Last week I posted an interview with Monte Hueftle, a runner and writer who specialises in running injuries generated by emotional factors, following in the teaching of Dr John Sarno
There are other writers that have traced their own pain to emotional factors too. This is a guest post from one of them - Adam Rostocki. Adam is a martial artist who has battled with pain and finally conquered it through following Sarno's approach. I am convinced that much pain is emotional at its root.
Mind Body Conditioning
Physical Conditioning vs Psychological Conditioning
I welcome the opportunity to speak to you about conditioning.
As a serious martial artist for over 34 years I am well aware of the demands we all place on our bodies. In the course of training, I learned to use physical conditioning to make my body strong and increase my endurance and overall physical abilities. However, the type of conditioning I want to share with you today has nothing at all to do with the body. Instead, I would like to share some thoughts on psychological conditioning, specifically how it relates to physical performance and especially the generation of pain. A tremendous amount has already been written on this topic, so I hope to provide some intimate knowledge on the subject by relating my own personal experiences on how the mind can cause physical pain.
A Student of Chronic Pain
I am a student of chronic pain. I suffered from a variety of physical ailments as a child and teen, including wrist pain (blamed on my fanatical pursuit of drumming perfection), headaches and an ultra-sensitive stomach. None of these conditions were really more than annoyances, but they were ever present in my young life. I was a sensitive and independent child, the product of a broken home and I became a vegetarian at age 4, despite the protests of my family. Doctors had no real explanation for why these painful symptoms never went away, but I was too concerned with being a kid to care much about them…
At 16, I was working hard in school, with my band and in a part time job. My family was poor and I felt that stress terribly as I readied myself for college. I knew I needed a full scholarship or I was simply out of luck. Within a few months, I developed horrific back pain completely out of the blue. The symptoms were in the lumbo-sacral junction and were linked to movement of my neck. I could not sit at all without burning, searing pain. Being completely naïve to the ways of medical and complementary medicine at this point, I visited a chiropractor after weeks of suffering and was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, muscle imbalances and scoliosis. I entered treatment and so began my 18 years of tortuous agony with chronic back pain…
I suffered with recurrent bouts of acute back spasms and continued to suffer stomach concerns for my entire young adult life. None of these symptoms stopped me from doing what I wanted, since I was an extremely driven, perfectionistic, stoic, self-critical and achieving person. If I was in misery, I just coped with it. My love for martial arts led me to achieve various degrees of black belt ranking in 4 separate styles of Karate, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, as well as instructor certification in Tai Qi Quan. I developed my own system under my instructor’s tutelage and opened my own martial arts school. However, as I got older, my pain became worse and worse, evolving into a chronic pattern of daily torment.
Nothing worked…then hope!
To make a long story short about my back pain experience, I tried virtually everything to cure the suffering. I was treated with chiropractic, injection therapy, pharmaceutical therapy, TENS, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, Traditional Chinese medicine, Reiki, traction, dietary therapy and activity addition and avoidance. I was recommended as an ideal candidate for surgery by many doctors and was even threatened with my continuing functionality if I did not acquiesce to surgical intervention by at least several noted orthopedic surgeons. Eventually, I began to discover the same path that other incredibly frustrated back pain sufferers find as a last hope…knowledge therapy.
Dr. Andrew Weil was my first exposure to a medical practitioner using the mind as a causative explanation for physical maladies. His brilliant writings led me to explore further, leading me to Dr John Sarno, Dr. Candace Pert, Dr. Marc Sopher and others. I never would have even considered the idea that my back pain, as well as all the other chronic physical concerns I endured, were the result of a mindbody process. They just seemed so physical and had structural anatomical explanations provided to me by my trusty care givers. This was my mistake and is also the number one reason why people DO NOT recover from chronic pain.
The beginning of recovery
As I became well versed in mindbody medicine, I realized how much it all made sense. I had studied the mindbody connection my entire life and was an expert in certain aspects of it, but was completely ignorant about others. I learned that the mind could make my body do incredible things in martial arts training. I could literally will my body to perform anatomically impossible tasks using internal energy. I just never realized that this ability also reflected the subconscious mind’s capacity to make the body do what it wanted, as well. I knew who I was personality wise, but did not realize the effects my very nature had on my body. The way I was wired emotionally made me particularly susceptible to mindbody conditions which stem from emotional issues, but are expressed in the physical body. This was the beginning of my recovery…
It is obvious to all that the mind controls the body in many ways. Hypnosis, sexual arousal, fear, fight or flight response, anxiety, stress and happiness all cause noticeable reactions in our bodies. However, even though these facts are well documented and accepted in medical literature, doctors still do not credit the mind for being able to cause pain in the body. Instead, they blame a plethora of structural scapegoats throughout the anatomy. When it comes to back pain, the spine is the typical target pariah. Doctors will be happy to do a battery of diagnostic testing and tell you all the seemingly horrible abnormalities you have in your spine. However, they will not tell you that practically everyone has these same issues, including themselves, but not everyone suffers pain from them. Scientific evidence clearly shows that there is little relationship between the most common spinal diagnoses, including degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis, and the occurrence of chronic pain.
So, finally, we come around to conditioning… Conditioning occurs constantly in our minds. We perceive events and relate them to feelings and experiences we have. This is life. However, when it comes to pain, we rely heavily on conditioning. Our drives to succeed and our inner desires to avoid sensitive and painful emotional issues place a huge burden on our subconscious. The subconscious fears the conscious acknowledgment of these emotional concerns and pressures, so it looks for a way out. Physical pain is the answer.
The subconscious uses the autonomic system, and other bodily systems, to create pain anywhere in the physical body. However, statistics clearly show that the mind will target areas known to be sites of former injury or regions with an obvious and known abnormality, in order to make the pain seem more “physical”, more convincing, if you will. We are conditioned to accept the structural nature of these aches and pains every time we experience them in conjunction with an otherwise innocent activity, such as sitting or bending. These are typically things our bodies have done countless times in the past, but are now agonizing and it is no surprise that these painful activities are most often linked to things we MUST do for work or family responsibility…
We never even consider the source of the pain as being anything except the part of our body which hurts. We also do not question our diagnosis, even if the symptoms presented do not correspond exactly with the expectations from a particular diagnosed condition. I encourage all of you to discount the body as the cause of most chronic pain. Consider that fact that medicine is extremely efficient and successful at curing structural issues with the body. If you have not enjoyed relief from ANY chronic bodily pain, despite a wide range of seemingly appropriate treatments, there is a very good chance that the source of your discomfort is not residing in our body, but instead, in your mind.
It is up to you to cure yourself
This simple philosophy literally saved my life and has put me on a new path. I have dedicated my life to helping others see the truth about how the mind and body are equal parts of the human entity and work together to create ALL conditions of health and disease. I have written exhaustively about this topic in my books, articles and websites and encourage interested readers to continue to study these ideas in order to find true health and comfort in life. The mind can make the body feel pain logically or illogically. The subconscious mind will also use its influence over the consciousness to make you think and believe the pain is anatomical. It is up to you to learn why the scientific model of chronic pain DOES NOT make sense. It is up to you to investigate how and why millions have recovered from disabling pain syndromes, including dorsopathy, fibromyalgia, TMD, carpal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis, using only emotional and psychological therapies. It is up to you to cure yourself.
I leave you with a final thought… Many doubt the theory of how the mind can enact pain. Objectively, medical science is adamant in their Cartesian beliefs, but abysmal in their curative results. Knowledge therapy is highly effective and flexible in application. Would you rather follow the accepted norm and continue believing in a myth while in pain or embrace the truth and find relief? After all, the world was flat for thousands of years…
Sensei Adam Rostocki is the author of 3 books and maintains of huge database of dorsopathy information on his Back Pain website, Cure-Back-Pain.Org. Interested readers are encouraged to find all of Sensei’s writings by searching Google using his name. Sensei would like to thank Chris Highcock for this opportunity to share this article with his readers.