A UNC study noted that 80% of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain at some point during their life. But what really causes chronic pain?
Costs are estimated at greater than $100 billion annually, from lost hours & productivity.
Having traveled a bit through Europe, I estimate this is true of every country, though the pain disorder may be different.
What has happened? What happened to our backs in the past hundred years? Did they magically all evolve to be weak & susceptible to damage?
Or perhaps there’s nothing wrong with them at all…
My Journey Through Pain: A Long Short Summary
Note: If you want to know what causes chronic pain, skip this section.
Before we talk about what causes chronic pain, let me show you I’m more than qualified to talk about it. Here’s my experience with chronic pain, put as briefly as possible.
Upon graduating High School half a year early at 17, I began developing “hand pains.” This was believed to be a repetitive strain injury (RSI), from excessive video games, texting, piano, and school.
It waxed and waned in pain degrees over the next 5 months from Jan 2016 – May 2016. It goes worse sometimes, and better sometimes. The reasons for it were not understood.
Upon moving to Phoenix in May of 2016, the hand pain increased substantially. I thought this was due to using my laptop with imperfect posture. Also prior to the hand pain my back “fell out of place” (only a few times) and required chiropractic adjustment.
I suffered from “allergies” growing up, which mysteriously “disappeared” at the age of 16. I had various aches and pains from age 14-16 “from cross country.”
Sometime in Phoenix I began getting my hands checked out- no structural abnormalities were found. I tested negative for carpal tunnel, however I now learned that whether you test positive/negative for carpal tunnel is based on whether you’re laying down or sitting in a chair (LOL).
I tried hand PT, ice, heat, rest, and pushing through it. I began chiropractic adjustments, which appeared to slowly help. The cause was apparently my “neck out of place.”
In December of 2016, I got into a snow-boarding accident. I had a concussion, and a really bad headache. I rested for a few weeks and slowly improved, but a headache lingered.
One day the concussion magically “came back.” I got diagnosed with post-concussion. MRIs of head tested fine. Post-concussion treatment protocol began.
The headaches persisted. Injections into the occipital nerve were ineffective in alleviating the pain. The headaches were extremely sensitive to up/down movement, which prevented me from doing many things. Excruciating pain soon became the focus of my life.
As I did research for the cause of headaches, I realized it could’ve been caused from “whiplash.” My neck WAS stiff after all! Also, after the accident, my neck hurt so bad that I couldn’t lift it off the pillow.
That pain ended after about 7 days (typical whiplash recovery), but the realization that it was potentially caused by the neck made me more sensitive to my stiffness and small aches n’ pains.
I went to the chiropractor again, thinking that my neck pain & headaches were caused by a “misalignment” caused from the accident. The chiropractor exacerbated my fears by reminding me my neck was “slightly out of place” prior to the accident.
After 2 weeks, my head, neck, shoulders, and back were all hurting. I felt like the chiropractor was making it worse.
Over the next few months I tried massage, ice, heat, rest, another chiropractor, physical therapy, more injections, and a few other things. Nothing stuck long.
MRIs were taken of the head, neck, upper back, and lower back. Everything was fine. The case was a mystery to doctors! As I’ve now learned though, herniated discs can’t cause extended pain, so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had a herniated disc anyways.
In September of 2017 I saw the #1 physiotherapist specializing in post-concussion persistent chronic pain due to muscle tension in North America.
I tried electrical stimulation, adjustments, more therapy, etc. It appeared to help a small bit, but lasting relief was not evident.
Alternative therapies were also searched for, such as dieting, float therapies, etc.
I continued battling the pain until I discovered a wonderful doctor in December of 2016. However, I would reject the truth until February of 2018, when real healing would finally begin….
Meet Dr. John Sarno & TMS
Dr. John Sarno authored a book called “Healing Back Pain.” In it, he states that chronic pain is a result of suppressed, unconscious emotion. That which we can’t feel in the emotional body plays itself out in the physical body.
Certain personality types, such as perfectionists, are at a higher risk of developing chronic pain because they’re more likely to suppress things to “fit in.”
In short, some people develop chronic pain because their “emotional suppression bucket” gets overloaded and never discharged.
The unconscious mind & repression was introduced to the world through Freud, but what he didn’t know was that repression has a limit.
Repression is a wonderful thing that can help you seize the moment during tough situations. However, if the repressed emotions begin overflowing, physiological changes occur in the body that generate pain!
TMS is “Tension Myositis Syndrome,” now referred to as The Mindbody Syndrome.
Repression & Pain
We all repress thoughts & feelings, some more than others. What emotional experiences you’ve had also determine the likelihood of chronic pain.
Going through a tough, crazy experience and repressing the anger about it could lead to subsequent pain. Alternatively, one may suppress the day to day annoyances in an attempt to put on a “happy persona.”
Repression is done by the ego to protect its image of itself. Feeling unhappy, rage, and fear is not easy when you’re trying to put up a happy image your ego desperately wishes to maintain.
As I’ve learned, there are inner truths that could complete destroy your sense of reality if opened up. Due to my pain, I’ve had to find these inner truths, and I’m still coming to grips with many of them.
Being inauthentic to yourself is one way you could generate chronic pain. The problem is, you don’t realize you’re being inauthentic to yourself!
People with chronic pain literally don’t feel upset or angry. They feel happy, calm, and at peace (besides that nagging back pain or headache).
If they do feel upset or angry, they haven’t realized the full magnitude of such emotion. Or, if they are upset & angry, they don’t realize what this other anger is towards.
For example, it is socially acceptable to be angry at someone who stole your money. It isn’t so easy to admit your rage at your parents for mistreating you.
So instead of admitting it, repression takes place. The truth becomes hidden and in its place becomes something more socially acceptable: pain, allergies, or something of the sort.
Traumatic experiences also lead towards chronic pain if the survivor had to use the “freeze response.”
During a scary event you can fight, flight, or freeze. Fighting or running leads to the least amount of emotional trauma. Freezing, or being forced to lock yourself down to endure the situation, is the most emotionally traumatizing, and leads to all kinds of suppressed rage.
Why We Suppress
Some people suppress because they learned that as a kid. For example, if you were spanked for being “angry,” you may have learned to suppress that anger.
As a kid you associated anger with getting attacked, feeling unsafe, and a threat of abandonment from the parents. Instead of feeling anger, the kid will learn at a very young age that they can not feel it (or realize it) at all, and instead develop allergies.
The energy trapped inside of the kid will create physiological changes in the immune response to its environment. Suddenly, the body freaks out from pollen, and allergies are created!
I grew up a “very good kid.” I conformed, got good grades, was not angry, and did everything I could to please my parents.
Of course I had allergies, and chronic pain later in life! I learned to suppress anything “negative” that would threaten my image. I was deathly terrified of abandonment.
The other cause of suppression is traumatic life experiences that force the “freeze” response as previously mentioned. There are other causes as well, but hopefully you get the gist of it now.
Healing From Pain
Healing from chronic pain is insanely difficult. Most people will reject it because they aren’t willing to face the inner truth.
Ego plays a huge part; people don’t want to admit they’re wrong, or angry, or unhappy with life.
It’s much easier to have “back troubles” than quit your job, tell your boss to “f*** off,” and deal with the financial issues of finding a new job- especially if a family depends on you.
I won’t go too much into treatment here because:
1) I’m not a doctor
2) I’m not 100% recovered yet (but I’m making huge improvements woohooo)
3) My resources do a better job of treating you.
In short, you have to challenge the pain by resuming physical activity (nothing is physically wrong with you), and also notice the mindbody link.
For example, my “hand pain” got worse when I moved from my hometown, Omaha, to Phoenix. I was unconsciously angry, fearful, and worried. I repressed these emotions to cope though, and my hands paid the price.
Feeling your true emotions is ridiculously difficult as well.
You also must reject any “physical” issues. For example, studies have proven that disc slips & spinal abnormalities do not cause extended chronic pain. There is undeniable proof of this in the resources I’m about to mention.
The hardest part is accepting that emotional issues are causing your pain. Peeling back layers for the truth is ridiculously tough, and it’s much easier to stick to injections.
I had a friend I was corresponding with online about our chronic pains. Both of us had very similar symptoms. I’m now healing, occasionally jogging, and feeling very improved, whereas he is still stuck at where he’s at.
The reason for this is because he simply can’t accept that emotional issues are causing his problems.
We live in a very inauthentic world. The appearance of happiness is glamorized. Needing support, crying, and feeling depressed are stigmatized so people repress their emotions to fit in. They think that feeling a bad emotion such as anger will lead to them getting rejected from society!
Nonacceptance of TMS From Mainstream
In a PREVIOUS POST, I theorized that “cures” to pain don’t exist because of a financial motive. That is, economics & profit motivate people to treat but never cure patients.
While this may play a role, I now understand the true cause of the rejection of emotions playing a critical role in chronic pain. Here are two reasons:
Rejection By Patients: Inner Truths
Many the masses reject that emotional factors are causing their chronic pain because they know it is true.
If people truly wanted to get better, they would seek to understand the mindbody process fully. Instead they reject it before they even understand it completely! This is a common fallacy. Back to the injections and surgeries it is!
I rejected it quite a bit at first as well. The #1 physiotherapist in North America proved my muscles were weak, inflexible, and tight. I thought it surely must be the cause! Alas, it wasn’t- the mechanisms of disease is NOT the cause of disease itself.
As I began to inquire further about the process of mindbody disorders, my foot, and knees had swollen up to dangerously high levels. I was completely incapacitated, and had to spend a few days at my girlfriend’s house to be taken care of.
I now know this was my ego’s last-ditch attempt to shield me from my inner truth. This inflammation was completely random, with no cause. Blood tests came back normal, except for high C-Reactive Protein levels (which only shows that yes, I did have inflammation).
My ego was trying to trick me that something really was wrong with me! Thankfully, I had read about this, and knew as it happened that I really did have TMS…
A week or two later, I had a complete break from reality for about 45 minutes. I had flashbacks to horrible things in my childhood that I had completely repressed & forgotten about.
Ever since then, my pain levels are lower than before. Embracing the truth is hard, but necessary for long-term healing.
Rejection By Medicine: More Egos
If Mindbody medicine is true, and patients are magically being cured through knowledge therapy, then why doesn’t mainstream medicine embrace it?
The answer I now realize is not because of a profit motive, but because of the exact same reasons patients struggle accepting their inner truth: egos.
I’m sure money plays a role, but money aside, imagine this:
You’ve studied medicine for a decade. You’ve completed thousands of surgeries across another 2 decades. Suddenly, some doctor tells you that surgeries are only as effective as sham surgeries.
Would that not be a bit upsetting, to realize that 90% of the surgeries you’ve done are completely unnecessary…?
Same is true for chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and pain clinics.
Many doctors have also been conditioned to think only of the mechanisms of a disease. What they don’t understand is that the mechanisms of a disease (ie. muscle tension) is not the cause of disease itself.
There is a profit motive, and an even bigger ego at play here. Understanding that almost all chronic pain is caused by repressed emotions is difficult because it’ll completely change the way things are- and egos don’t like to change.
The only way the world will change is by educating the masses. once the masses start seeking out more mindbody practitioners, the medical industry will change to match it.
Unfortunately, most people in the world do not want the truth. They want quick fixes & distractions.
A Note About Modern Medicine
I’m not bashing modern medicine, or saying we should not have it. Surgeons are amazing- if I ever get into a severe motorcycle accident, I trust that a surgeon will put me back together.
The problem is when egos get in the way of true healing. Sham surgeries & surgeries are equally effective in chronic pain patients, but in cases of severe car accidents that require immediate operation, surgeries are life-saving.
Shit sometimes hits the fan. Thank God we have morphine (mmm), surgeries, and MRIs.
The problem is it’s not properly utilized. We are smart, but not wise. Wisdom is the careful application of knowledge.
For example, herniated discs rarely cause pain, and when they do, it subsides after a week or two. The human body is designed to heal, and the findings of herniated discs in association with chronic pain is merely coincidental.
My references I’ll be listing soon prove this.
So MRIs are magical. If I get in a severe accident, I’m counting on modern medicine to save me. However, for persisting pain, it is a joke. That’s all I’m saying!
Healing From Chronic Pain
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m finally healing. It’s absolutely amazing to have pain-free moments, even if they’re rare, and quick. In general, pain levels are going down substantially.
That does NOT mean life is bliss. There are emotions I need to confront, and realities that need to be addressed.
This is an immensely difficult process. For those wanting to heal, I recommend reading the following:
1) The Body Keeps The Score
2) Healing Back Pain
3) The Mindbody Prescription
4) The Great Pain Deception
The Summary of Truth:
Chronic pain is caused by repressed emotions. Structural abnormalities are merely a coincidence, and rarely cause persistent pain.
We repress that which we do not wish to see. This is an unconscious process- feeling anger and not acting on it is not repression because the emotion of anger is felt.
Repression is an unconscious, automatic process. You do not know you are repressing, unless your “repression bucket” is full and you’re developing chronic pain. You don’t know you’re repressing because you literally feel no negative emotion.
We repress to fit in with our image of ourselves we wish to preserve. We are frightened we will act out our anger, or be rejected for being angry, for example, so it is automatically repressed before one even realizes they are angry.
The mechanism through which chronic pain is developed because of repressed emotions is outlined in the aforementioned references. In short, repression leads to physical changes in the body.
The unconscious mind is the body. Repress too much in the body, and symptoms will appear.
Accidents (such as my snow-boarding accident) open a “hole” to the repressed feelings. It is not that the accident didn’t heal- it’s that the repressed emotions found a “pathway” to express itself.
I am healing, and I hope this knowledge will help others heal. The truth is shocking, both in that emotions really do cause pain, but also that which you have cast away.