Uncovering the true source of pain, then unlearning it!
I’d like to share this information from Dr. Howard Schubiner for those who experience chronic pain but are unable to get relief. Let me know what you think.
Mary’s story: “I am a 65-year-old female who for most of my life has had to live with continual pain. Even as a young child, my early memories were of pain, mainly in my legs. I was told these were growing pains. Later in life, I had carpal tunnel syndrome and pain in my hands. Then I got lower back pain in the L4-L5 area. I went to many doctors and chiropractors offices for years, but the pain always returned after a short while.
Because I couldn’t take it any longer, I was finally scheduled for back surgery in December 2006. I was in tremendous pain and felt that my only option was to have surgery to get rid of the pain. A friend asked me if I would be willing to get just one more opinion and I agreed. I didn’t think it would help, but I said, “OK.”
I called Dr. Schubiner to schedule a consultation. I was told to read the book, “Unlearn Your Pain.” As I read the book, the information in it reminded me of my life. It was as if someone was telling the story of many things that had happened to me over all these years. I met Dr. Schubiner and he went over my history, examined me and discussed my MRI test. I agreed to take his Mind Body Medicine workshop. Since taking the workshop, my pain is GONE!! On occasion, I will get a flare up of pain when I am under stress, but then I use the tools that Dr. Schubiner taught me and I get relief. I’m sleeping better, eating better and looking forward to more of a pain-free life in years to come.”
Although Mary’s story seems unusual, these are the stories I hear every day. Chronic pain is now reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. Approximately 50 million people suffer from chronic back and neck pain, fibromyalgia, TMJ pain, tension and migraine headaches, and abdominal and pelvic pain syndromes. The traditional medical approach is to look for a cause of pain in the area where the pain is being felt and this approach makes so much sense that everyone agrees: If there is pain in arm, there must be something wrong with the arm!
However, research over the past decade has shown that real pain can occur in a part of the body that is not diseased. Phantom limb syndrome is real pain occurring in an arm or leg that has been amputated. Fibromyalgia pain occurs in muscles and tendons that are structurally normal. The majority of back and neck pain occurs without clear evidence of a structural disease process. The same is true of all of the chronic pain disorders listed above.
So, what is causing the pain? The answer is learned nerve pathways. Nerve connections between the brain and the body can cause real and often severe pain and these connections can be triggered by an injury or by significant stress. Everyone actually already knows about learned nerve pathways. These are responsible for much of what we do everyday, such as how we walk, talk, sign our name, throw a ball, or ride a bicycle. The lower parts of subconscious parts of the brain learn these pathways throughout our lives and we use them all the time without even being aware that they are being used.
Most people with chronic pain have pain pathways that are developed and continue to cause pain. This explains why so many medical interventions are not able to reduce or eliminate the pain: the doctors are looking in the wrong place.
The reason that pain pathways develop is that stress and emotions activate the parts of the brain, notably the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala that augment pain. Many studies demonstrate this. Most injuries heal within a few weeks but pain that continues after the injury should have healed is almost always due to learned pain pathways, which have been triggered by stress and emotional reactions.
Fortunately, once the real underlying cause of the pain is determined, most people can reduce or eliminate their pain, even if it’s been present for many years. I have developed a program to help people who are suffering from chronic pain and have published this program in a book, Unlearn Your Pain. People who had suffered with chronic pain for an average of 9 years participated in this 4-week program had amazing results in a recently published research study. At a 6-month follow up evaluation, 67% had at least a 30% reduction in pain and 53% had at least a 50% reduction in pain. The program is relatively simple. It guides participants through a series of writing and meditative exercises that help to retrain their brain and nervous system to stop the pain. It also helps them to work on the stressful aspects of their lives to prevent pain from recurring.
Howard Schubiner, MD
Director, Mind Body Medicine Center, Providence Hospital, Southfield, MI
Clinical Professor, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI
Beyond Body Mind Spirit NYC