“The extent of the pain you feel depends on the number of neurons firing in your brain.” So says David Hanscom M.D. in “Back in Control”, the book that is touted as “a surgeons roadmap out of chronic pain.” The author journals his chronic pain journey and how he was able to regain his life. He chronicles the tools he used and also the tools he teaches his patients to gain control over their pain.
When he first became a surgeon he performed many surgeries a year but after his descent into pain and finding his way out again, he dramatically changed his criteria for patients needing surgery. He found if he had them go through a regimen of 8 weeks using his prescribed tools, many of them no longer needed surgery. In fact when he tells how often back surgery is actually successful, the numbers are bleak.
He spends time in the book showing how dwelling on negative thoughts reinforces brain circuits and, when we add pain to that mix of negative thoughts, we greatly reinforce both pain and the negative thought pathways that make pain worse.
Is there a solution? Dr. Hanscom says yes! He believes modifiers like lack of sleep, stress, anger, victim mentality, perfectionism and losing hope, all contribute to more pain. The good news is there are things that can turn the downward spiral around. Thing like expressive writing, meditation, sleep, forgiveness and creativity. Since repetition is the key to reprogramming your nervous system, Dr. Hanscom recommends making a plan, such as a vision, to move out of the dark place of chronic pain. And practicing it daily helps you to regain the parts of your brain that pain has claimed.
Although his prescribed program is not as simple as taking medications for your pain, Dr. Hanscom is quick to point out that even meds are not a long term solution. He says, “The most disturbing aspect of opioids is that they increase the sensitivity of the nervous system”. His recommendation is to focus on things that calm the nervous system since MRI scans have shown that the brain’s response to pain impulse increases 500 percent after being in pain for more than three months. Education, exercise and engaging in nurturing activities are the best way for people in pain to get “Back in Control.”
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Kendy lives in northern California with her husband of 38 years and twin daughters. She loves spending time with her grandchildren, reading, quilting, anything outdoors, while helping people find their path out of pain.