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Thread: Pain Research: Brain can originate, not just interpret, experiences

  1. #1

    Pain Research: Brain can originate, not just interpret, experiences

    I would be suspect to post this article normally, but it is based on Dr. John Sarno's (author of Healing Back pain: The Mind-Body Connection) work. His mindset follows with all I've learned from the clinical trials I participated at Stanford University w/brain imaging and thought induced pain reduction. I am medication free because of it. I still have extreme pain, but I now know I have a say in how much I experience.

    Sarno's book was the last one I read after four years of debilitating back pain which was the result from being attacked by a gang and stabbed in the stomach which damaged my stomach muscles and caused developmental scoliosis of my spine and two herniated disks. Serious focused exercise and Sarno's book brought an end to that. His idea that the majority of chronic back pain is the result of a psycho-somatic connection between an initial injury (and that injury becomes the body's weakest link always ready to break under stress) and on going unresolved mental stress got me thinking. Every time my back would go out, I would take a close look at my life and see if I wasn't addressing some kind of stressful issue, and sure enough I started seeing a relationship. As long as I was on top of the exercise and my head was straight, my back was strong and healthy. Kind of frightening realization, but empowering in the end. I use my back pain as an indicator for when I'm not on top of my game in my head. It worked then and still does.

    I've noticed stress now has a very similar effect on my neuropathic pain. It isn't as clear or well defined as the back pain, but there is still a relationship. I'd be very curious to read Sarno's latest since I read his previous book 15 years ago.


    Research: Brain can originate, not just interpret, experiences

    Monday, September 15, 2008 1:39 AM EDT

    Over the last 25 years, Dr. John Sarno, a professor of rehabilitative medicine, has written about the connection between pain and the mind.

    He started out addressing back pain, but now has extended his theories to include gastro-intestinal problems, skin disorders and headache.

    His approach is not widely accepted in contemporary medicine. Sarno states that it is the mind -- the brain -- which causes most chronic pain.

    In particular, he believes that unresolved anger, the anger of seeking to be perfect, of managing our families, our jobs and leftover anger from childhood, all contribute.

    The implications of his theory are powerful.

    Typically, we conceptualize pain as emanating from its source. If our back hurts, we get our back examined, X-rayed, MRI'd. Then we might well have surgery to repair the discovered damage.

    Sarno calls this bunk. He mentions studies that show a large majority of people without pain have the same structural damage that chronic pain sufferers show.

    Another perspective on this brain-symptom relationship was offered by Atul Gawande in the June 30 edition of The New Yorker.

    Gawande told the powerful story of a woman who had an itch. Not an ordinary itch; an insatiable, maddening, life-encompassing itch. It was an itch on her scalp that she couldn't satisfy; an itch that she would scratch when awake and when asleep.

    It was an itch that led her to scratch through her skull to her brain, and then to be hospitalized for two years in a locked medical ward in a rehabilitation hospital, with a football helmet secured to her head and gauze bandages swathing her fingers and hands. Every treatment failed: ointments, antidepressants, anesthetics, brain surgery.

    And then there came a hint of a novel treatment, non-intuitive and strange.

    It stemmed from the idea that how we perceive the world, how we interpret the signals from our five senses, is much greater than the mere impulses from the senses themselves.

    Some scientists estimate 90 percent of visual imagery, for example, comes from existing memory, and only 10 percent from nerve signals themselves. Our brain gives us a best guess of what our senses tell us.

    This perspective has helped our understanding of strange conditions such as phantom limb syndrome.

    It's as if our brains still believe that there is a limb present, or that an itch exists, despite our best efforts to tell it otherwise with treatments at the point of the discomfort.

    From this perspective, the brain is a sensor that's gone awry and must be reset.

    Experimental treatments with mirrors have been used to fool the brain into "thinking" that right is left and left is right. The symptomatic side is flip-flopped with the normal side, and voilĂ*, the symptom dissipates over time.

    It's enough to turn medicine on its head.

    Dr. Benveniste is a licensed clinical psychologist who maintains a local practice. To e-mail or suggest a topic, write to

  2. #2
    Hmm may have to do a bit of a read as I use same techniek but self taught can mange to contro most of back pain but fiind it hard to block out more that 2 areas at once may be some useful reading.

    ps yep my spelling sux

  3. #3
    I have a question today that fits right in here. This afternoon somebody suggested to me that my increased nerve pain is psychosomatic. This torturing nerve pain, however, has slowly and steadily gotten worse ever since my accident. If I have a conflict and then get a headache, o.k., or if I have an ongoing conflict and develop a painful condition, o.k., I can see the relation, but if I have a car accident and become a quad and have the typical accompanying nerve pain, I don't see how this can be psychosomatic. Or, maybe, I am wrong... I am open to rethink. Any insights? Anyways, Christopher, please share some of your powerful techniques with us.

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