By Cindy Perlin, LCSW.
When I was 25 years old I hurt my back while running to try to get into better shape. I had been healthy and active up until then and was attending graduate school to earn a social work degree. I stopped running but everything I did made the pain worse until I was at the point where I was in excruciating pain 24/7. I had to drop out of school and my life virtually ground to halt while I made the rounds from doctor to doctor looking for relief. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. They tried lots of drugs that didn’t reduce the pain and made me into a zombie. After more than three years of this, I ended up in the office of a well-respected orthopedic surgeon who seemed to be very compassionate and told me he didn’t know what was wrong with me or how to help me and that I might have to live with the pain for the rest of my life. He gave me a diagnosis of “chronic body pain” (by this time the pain had wrapped itself around the front of my body) and told me to just live my life the best I could.
By this time I was 28 years old and the rest of my life was likely to be a very long time. I didn’t want to live like this and I started thinking about suicide. Fortunately, a friend of mine suggested I read a book about the mind/body connection by a man who laughed his way to health after being diagnosed with a progressively crippling and painful degenerative joint disease. The book mentioned biofeedback, a treatment that measures physiology and feeds that information back to the patient in order to help the patient learn to control his body. A few sessions of biofeedback changed my life when I put what I had learned into day-to-day practice. I was eventually able to return to work and finish my master’s degree. Many years later I decided to go into private practice using biofeedback and other mind/body techniques to help others struggling with chronic illness.
I also decided to write the orthopedic surgeon who was compassionate but wasn’t able to help me. I told him in the letter about my healing journey and how I was now able to help others. I suggested we meet so I could explain to him how I might be able to help other patients like myself whom he wasn’t able to help. He refused to meet with me. It’s been 25 years and I’ve never gotten a single patient referral from him or any other pain specialist in my area that I approached about my work. Fortunately, many pain patients have found their way to me anyway and I have been able to help them through biofeedback and other mind/body interventions as well as guiding them to other kinds of alternative therapies that can relieve chronic pain.
I’ve had other pain challenges along the way, including a foot pain problem that caused severe pain whenever I walked more than a block or two. The mind/body approach didn’t work for that and it took 14 years to find a solution, a type of bodywork known as Rolfing or structural integration.
What chronic pain patients need to know is that chronic pain doesn’t have to be forever. The diagnosis of chronic pain only means that the pain has lasted more than three months. There are solutions out there that even the most seemingly knowledgeable doctors don’t know about and that even the most seemingly nice doctors won’t tell you about even if they do know.
It’s going to be up to you to find the answers. I don’t want you to have to stumble around for years like I did, without any guidance, suffering terribly and losing hope. That’s why I wrote my book, The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments: The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free and why I recently created my online Alternative Pain Treatment Directory. Please check out these resources. Nothing would make me happier than to know that they helped you find pain relief.
Don’t know where to turn for pain relief? Enter to win a free phone consult with Cindy Perlin. Submit your entry Here by Friday, January 12 at Midnight Pacific Time.