural conditions, had no pain and he concluded that the pain was not uniquely related to the physical body but also connected to the mind. He spent his life researching and treating patients with the simple idea that ‘the mind and the body are intimately connected’.

There is a wealth of evidence-based research, real-life case studies and book after book written on this subject. This valuable, clinical data is starting to shape & challenge some of the traditional ways in which we have approached long-term pain. I, and many like me, regularly scratch our heads on this - why is it so difficult for more doctors and surgeons to get on board? It works, I have lost count of the number of people who have come back after one session and said "I don't know what you did but the pain is gone". I am not alone, there are many practitioners - often shaped by some personal courage in healing their own chronic pain combined with a deep desire to share the knowledge that a mind-body approach works- influenced by Dr Sarno amongst others and in spite of a wall of resistance from the very people who have taken an oath to do no harm.

It's not good enough, in light of so much knowledge, to sideline this simple idea to the 'hippy, self-help, alternative bookshelf & the dismissive 'if it makes you feel better' glib comments that some doctors come out with. Dr John Sarno spent his life talking to anyone who would listen (sadly not many in his profession). He called the condition he observed and treated ‘TMS’ – Tension Myoneural (Myositis) Syndrome. He was ostracised by his peers and the medical establishment but remained resolute in what he knew to be true. He quietly dedicated his life to helping his patients get better by themselves with no medical or surgical intervention.

Thankfully more and more are getting this and applying it with excellent results- however, many are forced to work on the sidelines and only in private sessions. Imagine what could be achieved if we integrated this approach into mainstream protocols? Imagine if you had a greater choice of practitioner to help you heal the whole you - and not just the structural parts of you..The more we ask of our health practitioners, systems and government - the more they will have to listen. There is nothing to lose here and everything to gain. As we saw with Covid, our health systems are overloaded at the best of times so why wouldn't we integrate more successful approaches that work?

The health system exists to treat & support us in illness - it is not a system that has a reason to exist in its own right with outcomes & outputs as a by-product. Demand the very best for yourself, always. If you are anxious or unsure of surgery or taking medication long-term - ask for alternatives. If your doctor is not prepared to listen to you - find a doctor that will. They do exist. Lobby insurance companies to include mind-body therapies and sessions in your health cover - some companies do this already and more will follow if we demand it through our power of choice. #breakthechainofpain

Feel free to contact me if you feel a different, integrative, energy balancing approach to healing could help you. Be well.


Further reading & references:

All the Rage is a comprehensive documentary including live interviews with Dr Sarno. Available on demand via vimeo and recently made free to view for 48hrs to celebrate its fifth anniversary. You can watch it via this link or search for 'All the Rage documentary'.

Dr. John E. Sarno was a medical pioneer whose program changed the lives of chronic pain sufferers around the world - helping thousands upon thousands of people including celebrities such as Howard Stern, Bernie Sanders and countless others overcome painful conditions - without drugs or surgery. Many have healed from reading his books alone such as Healing Back Pain.

Are you in chronic pain and considering surgery or have had surgery and are still in pain? Feel free to contact with this wonderfully supportive Facebook Group run by Matthew Rosett. A private group support network where you can exchange ideas and ask for free advice from those, like myself, Matthew and many other contributors & professional practitioners who, following our own, non-invasive self-healing experiences now help others do the same. You do not need to suffer – especially if your doctor has run out of things to suggest for you - or that you have tried everything and nothing has really worked.

Here's a summary of some of points made by Dr Hanscom (author of the original article) :

“the patient had chronic pain, and almost none of us in medicine are trained to treat it effectively in spite of data being right in front of us for decades. Somehow, we are treating almost all symptoms and disease from a structural perspective when most of them arise from the body’s physiological state….”

“we are sometimes encouraged to perform surgeries documented to be ineffective…there is little accountability for the outcomes unless there is severe negligence”

An Australian orthopaedic spine surgeon, Dr Ian Harris “wrote a book where he extensively documents the data behind many procedures for pain that have been proven to be of no benefit – and it hasn’t stopped their use”

“effective treatments are often not covered…for example expressive writing has shown to be helpful in multiple medical conditions in over 1,000 research papers – it costs nothing, has minimal risk and is rarely presented as a treatment option. It has been proven to decrease symptoms of asthma, depression and rheumatoid arthritis…”

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction has also been demonstrated to decrease pain in many papers and is usually not covered by insurance”

The business of medicine has trapped both the providers and patients and with computerised medical records, it is getting steadily worse. There are real solutions, but both medical profession and patients are going to have to demand it.

“A recent summary reported that the total cost of chronic disease in the US is 3.7 trillion dollars a year, which is approximately 19.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. (1) This issue is not new news. It is well-defined and has been discussed for decades. Why are we not solving it? It is because medicine is overlooking the deep data regarding the nature of chronic disease, is focused on illness instead of wellness?”

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