Day 1: Introduction
As the director of a pain center in Los Angeles, I've worked with thousands of pain patients and collaborated with specialists throughout the country, but long before that I was a chronic pain sufferer.
During my second year of graduate school, I developed severe lower back pain. Even something as simple as sitting and watching a movie became a two-hour long nightmare.
I saw three of the leading back specialists in Southern California, and they had three different opinions about the cause of my pain: one of them said it was a disc herniation; one of them said it was disc degeneration; one of them said I was just too tall.
I couldn't make myself shorter, but tried every other treatment imaginable: physical therapy, biofeedback, medication, acupuncture, acupressure; nothing helped. After six months, I got an epidural injection. It didn't eliminate my pain, but it cut it in half. Life was once again bearable...for about eight days, when I suddenly and inexplicably got the worst headache I'd ever had.
And it stayed.
Chronic daily headache, the internet told me, had no known cause and no known cure. Terrific.
Over the next several years, I developed the following additional symptoms:
upper back pain
tongue pain (who gets tongue pain?)
toe pain (three different toes!)
In sum, I was a mess. Doctors were scared of me.
I had plenty of diagnoses to go along with these symptoms: bulging discs, partially torn rotator cuff, high cerebral spinal fluid pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.
One day my mother presented me with a book. She said her friend's son read it and it helped him get rid of his back pain. I did what any rational chronic pain sufferer would do. I threw it across the room.
"A book isn't going to help me, mom. The pain isn't in my head. I have a bunch of diagnoses from doctors."
She shrugged and left the room. You don't argue with someone in chronic pain.
A year later I read the book. I spoke with my mom's friend's son. I educated myself about the pain center of the brain and the function of neural pathways. I found a physician who specialized in this approach, and after several years, I eliminated 22 different symptoms.
I still have bulging discs. I still have disc degeneration. I probably still have a partially torn rotator cuff and high cerebral spinal fluid pressure. But I don't have any pain.
More and more studies are showing that many forms of chronic pain are not caused by physical problems in the body, but rather learned neural pathways in the brain.
For an introduction to neural pathways, why they develop, and how they can lead to chronic pain, watch the following clip:
Just as neural pathway pain can be learned, it can be unlearned. And over the next three weeks, I'll give you specific techniques to help you break the pain cycle and overcome your symptoms. Along the way, there'll be sample audio sessions, a few video clips, and some poignant insights from Winnie the Pooh.
Plus, to help make the process as enjoyable as possible, my very talented friend Paul is going add in pictures along the way. Like this:
Now, I know that many of you have been through the hope-disappointment cycle so many times, that starting something new can be scary.
So I won't ask you to be hopeful, all I ask is that you be open. The next few weeks will cover everything I've learned in my time as a therapist, and I'm optimistic that you'll find it helpful in your recovery. Plus, I'll be answering as many questions as I can along the way.
So enjoy the rest of your day, get a good nights sleep, and I'll see you in the morning.