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Chronic Pain

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  • Chronic Pain

    This morning I listened to the "Peoples Pharmacy" and heard a VERY interesting talk about chronic pain. The guest of the show, Dr. Hanscom, a spine surgeon who prefers not to do surgery, tells how he learned to control/get rid of his own chronic pain. This is show #1071, "How You Can Get Relief From Chronic Pain."

    Dr. Hanscom's site is: http://www.backincontrol.com.

    This approach is drug free, and you can do it yourself instead of being dependent on a Doctor. The first step is writing down, in long hand, every negative thought you have about your pain for 5 to 20 minutes once or twice a day, then, THIS IS IMPORTANT, tearing up the paper and throwing it away.

    I am gearing myself up to start this. He does recommend doing this before going to bed. But I heartily recommend reading his site, he has some interesting knowledge on it.

    I know I have chronic pain, my neck has been hurting from a car wreck over 30 years ago. What do I have to lose from trying this? He talked on one of the videos on the site about fibromyalgia (sp?) too. Sounds a lot better to me than all the expensive drugs with all the side effects or the expensive surgery which often fails to deal with back pain.
  • Original Poster

    An update on my experiment with this (just me, no controls.)

    At first I did the expressive writing for eight days, doing 20 minutes one time a day. The physical exertion of writing 20 minutes in long hand made my neck and back worse. The pain was less, but the pain did not go away completely. I got discouraged, stopped the expressive writing, and since the pain was less I just went back to my normal "remedies" of coffee, Aspercreme, aspirin, magnesium, Evening Primrose Oil and using the HandsOn grooming gloves.

    8 days later I woke up with some of the worse pain I had ever had in my neck. This time nothing I did that day helped the pain at all. I sat and thought it through, and I decided that if I just wrote in long hand for 5 minutes at a time maybe the pain from writing would be less. I did the expressive writing for 5 minutes, twice a day, and the pain started abating when I woke up. Some mornings I started waking up with no pain in my neck, which was a GREAT relief!

    I still need the daily aspirin, magnesium, Evening Primrose oil and using my HandsOn grooming gloves. There have been a few days in which I did not need my BOT neck dicky, my BOT back brace, or my neck collar at all. When my neck starts getting stiff I use the HandsOn grooming gloves (in a little circle) which gets the circulation going in my spasming neck, scalp, and back muscles.

    I am in no way pain free, but my pain is a lot less than it used to be. I had been living in my BOT neck and back braces 24/7 every day, and now some days I do not have to use them at all. My neck still acts up from the usual triggers, but now the pain is around half of what it used to be on my worse days.

    I do not know if the pain will ever go away completely, but this time I am encouraged that the pain is less, goes away with less work on my part, and I treasure the days that I start off with no pain in my neck.


    • #3
      What an interesting r experience So focusing on and expressing your emotion about the pain is really helping?


      • #4
        I was a participant in a chronic pain clinic for 6 months last year. It was also a non-medicine based program, although with distinct differences, and the pain psychology part was based on the research of a Canadian doctor. Definitely helped. The theory was based on a somewhat opposite theory: the less I attach emotion to pain, the less my brain will prioritize it.
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


        • Original Poster

          Hi Magicboy, what I read about it says to focus on the pain and express my feelings about the pain ONLY in longhand, on paper, and then tearing the paper I wrote on to little pieces.

          TALKING about it just reinforces the pain pathways, apparently. I am presuming that this includes talking or thinking about it to myself. When I think or feel emotions about the pain I just promise myself I will write about it later, and then go on to think about something else,

          CHT I am glad you found something to help with your pain too.


          • #6
            Part is f this must have to do with brain activity while writing longhand, as opposed to using a keyboard. Anyway, it's very interesting. Glad it is helping you


            • #7
              Also suggest you read "Healing Back Pain" by John Sarno. He was also a surgeon who was tired of surgeries that didn't cure the pain. The basic premise is that your subconscious finds a great way to help you deal with emotional pain - it gives you physical pain. (There's much more to it than this of course.) Anyway, I had chronic back pain. I used to drive around naming every single thing that bothered me, ending with, "And you are not helping." as I pointed to my back. One day, after doing this, the pain shifted to the other side of my back. That's when I knew that much of my pain was subconsciously induced. I truly started healing that day, 22 years ago, and my back is stronger than ever now.


              • #8
                If only it was so simple. I spend my life ignoring and continuing to live my life in spite of the pain. RA on top of fibromyalgia is a cr@p combination. I don't allow it to limit my life. But, the pain is definitely not improving as other areas of my personal/emotional life are improving


                • Original Poster

                  Just an update.

                  It took me almost two months to get my right arm strong enough to do 15-20 minutes of long-hand in one day. It took me another 2 weeks to get strong enough to increase my writing to 20 minutes at a time, and the last two days my arm finally got strong enough to write 20 minutes twice a day.

                  Some mornings (not all mornings by any means) I wake up without neck pain, and some of these days the neck pain does not attack me later in the day. A few days without pain is a big improvement over no days without pain for years.

                  This morning, for the first time in years, I was able to ride in two-point with no back pain in spite of not wearing my BOT back brace. Since last winter I had to add a folded up BOT shawl under my BOT back brace to be able to stand my back pain in two-point, it is amazing to me that today my back did not hurt at all while riding even without the BOT stuff. Unfortunately my neck was bothering me somewhat, but at least my back was pain free.

                  I got better somewhat when I divided my expressive writing. Now I do one 20 minute expressive writing on the pain itself, and I do the other 20 minute expressive writing on how my upbringing (my mother was Borderline Personality Disorder) got my nerves super reactive to any input. This has helped me some, at least I did not have any pain free days until I started the 2nd type of expressive writing.

                  Having a few days pain free is a BIG improvement in my life. I just wish the expressive writing stopped all the pain, but since my nervous system is messed up with my MS it might not work as well on me as it does with people with normal central nervous systems.

                  And for me to be able to ride in two-point without pain is MAJOR since I ride Forward Seat and two-point is an important part of riding a proper Forward Seat. I was HAPPY riding this morning without pain!


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the update - this is really interesting stuff - and I'm SO happy for you that it's helping!!

                    Could you elaborate a bit on the specifics of what you write down? It's certainly worth a try; free, no drugs, and the only investment is time.
                    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                    "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")


                    • Original Poster

                      I really need to get his book, but I am trying to follow the advice on his web site.

                      I describe the pain: how the pain feels (burning, stabbing, aching, etc.), how the pain comes on (starts here and then radiates there), how the pain affects me emotionally (hating, distressing, depressing, hopelessness, etc.), how the pain affects my movements, and how the pain affects my endurance.

                      According to his site it is completely valid to write the same thing over and over again until the 15-20 minutes are up if the writer runs out of things to say.

                      After finishing with the writing it is also important to just sit there and meditate or just feel good for several minutes.


                      • #12
                        Thank you for the specifics! No harm in trying it, starting today
                        "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                        "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")


                        • Original Poster

                          I forgot to mention again, TEARING UP your expressive writing and throwing it away is VERY important. This is NOT keeping a journal, a historical record, or a medical record, these expressive writings are all to be torn up and thrown away.

                          And I find it very fulfilling tearing it up and forcefully throwing it in the trash! I think he also mentioned on his web site that burning the expressive writing is a valid form of destroying it.

                          I am determined not to go on opiates. It is only too easy to get addicted, and as far as I can tell from what I read these prescribed opiates can be stronger than HEROIN. No thank you. I refuse to go there to treat chronic pain. All the other medically available pain relievers have horrible side effects for overuse, including organ failure and death.

                          This is free, there is guidance on the web, he has a list of over 200 reviewed publications in the scientific literature to back it up, and as far as I can tell expressive writing has no lethal side effects.

                          Win, win, win!!!


                          • #14
                            There is a lot to be said for not talking about pain. There are quite a few studies that show "venting" about stuff, and complaining make things worse. Mostly these are focused on interpersonal relationships but I've found the same applies to physical pain (of the non-acute variety, if you break your nose it's going to hurt even if you don't think about it)..

                            Of course, you also can train yourself to ignore pain so well that you ignore a real problem until parts start dropping off so I think there's a happy medium in there.


                            • Original Poster

                              An update. It has been six weeks since I got up to the recommended time of doing the expressive writing at least once a day. For the last three weeks I have been doing expressive writing 20 minutes each time, twice a day.

                              Some mornings I wake up without any pain. Other mornings I wake up with neck pain, but it does not hang around all day like it used to.

                              I have quit using my Back on Track boxer shorts, neck dickie and back brace 24/7/365. I may put them on once a week for a few hours while. I do sleep on my BOT mattress pad and under my BOT shawl every night still.

                              Most of the time I am in two-point my back no longer hurts, and when it does hurt it is not the burning pain. My biggest pain problem riding now is that the muscles in the front of my thighs burn after a few minutes of two-point or posting trot.

                              As the old chronic pain gets better some new pains have appeared that bother me. I think my body is "going back through time" about my pains. Right now I am writing about how wearing high heels made my feet hurt SO MUCH when I was forced to wear them decades ago, because most of my "new" pain is in the soles of my feet and around the base of my big toes.

                              Reading the site referenced earlier, it may take as much as six months to completely resolve the pain.

                              I keep on writing since this is working better than anything else I've tried.


                              • #16
                                I have a nerve root impingement in my lower back and all the inversion table did for me was temporarily get rid of the pain, it never actually fixed the problem. Your best bet is to figure out what is causing your back pain by going to the doctor and go from there. It'll be easier to know what to do at home if you know what the issue is.
                                I would suggest you pay pay attention to good mattress. I opted for the Lessa and still on the 100 day warranty. I like it much better than my old box spring mattress. It’s pretty firm and relieves my back pain but if I sleep too long on it (7 hrs) then the back pain starts. I don’t know if it’s the mattress (firm) and I do want to try the Casper (less firm) based on several cozzy reviews but then feel bad to have to return the Leesa and then regret it later and then reorder it again


                                • Original Poster

                                  I have WONDERFUL news to report.

                                  For the first time in decades I got my whole seat out of the saddle in two-point! AND my legs were strong enough so I gripped with my calves instead of my knees.

                                  I have been trying to do this every time I rode the past decade or more. My back pain in two-point had gotten so severe that I could not last long enough to build muscle or move with the horse when I was in two-point. Now, almost four months after I started the expressive writing about my various pains, my back pain I had in two-point is gone, I've gotten stronger and built up my stamina, and I am finally making PROGRESS with my riding. Yes, it is just at a walk and slow trot now, but I've managed it on all three of the horses I ride. I am re-discovering muscles I had forgotten about in my buttocks and upper thighs too, as in my butt muscles are sore but I know this is from actually working them, finally!

                                  I am having dreams now of cantering, galloping (if I could find the space), riding super impulsive trots, and, dare I hope, jumping. Oh to jump again! I don't care if it is just 2 feet (hey, I'm 66). Every once in a while for the last 33 years my dream of jumping popped up again, but all those decades I could not even get up properly in 2-point. I was not strong enough, I did not have the stamina, and I ended up collapsing in utter exhaustion. But after my ride today my body was hinting that I might actually, after a LOT of work, be able to handle a low jump without hurting the horse.

                                  And I had given up all hope of making progress with my riding.

                                  This expressive writing works for me. A LOT of you write here of your pains affecting your riding, and if it can help my pain combined with my crippling MS it may help you too. At least this therapy does not cost a lot of money which really helps me since I can barely afford my riding lesson and practice rides.

                                  Try it. What do you have to lose besides 15 to 40 minutes a day, paper and pens. This is the cheapest therapy I have ever run into in my life.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Another update. While the past two weeks have been painful when I first wake up, my pain level is NOWHERE near to what it was when I started the expressive writing. Even my worst mornings are better than before.

                                    As an interesting side note--for years one of the corners of my lips was permanently chapped, I could feel the skin cracking when I yawned. So I did an experiment and wrote about it one day, and the next day the corner of my lip was healed, and it has STAYED healed though I changed nothing else. Yes, this is minor, but it had been bothering me for years.

                                    Sorry about the change to italics, I hit a key wrong and I can't seem to fix it.

                                    I find that I get the best results if I do the expressive writing twice a day, 20 minutes about my pains and how they make my life absolutely horrible and upset me to no end, and another session of 20 minutes in which I write about how grateful I am for my life (especially riding horses!) I find that this 20 minutes of writing about the wonderful things in my life has made me MUCH happier and more cheerful in general! I found that just doing 20 minutes about how lousy I feel tended to get me somewhat depressed, once I started the gratitude writing the depressive feelings ended and I am much more cheerful about everything.

                                    This is a lot of writing for me, at first I was getting cramps in my right arm, but I wrote about my arm pain and how it upset me and after a few weeks the arm pain ended. I am SO GLAD that my neck and back pains are better, especially since nothing I tried before seemed to work with them. I've had my pains for over 30 years.


                                    • #19
                                      This is great and I think tells a lot. I remember reading/seeing a report awhile back about back pain and the "miraculous" cure. Basically, it was ignoring it and thinking you don't have it. Its as just as effective as an surgery, medication, or anything else.

                                      I think there is a lot to this, whatever method you use. This method of writing it out and throwing it away reminds me of anxiety technique I learned. Basically, you visualize your anxiety/pain as a picture, say a big, knotted red mess. Visualize somebody handing it to you, and what do you do? Throw it away. Keep throwing it away.

                                      I have been working on various versions of mindfulness, meditation, whatever for this. I think there are a lot of ways to refocus your energies on the good and not the bad. I think a lot of horse people use horses and riding to do that. I know I may feel pain when I ride, but it's still always better. I know some people use music or dancing to do this. I think any focused, physical, repetitive positive thing can really help, like writing!

                                      Thanks for sharing your experiences.


                                      • #20
                                        I have overuse and abuse injuries to most of my major joints. My doctor told me that I cannot take painkillers for the rest of my life and would just have to live with it. That was about twenty ears ago. So I live with it. I do my best to maintain some strength and flexibility and on the whole don't think about it. The wear and tear and injuries are still there but because I don't brood about it, the pain is much less. Quite livable. I don't ignore pain because I still need to be aware of warning signs that whatever i am currently doing might not be a good choice.