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Dr. Hanscom's Blog Not Sharing Your Pain

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Back In Control Blog, Oct 16, 2015.

  1. Back In Control Blog

    Back In Control Blog Well known member


    As has been discussed many times on this website pain pathways are permanent and part of the unconscious part of your brain. There is nothing you can do to “fix” them. Any attention paid to them simply reinforces them. That includes trying not trying to pay attention to them. The key is to calm down and shift your nervous system on to non-pain circuits. There are strategies that stimulate the brain to change its structure. The descriptive term for this process is neuroplasticity. This includes growing new nerve cells, increasing the number of connections between the neurons, and increasing the amount of myelin, which improves conduction.

    Reinforcing pathways

    One behavior that reinforces pain pathways is discussing your pain experience with almost anyone who will listen. You are simply placing your attention on pain pathways and reinforcing these circuits. Not only are your pain pathways being strengthened but you are spending less attention on enjoyable and creative experiences.

    Social isolation

    Complaining also drives others away and social isolation is common. You now have more time to spend on your pain pathways. It has been demonstrated in several studies that the same part of the brain is active in people who are socially isolated as in chronic pain. Being alone is a painful experience.

    The other problem is that the people you do connect with is through the common bond of pain and suffering. Relating to people by complaining is not a great way to create rich and fulfilling relationships. Do you enjoy being around negativity? How do you think others feel about being around you when you are in a bad mood?

    Several research papers have documented that belonging to a fibromyalgia support group is a predictor of a poor prognosis for healing. It is felt that the format might encourage interaction in a way that reinforces each other’s suffering.

    Awareness, hope, forgiveness and play

    I have held a five-day workshop in NY the last three summers at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY with Dr. Fred Luskin, a Stanford psychologist and author of Forgive for Good and my wife, Babs Yohai, who is an expert in movement. The seminar is based on awareness, hope, forgiveness and play. Many people experience major shifts in their pain and mood during the week and many continue to improve over the next year.

    There are three ground rules: 1) you cannot complain about your pain or let the other participants know where you are hurting 2) medical care cannot be discussed 3) no complaining – period. The seminar is centered on awareness, hope, forgiveness and play. Most participants are initially thrown off by not being able to discuss their pain but quickly realize how important it is in contributing to his or her healing.

    What I had not realized prior to conducting these workshops is how much people do complain – not only about their pain, but also about life in general. How can you enjoy your life when you are continually upset?

    Directing your attention

    You nervous system will rewire in whatever direction you place your attention. How much time do you spend thinking (obsessing) about your pain? How aware are you of others needs? What percent of your conversations are spent discussing some aspect of your suffering? Do you really enjoy discussing your pain? Don’t you become tired of it?


    Stop it

    Stop discussing your pain, medical care, or even any of your troubles with the world – NOW. There are no shortcuts. You are not going to move forward while hanging on to your grievances. Every day is an opportunity to begin anew.

    Behavioral patterns are so deep that changing your conversation to enjoyable topics may be difficult. Just do it. It will initially be challenging but you will be surprised at the effectiveness of this simple strategy. Can’t do it? Really?

    How badly do you want to heal?


    Boston Redsox, Mtngal and Lavender like this.
  2. Mtngal

    Mtngal Well known member

    Has anyone ever noticed that if you start talking about your back (knee, foot, whatever) that people immediately tune you out anyway? I think Dr. Hanscom makes a good point that this only reinforces those pain pathways. He suggests to try to not complain about anything. I'm wondering if negative thought patterns and conversations could be a trigger for a recurrence of TMS or mindbody pain that had previously been resolved? Even if these thought patterns weren't even specifically about the pain, injury etc.? Maybe negativity pathways and pain pathways are intertwined? Conversely the opposite might be true.
    Dr. Andrew Wiel (spelling?) sites the cases of two people with bad back pain who were healed when they fell in love.
    The same thing happened to me some years ago.
    So everyone: quit complaining!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  3. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    I for one am very grateful for Dr. Hanscom’s input here and his solid advice for those who are still caught up in what he so accurately terms “The Abyss.” His book is an excellent guide to the average patient who is caught up in the quagmire of differing medical opinions, some of which lead to unnecessary back surgery. Upon reading the statement on one of the Dr.’s papers saying that before considering surgery, one should do physical therapy with an aggressive self-directed conditioning program for at least six months.

    or If there is a structural problem, the soft tissue component should still be maximally treated.

    I am a bit unclear on how that translates to the average patient so perhaps I missed that in the book, “Back in Control.”
  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    That's pretty cool, Mtngal!
  5. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Lavender, I'm not entirely sure what you are unclear about. Is it the reference to physical therapy, which Dr. Sarno generally recommends against?

    What I like about the first quote is the "aggressive self-directed conditioning program" which sounds to me like what Dr. Sarno DOES recommend, which is to engage in overall physical conditioning without focusing on the supposed source of pain.

    The second one seems okay to me - even if MRIs show a structural issue, Dr. Hanscom recommends that the patient not worry about that, but work on building muscle tone instead. After all, someone who is so debilitated that they are considering back surgery have stopped using their back muscles, and they really do need to build them back up again.
    Mtngal likes this.

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