Possibly one of the strongest arguments and studies on the effect of a psychological approach to chronic pain has been released by CU Boulder research, published in one of the top medical journals - JAMA Psychiatry.
The study tests the effect of Gordon's Pain Reprocessing Therapy vs placebo found that 66% of chronic back pain patients who took part in the four-week psychological treatment were pain-free or nearly pain-free post-treatment and the majority of those maintained relief for one year. Now, this may not come as a surprise to those of us that are fluent in the mind-body connection, but the part that really blows my mind is that the participants also showed changes in pain-generating brain regions after therapy, as shown on MRI.
We now know that the brain can keep firing pain signals without any injury or after an injury has completely healed. I've read hundreds of cases like this and experienced this first-hand also. The brain can latch-on to these pain signals, effectively learning them and keeping them firing. Add to this a heavy dose of fear surrounding your pain condition and the brain creates the "perfect" environment for chronic pain to exist and persist.
This new research suggests that with chronic pain, misfiring neural pathways are activating different brain regions than those during acute pain incidences. But it's also really important to mention that in chronic pain patients, certain neural networks are also overly sensitised to and commonly misfire or overfire as a result. It makes total sense to me that the oh-so-common feeling of hypersensitivity or hypervigilance - clearly starts in the brain and is effectively the fire beneath our chronic conditions.
Alan Gordon LCSW's signature psychological approach highlighted in the study (and in his new book, "The Way Out" and his free 21-day Pain Recovery Program) is called Pain Reprocessing Therapy - a combination of understanding the root cause of pain, knowing that pain isn't dangerous, removing fear and addressing it with calm confidence, through his gentle body-scan style Somatic Tracking practice.
By changing our fear of the pain and actively reframing it to be safe and non-threatening, patients can literally change the way the brain perceives threats and change the actual neuropathways that are currently reinforcing pain and effectively deactivating the pain signals.
It's beyond exciting to see that it has now been PROVEN that it works. Check out the original study via the links above, plus more links to Alan Gordon's work and content below.
If you're new here - I'm Dani Fagan and this is my journey out of chronic back pain using a psychological approach. Check out my Recovery Journey Roadmap for more information on exactly how I did it, and let's connect on social media, I'm on Facebook or Instagram and post daily insight and inspiration over there.
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