You have been suffering without an end in sight and are upset about being trapped by pain. It is important to step back and figure out an effective strategy, as what you have been doing has not been effective. I have witnessed hundreds of patients become pain free over a period ranging from weeks to several years. The DOC process is a framework to organize your thoughts and enable you to create your own solution. This first stage lays the foundation for your journey.

Step 1: Learn about chronic pain
Step 2: Expressive writing 
  • Begin writing soon. It is starting point for the rest of the process.
  • There are over 300 research papers that document its effectiveness.
Step 3: Active meditation
  • Drawing attention to a sensation connects you with the present moment.
    • It is a reprogramming tool that shifts you off of your pain circuits and calms you down.
Step 4: Sleep
  • It is the cornerstone of the solving your pain
    • Real changes won’t occur without adequate sleep
Step 5: Do not share your pain
  • Your brain will develop wherever you place your attention.
    • Don’t discuss your pain with others.
    • Talking about your problems reinforces these unpleasant circuits. Not sharing your pain

Resources

  1. Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain by David Hanscom
  2. The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Dan Coyle
  3. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
  4. 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back by Esther Gokhale

 

Other Considerations

  • You can’t control most stressors in your life, but you can control your reaction. The eye of the storm
  • Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself and others. This will be the focus of Stage 2. Forgiveness
  • Remember to laugh and play. This will also be emphasized in Stage 2.
  • Strive to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days per week. Find exercise you enjoy, and try to mix it up. Consider joining a group fitness class or gym. During this initial stage, the exercises should be light and enjoyable. Increasing your strength, flexibility, and endurance will gradually become more of a focus.
  • Eat a healthy diet full of colorful, whole foods, largely plant-based. Aim to fill you plate with 1/2 fruits and veggies, 1/4 whole grains, and 1/4 lean proteins. Drink water and avoid sugary beverages. Save special occasion foods for special occasions. Shop around the perimeter at the grocery store and avoid the aisles, where there tends to be more processed and packaged food. Don’t shop when you are hungry. Don’t keep unhealthy food in your house. Downsize your plate and bowl size. Plan meals ahead. Eat food and enjoy it!

Initially, this will be difficult in the presence of unrelenting pain and anxiety. Food is soothing. Learn to appreciate the   experience and eating more healthfully will evolve. Patients often get focused on weight loss. It is an added stress that should not be an initial priority.

Become your own inspiration

These recommendations were created by one of the sports medicine fellows who spent a month with me in clinic. She is a family practitioner who became inspired by watching my patient’s successes. I am saying “my patients” in a tongue in cheek manner. You are your own success. The strategies outlined in the DOC structure are not the definitive solution to your pain. The DOC process simply presents a framework that will allow you to find your own answers.

People wonder why I am so passionate about this process. It is because I am inspired daily by my patients. The resiliency of the human spirit is incredible. I am shocked by the depth of misery experienced by most of my patients and amazed at the capacity to turn it all around. I am honored to be able to contribute my experience to help you begin your journey, but you are the ones that can and do regularly pull off almost miraculous turnarounds to enjoy a productive and fulfilling life. The one factor that predicts success is your willingness to engage with these concepts. Each person does this differently. Inspire yourself and those around you. You get to pass through this life only once.

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“Better Not Look Down”

Charley’s Story – After 16 physicians in three months without success, he has been pain free for years