Jennifer’s Permanent Pain Pathways

I did surgery on Jennifer 18 years ago for a missed spine infection. Here is the link to her story. We Are Not Broken I thought I had definitively solved her problem. With her fusion solid and her infection cleared she structurally was cured. She went on to develop severe chronic thoracic pain. I knew nothing about chronic pain at the time and was very dismayed to find out she had been suffering so much for so long.

Last February (2013) she walked into my office and said, “I read your book and I am going to attend the Hoffman Process.” It was during the third day of her Hoffman experience that her pain lifted. She had some flares for the first three months but overall had a marked improvement in her pain. This is a followup letter about four months after her pain resolved.

Her current pain patterns

Would it be okay if I call you, David? This may be an odd request, and you’ll think this is funny or interesting — but every time I think or say, Dr. Hanscom, my back tenses up! I know why this happens and I do recycle (Hoffman exercise) when this occurs. But still it’s kind of a pain (pun intended) and rather annoying. This has been happening since we’ve been in touch, so in my mind, I call you, David — and then I sit down to write you an email, and then BAM – tension.

Pain pathways tied to specific events

I am glad that my story is of value to you. My pain pathways that are tied to specific events are quite pronounced. It usually goes something like this… I have a particular quality of pain in my back. For instance, there can be a sharp, stabbing pain towards the middle of my scar. If I quiet my mind, I can usually get myself back to the first time I felt that particular pain sensation.

I first felt this specific quality of pain a few weeks after my initial surgery. (I believe this is when the infection started.) I remember telling my spine surgeon about this pain, and he said that it was normal. The pain continued to get worse. As I continued to communicate this, I wasn’t listened to or taken seriously. So now, when I feel this pain, it tells me that:

1) I am stressed, and engaging in one or more reactive patterns of behavior and

2) The pattern(s) have to do with: a) not feeling heard, b) not saying what I need to say out of fear of being judged, or c) feeling slighted by another person.

Childhood pathways – not believed

Often times I can also trace these patterns back even farther. For instance, when I was a child I would get in trouble with my dad for being “overly emotional” or “too sensitive”. I can remember getting upset about something my older sister would say or do to me — I would usually cry and tell my parents. Sometimes I would get physically disciplined for my emotional reaction because I was perceived as overly and unnecessarily reactive. Additionally, my sister would often deny that she had done anything to me at all, and my parents would believe her. So not only was my pain not validated, it was punished, and I was accused of making it up.

Self doubt – infected tooth

This particular pattern has played out a number of ways in my adult life – it has manifested many times as mistrust in myself. For example, I have a dental implant. A few years ago I got a piece of popcorn stuck underneath it. My gums surrounding this implant started to hurt, but I wasn’t sure if the pain was just in my head or if something was really wrong.

This internal dialog continued for several weeks until my gums so inflamed that I could actually see the inflammation and swelling. Finally, I went to my dentist. He removed the crown of the implant, found the piece of popcorn and scolded me for not coming in sooner. I had to wait a month before he could put the crown back on because of the tissue damage that had occurred.

Connecting with herself

At 33, I am learning how to validate my own feelings, and trust myself. In this, I am finding that I project less onto others. A win for me and a win for others in my life.

I have lots of stories like these, and I am happy to share them with you.  I find them very interesting really.  And mostly I can appreciate them now because I know how to mitigate the pain and use it as an opportunity for growth. My body has become an amazing and incredibly accurate barometer.

My Perspective

She is a wonderful person and is now thriving beyond anyone’s expectations without pain. (Except when triggered) I feel privileged to be a part of her healing almost two decades later.