Healing from Chronic Myofascial Pain—Support for Chronic Pain Sufferers


Described below is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain:

Treatments: Mind-body approaches

This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Reading about the mind-body connection

BOTTOM LINE:  Very helpful.

The Mindbody Prescription by Dr. John Sarno

I ruptured a disc in my neck in 2005 and had surgery a month later. Yet I continued to experience unbearable pain for nine straight months. After I tried everything my surgeons suggested (pills, shots, and traditional physical therapy), and my debilitating pain remained, I read the book The Mindbody Prescription by Dr. John Sarno. It addresses how the mind can influence physical pain in the body.

I knew my pain wasn't “all in my head” but I was desperate. If the non-invasive and inexpensive approach of reading a book might help, I was ready to try. I admit I was skeptical at first. As a health scientist, and someone living with real physical pain, I wondered if just reading about the mind-body connection could really help me. But when I read the book, for the first time in nine months I felt some of my pain lift without the use of drugs or shots. At that point, I didn't care how or what was happening, I was simply ecstatic that I was feeling slightly less pain. 

I was able to walk for ten minutes; I was able to take my kids to the local pool and sit at the edge of the pool and hold my head up! The intense pressure pain at my neck and upper back had eased up a bit. Instead of ten- to fifteen-minute increments of vertical time, I could withstand thirty minutes!

Unfortunately, the relief only lasted a couple of days. But if reading a book about how emotions can affect physical pain could provide me with some relief (there were no other confounding factors that I could identify—except the placebo effect), I was slowly becoming a believer. And even if it was the placebo effect, I was thrilled it helped to reduce my pain. But when the relief only lasted a couple of days, I put Sarno's mind-body theory aside, conceding that it did not “cure” me. Yet I acknowledged that there seemed to be something to this mind-body thing.

Healing Ancient Wounds by John F. Barnes

After reading Sarno’s book and spending many more months trying trigger point injections, Lidocaine patches, seizure medication, traditional physical therapy, and heat patches, a friend who had endured two years of chronic back pain suggested I read John F. Barnes' book (Healing Ancient Wounds) and look into John F. Barnes' myofascial release (JFB-MFR) method of physical therapy.  

I read Barnes' book, which discusses the physical nature of how our minds affect our bodies and how releasing the tension in tight and restricted fascial tissue in the body can help ease pain. He talked about how past events (both micro- and macro-traumas) are stored in the body and can cause physical pain. His book made sense so I ultimately sought out JFB-MFR treatment and finally began my true healing.

Initially when I read Sarno’s book and dismissed his mind-body theory as not being the “cure” for me, I probably wasn't ready to face the emotions I'd hidden for a very long time. But after I started receiving JFB-MFR treatments, I was finally ready.

Sarno explains that simply acknowledging emotions can eliminate physical pain for some people, but others of us require digging deeper (through psychotherapy). Sarno also says that you need to understand that your pain is not an irreversible physical problem, and when you realize that, you can slowly become physical and active again. He says that if you do physical therapy or focus on the physical problem, you are distracting yourself from the underlying psychological causes that perpetuate pain and prevent healing. 

However, I found that through JFB-MFR physical therapy, I experienced direct pain relief by expanding my understanding of the mind-body connection (see My Healing Journey and JFB-MFR treatment for more details). Although Sarno says you have to eliminate or stop any physical therapy and denounce any physical explanation of your pain, JFB-MFR physical therapy isn't like traditional physical therapy. It addresses the mind and body, and thus is consistent with Sarno's approach (as long as a patient doesn't focus on the trigger points as an irreversible physical abnormality, but instead as tissue that can be physically affected by processes in the mind).

In sum:
I continue to be inspired by books that espouse the importance of the mind-body connection (see Mind-body explanation of chronic pain under the Resources tab). At times when my pain flares up, I have been able to calm it down by reading these books (e.g., The Great Pain Deception by Steve Ozanich).