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You Have A Right To Be Angry About Your Chronic Pain

Feb 6, 2008
Do you get mad when your doctor suggests that your chronic pain isn't improving because your thinking style or personality is actually creating the pain?

If you suffer from ongoing chronic pain you are a long way from being alone. Chronic pain rates have more than doubled in the last 40 years and we've got to the point now where around 1 in 3 people suffer, over 60% of doctor visits are due to chronic pain severe enough to prevent people from working, and where the cost of failed treatments for chronic pain is estimated at over $10 billion a year in Australia alone.

Do you feel an affinity with others like you who have tried out various drugs or exercise programs, or even had surgery to cut nerve branches, and yet still struggle with pain?

As so often happens, has your doctor or health practitioner basically given up and begun to tell you that it's your fault that you have the pain, and referred you to a CBT program (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)? And have they tried spinning you the line about "your thoughts create your pain"?

Sometimes they may even have told you that it's your anger that's creating the pain! What they need to realise is that it's the failure of the programs that has given rise to your righteous anger! But how did it come to this?

Well the truth is that most doctors, and most psychologists, don't actually know the failure rates of the treatments they recommend. In the case of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, recent studies show that the failure rate is almost 100% after 6 months, the same failure rate as placebo. Yet psychologists who are taught CBT are told that it is highly effective!

You may be getting angrier as you read this, and that's your right, but anger is only useful if it leads to action, and in this case is only useful if it leads you to do something about your chronic pain that gives you the reduction or elimination of the pain that you so wish for. So use your anger to galavanise you into learning a simple self-treatment process that has a very high rate of success, and tell everyone about it, including your doctors, so that we can get it to more of the people who need it the most.


Apart from their failure rates, the big truth that pain specialists don't want to face is that your chronic pain is not "in your head". However it is mostly in your brain, but in sections of the brain that are almost entirely out of any ability for anyone to control. So for anyone to suggest that you try to control that by willpower or self discipline is not only useless, but incredibly cruel.

Has your pain specialist talked to you about lifestyle factors that influence pain levels? It's true that some specialists have a surface understanding of these, but we've never found one that knew how to effectively help patients with these important factors.

The big reason why most pain specialists "bomb out" with their treatment is that chronic pain is almost never just about the muscles, or the nerves, or the joints, for example. And it's nothing like acute pain. Brain scans demonstrate that chronic pain behaves very much like emotional pain, and isn't necessarily related to injury.

So this explains why physical treatments are so ineffective, and why treatments using willpower (like CBT) are so cruel and worthless. Quite simply, these treatments don't even begin to touch the causes of chronic pain. Especially when many of those causes you aren't even consciously aware of! (I'll explain more about that soon.)

Without question, for a chronic pain treatment to work, it must identify and resolve the conscious and unconscious triggers that are causing and escalating your pain, and these will certainly not merely comprise your physical symptoms. This will certainly not include doing anything so ridiculous as trying to force yourself to think using different words inside your brain!

When you understand how chronic pain occurs, this will make much better sense to you.


Usually chronic pain doesn't just come "out of the blue". It arises after an initial injury of some kind or another. In those cases we first experience acute pain and that's a good thing because it warns us that something is wrong, helps us to take action to recover, and even helps to tell us what movements we shouldn't do so that the injured area can heal fastest. However in the case of chronic pain even though the injury heals, the pain persists and even becomes worse. And the signals we get to abstain from activity are not serving any useful purpose!

Chronic pain is different from acute pain because it is not related to actual injury. If you were to look at a series of x-rays of people's spinal columns, and try to guess which people had the most pain based on the evidence of damage, you'd be wrong, because there is no match.

So although chronic pain can kick off at or near an event which caused us acute pain, chronic pain itself is created by the nervous system. A really good analogy for understanding how the nervous system is behaving in these cases is that of a car alarm that is faulty, going off at the slightest bump.

But luckily for us your nervous system has one particular very big advantage over a car alarm, and that advantage is that your nervous system is capable of learning. We don't need to get a mechanic in to chop wires because we can actually teach your nervous system to stop over-reacting to things like temperature or humidity, stress of any kind, and the full gamut of weird reactions we've seen over the years!

We use the term "pain pattern" to describe what is actually happening when your nervous system creates chronic pain, and we do that because it's a reliable action. You feel a certain way, or a certain event occurs, and "bang", here comes that pain again, or here comes that flaring again. The right name though isn't "pain pattern" - it's "conditioned response"!

Some people with chronic pain just have one or a few conditioned responses that we need to identify and desensitive in order to teach the nervous system to behave normally. Others have quite a complex array of conditioned responses and of course that can take more time to deal with them. But you'll be surprised how easy, and even what fun it can be, to uncover these patterns and permanently disrupt them so they can't cause you pain any more!


It used to be thought that these types of conditioned responses of the nervous system were difficult or even impossible to do anything about. But nowadays we know that conditioned responses are nothing like as tough as we used to think, and in fact are incredibly weak provided we know how to work with them. (And telling you to change your thinking is NOT the way!)

We're doing our best right now to explain to fellow clinicians that conditioned responses can be very easily eliminated if we run interference over them as they try to "run". If we do this properly, without needing the patient to use any willpower at all, the conditioned response quickly fades out, and can't return.

But of course we're not suggesting that we need to actually trigger the pain in order to eliminate it! That's totally unnecessary! Rather, we ask the patient to focus on each thought or feeling pattern that's become hooked into the chronic pain, and we teach the patient to run interference patterns over that. The process is called BMSA (Brief, Multi-Sensory Activation) and it permanently "deletes" the pain pattern.


One of the best things about this chronic pain treatment is that if you're going to be one of the 80-90% of people who'll get results, you'll know from the immediate start, because most people notice some kind of improvement right away.

And what about the end result? Well 50% of people have completely wiped out their chronic pain, permanently. (This is an astounding figure when you consider that other programs regard 30% who only REDUCE their pain to be a great result!) The remainder reduce their pain by more than 50%, and a small number get no result at all. So far the failure rate (maybe 2%) seems to be due to actual medical factors, such as hip degeneration severe enough to warrant hip replacement.

You'll be pleased to note that we've never had to resort to blaming a client for failure!

For some people the program seems like a miracle, but we'd urge you to complete the whole program anyway. It's very important to track progress over time and analyse those records. The usual experience is that the patient does still get some pain, and they do still get some flaring, and both can vary in intensity and duration. But the clear trend will be that your chart shows a decrease in pain, a decrease in flaring, a decrease in intensity, decrease in medication, and increase in activity which you can do with ease.

The end result that you want is surely complete elimination of the pain, or a very big decrease in the pain, so that you can get your life back, and leave those days of suffering way behind!
About the Author
The author is a therapist of over 3 decade's experience and a specialist in chronic pain treatment. She is also the author of the manual The Pain Train, which details the BMSA Chronic Pain Program
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