Back pain suffering is something I know a lot about. Actually, I would, in all modesty, call myself an expert on suffering, after the decades I spent battling acute and chronic back pain before finding relief, as well as the years of agony since the pain returned. The reasons for my suffering were particularly cruel. Cruel, both because they were never accurately diagnosed by dozens of medical doctors and therapists and even crueler that I could have relieved the pain much sooner, if I had simply recognized its true cause at the time.
This dissertation examines the agony of chronic back pain, as well as its effects on the individual as a whole.
There are traditionally 3 main reasons that are blamed for causing significant back ache: back injury, congenital condition and degenerative process. These 3 reasons for back pain are diagnosed in 99% of all patients worldwide. These conditions can all cause pain, but it is crucial to remember that many cases of long-term unresolved back pain may be caused by a completely different reason: psychoemotional reasons.
Many, many patients who suffer from ongoing treatment-resistant pain syndromes have been misdiagnosed with one of the Big 3 when their pain is actually due to some psychological causation. Still other patients have been labeled as suffering from one particular form of structural pain, when all along, another anatomical problem is the true source. Never assume that a diagnosis is accurate, particularly if the symptoms endure despite treatment.
Doctors are brilliant individuals. They are certainly not naïve. Doctors know that many cases of back pain do not make structural sense. The symptoms do not correspond with the clinical profile of the diagnosis. Often the symptoms do not make any anatomical sense at all and defy even the most open minded logic.
The diagnosis is made regardless, since something has to be the cause of the pain and there is often a scapegoat condition available. Spinal abnormalities caused by any of the Big 3 are often not the real reason for enduring pain conditions, although they are almost always blamed for them. Many doctors obviously see the inconsistencies of their diagnoses, but continue to make them regardless. This diagnostic practice is irresponsible and bordering on criminal in a few instances.
If psychological back pain is so prevalent, then why is the diagnosis almost never made? This is the million dollar question. The diagnosis is rarely made since the medical education system does not adequately teach students that a psychological process can cause a physical symptom. It sounds ridiculous, but it is unfortunately true.
Medicine has no problem with the fact that psychological processes are responsible for such physical reactions such as:
Blushing when embarrassed
Sweating when nervous
Sexual arousal in men and women
Dilation of the pupils when scared
Increased heart rate and blood pressure during fight or flight
These are just a few of hundreds of documentable physical reactions enacted completely through psychological means. Back pain has not enjoyed the benefit of being included in this list, much to the detriment of affected patients and proven by horrible treatment results.
Times are changing and new doctors do enjoy the benefit of a greater emphasis on the mindbody interactions, yet it will take time for this turning tide to truly influence the way treatment is conceived and applied to chronic pain. In the meantime, we are all still suffering.
Medical educators need to wake up to the realities of mindbody interaction more than ever before. The epidemic of psychosomatic pain syndromes is a mystery to many medical providers, since they do not even consider crediting the mind for causing any physical symptoms.
It is no surprise that medicine’s treatment results for back pain, fibromyalgia and other psychological conditions are abysmal. As soon as medical schools begin to teach the importance of mindbody medicine, the back pain epidemic will finally have run it's course and will end.
You must be responsible for your own health. This includes helping to recognize any health problems that have been neglected by the inaccurate diagnosis and poorly directed treatments of medical science. I have met thousands of patients who claim to be searching for a solution to their chronic suffering. They have tried all sorts of back pain treatments and some have even resorted to back surgery, but they still have symptoms.
One would think that upon hearing that their pain might be psychological, the patient would be ecstatic. Instead of enduring more torturous and unsuccessful treatments, they can simply read some knowledge therapy books and possibly fully recover.
Sounds great to me.
However, the reality is that most patients will simply not accept this diagnosis. They might not understand the concept of mindbody interaction or they might be influenced by the societal stigma of psychosomatic conditions. Regardless, these patients have proven that they would rather go on suffering with tremendous pain than get better. It is that simple and that sad.
When I found out that some of my back pain suffering might be from an alternate source than had been previously diagnosed, I welcomed the paradigm shift in thinking. After all, if the doctors had been right, than why was I not getting any better?
In fact, the more treatment I received, the worse I got.
Well, despite the protests of my care providers, I managed to prove the psychological nature of my pain by resolving it myself in a matter of weeks. I managed to do what dozens of doctors and therapists could not achieve given 18 years of trying. It just goes to prove that one individual can make a big difference.
In the fight against my back pain, I was carried for miles by the medical army and remained wounded. When I learned to fight for myself, I became a fearless army of one who defeated back pain and went on to claim my spoils of victory: a pain-free life.