Controlling severe pain

When I suffered for about 3 years from a ‘slipped disc’ problem in my 40s, I became interested in whether pain can be controlled by the mind over-riding the pain. Whenever the disc in L4/5 allegedly moved, the pain was so severe that I could not move. For instance, on one occasion, I was stuck with my underpants at half-mast; I could not take them off or pull them up. The treatment included lying belly down for days, pain killers, heat, gentle massage; later, when I could move, hanging from a girder in the garage; floor exercises to strengthen my back, abdominal, and core muscles; and the use of a walking stick.

Meditation did not help. That was disappointing. My mind could not alleviate my pain.

However, in between such episodes, I played sport (squash, table tennis, badminton and tennis – in sequence, over time), worked in the garden, laid wall tiles, wall papered, and painted. My colleagues described me as an iron-man, walking in to work with a stick one week, and bringing in a sports bag with a change of clothes the next. By being careful, I had a normal life, in between bouts of pain. By that time I had strengthened my muscles.

After retirement, when wear and tear had raised the pain level of ordinary existence, I decided that I would seek to control my brain (where the pain was said to be based) through my mind. Why had I not thought of that before? The problem now was not a ‘slipped disc’ one. It was arthritis-related. Lying down in severe pain, and saying silently, in a meditative mode, that my back does not hurt, or visualising the pain being moved away or diminishing, was of no use; no one in the brain was listening.

However, eventually, I tried saying, in the same mode, “It hurts like hell; but I do not feel it.” It was strangely effective after about 20 minutes. I am not sure whether this approach will counter a ‘slipped disc’ situation. I do not want to find out.

I offer my practice for fellow-sufferers. This process, of mind over brain, remains effective for me.

In my next post, I will write about how a pain medicine specialist discovered a way to combat his brain – to weaken his chronic-pain circuits. Mind over brain actually worked with others too.