Over the past year, I have been working with the power of the mind. I have seen how different thoughts or actions affect the body. Changing perceptions can change how you feel in an instance, but can this work for other problems like pain? Most patients that I see that have chronic pain have no hope that they can help themselves. They don’t even want to be going to therapy, but the doctor has made them because they are tired of trying to help with no avail. Some of the most successful treatment sessions were not when I placed my hands on the patient or wanted to give them a magical set of exercises that they had already done before and failed; it has been when we have been able to break the cycle of thought. The patient can recognize that you are willing to listen, and then they can open up to new ideas.
There is nothing more draining than working with a patient that has a bigger story than the actual pain they are presenting with. The information has grown; every failure gets added on with significance and disappointment that carries until the next blow. It is no wonder when the patient finally makes it to you; they are such a wreck. The most common complaint that I hear others have with these patients is they want to tell you everything in their life that has failed due to this pain, and they want to make sure you feel that pain.
What I have learned over this last year is the concept of “your thoughts are not your thoughts.” It seems weird and out there but play with a bit. You can sit there and think of the greatest moments or thoughts, and you feel great. There are happiness and joy. Now change that thought to the most painful or hurtful experience, and immediately your whole body changes. You are overcome with hurt, fear, sadness, pain, all by thought. You can now try to go back to a positive review, but it takes longer to recover from negative thinking. I played with a HeartMath monitor that would determine your positive energy and was designed to help people control their thoughts. I tested it on my child. When she hooked it up, it showed that she was 100% content, she did not need any help. Then I had her repeat “ I am bad” 10x’s, and the meter rapidly went down to 50%. She now required service to get back to 100%, so I had her repeat “I am good” 10x’s. The outcome was surprising; she did not make it back to 100%, not even close. She improved by only small fractions. The body’s response to negative thought was so strong; it held on to it for a significant amount of time. This was a demonstration with a delighted, well-adjusted child who had a hard time recovering from the pain, just a negative thought. Now imagine your patient that has been living those thoughts for years. It is going to take some work, a lot of work.
To have a chronic pain treatment work, I feel you have to have total buy-in from the patient. You can start with just a small buy-in, but if they are not entirely sold, then you can be fighting a battle that is not yours to fight.
The patient needs to feel heard. No matter how irrelevant the story may be, it is their story. Once you allow them to get it out, there is healing. Some of the most gratified patients are seen without any other treatment that being heard.
There needs to be a plan developed that both the practitioner and patient agree upon. No longer does the patient get to be passive. They have as much work as you do on overcoming this problem. They have to realize that most of the book is within them.
Failure is ok. It does not mean there is no hope; it just means that it was not the right path. I usually say at least we now know what not to do and move on.
Be aware of your thoughts. Thoughts can be more harmful than anything the patient does. Change the beliefs, and you change the ability to heal.
About the author,
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.
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