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Dr. Hanscom's Blog Write Your Way Out of Chronic Pain

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Back In Control Blog, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. Back In Control Blog

    Back In Control Blog Well known member

    Chronic pain is at an epidemic level, affecting about a third of the adult population. In adolescents, the number of in-patient admissions rose 831 percent over a seven-year period. The reason? Many of these patients are treated for acute pain, when they are really suffering from Mind Body Syndrome (MBS). MBS requires a different treatment plan, and it’s one that may surprise you—writing.

    Chronic pain is stressful both physically and emotionally, and causes your body to secrete stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. MBS is a constellation of symptoms that occur after these hormones run rampant in your system. Over time, each organ system will either respond or shut down, resulting in disruptive physical symptoms.

    Researchers see physical evidence of MBS when they look at functional brain MRI scans. In a study published in 2013, researchers looked at scans of patients who had acute back pain—pain for less than three months—and compared them to patients who had suffered chronic pain—for ten years or longer. The scans demonstrated that within 12 months of the onset of pain, the “driver” of the pain sensation switched from the acute pain center of the brain to the emotional center of the brain.

    Writing Separates You From Your Thoughts

    Treatments that target acute pain only address the physical aspect, so they aren’t effective for someone with MBS. Patients with MBS have permanently imbedded pain pathways that need to be “disrupted” and “relearned.” They cannot be unlearned—it would be similar to trying to unlearn riding a bicycle.

    Fortunately, if you follow the sequence below, you can creating alternate pathways:

    1. Awareness: Become aware of the effects that these disruptive pathways have on your body and nervous system.
    2. Detachment: Create a space between these stimuli and the automatic responses. You have to let go in order to move forward.
    3. Reprogramming: The essence of cognitive behavioral therapy, reprogramming creates space between you and your thoughts, which is quite effective at treating chronic pain and its associated anxiety.

    And this is where writing comes in.

    Writing separates you from your disturbing thoughts, so it can be used to help you let go. We are not our thoughts! When you create space between you and your thoughts, you can become connected to a bigger vision for your life—you are more than the pain you feel. Writing helps to reprogram the nervous system, so you can respond more appropriately to pain.

    The first step is engaging in what I term “negative writing,” and it’s an essential step in the process. It simply involves writing down your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then destroying it. You destroy your text as a way to give you complete freedom to write whatever is on your mind. The more specific you can be, the more effective the writing process will be for you.

    I have seen many patients heal just by doing a version of this basic exercise. It was the first tool that I used to pulled myself out of a 15-year tailspin of chronic pain, so I know it works. The effects of expressive writing have also been well documented in the medical literature.

    There are no guidelines as to how often or long you should write. My general recommendation is once or twice a day for five to thirty minutes. I view it as similar to brushing my teeth.

    I have been writing like this for over 15 years. For many years, I wrote daily and now I write three or four times a week. Whenever I have stopped expressing my thoughts on paper, my symptoms recurred with two to three weeks.

    Expressive writing is a remarkably effective tool, especially considering how simple it is. Try it and begin your healing.
    Cap'n Spanky and BruceMC like this.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I really like this description of journaling and its role in helping us detach from our thoughts. I hadn't looked at it that way before.

  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is actually from a post on foxnews.com. The original post actually has a 10 minute interview with Dr. Hanscom and one of his patients on a Fox show called Health Talk, hosted by Dr. Manny.

    Dr. Hanscom can sometimes have some interesting ideas because, based on early revisions of his book, it's pretty clear that he didn't learn about the mindbody connection from Dr. Sarno. Instead, like Dr. David Clarke, he discovered it independently around 2000 (it was a gradual process), having suffered a million symptoms of his own and overcome them with a book called Feeling Good.

    He's been getting some pretty amazing media hits, though. Getting on the Dr. Oz show is amazing and a 10 minute segment on a Fox News health show is pretty good as well.

    This media coverage will be very helpful for us as well. Our pageviews had been growing at roughly 80% per year for a long time, but they've been flat since February (they are actually down from the February peak). I'm pretty sure that this is because we have reached the point of saturation for people who are interested in TMS and want to discuss or research it online. It doesn't help that search interest in "tension myositis syndrome" has been declining at roughly 9% per year since 2007:

    People who can reach a mass audience through things like Dr. Oz and Fox News will be crucial for helping us spread the word about TMS. We've already had a success story posted by someone who found out about us via the Dr. Oz interview:
    Now I realize that was symptomatic of TMS. Then about three years ago I started developing severe wrist and hand pain after a family crisis. I was told I had tendinitis and went to physical therapy. I was not able to complete physical therapy because my pain escalated when I tried to do the exercises. At this point I was very discouraged! Then one day I saw Dr. Hanscom on the Dr. Oz show and I immediately went out and bought his book. It really resonated with me. Through more research I found Dr. Sarno's book and began reading that as well.​

    Anyway, here's the link to the interview with Dr. Hanscom, Dr. Manny, and the woman who shares her success story if you want to check it out:
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest, thanks for sharing this video. It's wonderful.
    I will try it, writing about my anxieties, and following Dr. Hancom's advice.

    It's really TMS but never given that name. Journalig is the same as "expressive writing,"
    but tearing up the writing is a new slant.

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