(NaturalNews) A Washington-based orthopedic surgeon who has developed a pain management system for sufferers of chronic back pain says it is a much better alternative to back surgeries which have low success rates.
Dr. David Hanscom, in an interview with Natural News, said that his Structured Care Program not only works well, but has saved a number of patients from the continued pain, aggravation and frustration of unsuccessful -- and inappropriate -- back surgery.
"An incredibly large number of surgeries are being done on healthy spines," said Hanscom, who practices at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. "I got tired of doing surgeries with a low success rate."
Hanscom said that, for the first eight years or so he was practicing, he performed a number of spinal fusion surgeries. But after seeing patients continue to suffer with similar or worse levels of pain within months or a few years after surgery, he decided that he needed to find a different approach.
"We weren't doing these patients any good," he said.
After years of continued practice and much research into pain management, Hanscom devised his program, which he says, unequivocally, "works."
"Once people understand they can control their pain, success rates go up," he told Natural News.
'Surgery almost never helps back pain'
Overall, spinal surgery has mixed benefits. While surgery to repair a structural problem like a bone spur can be very successful, surgery based on little more than soft-tissue "back pain" has a success rate closer to zero, Hanscom said.
One of the most common diagnoses for back pain -- degenerative disc disease -- "has been found to be part of the normal aging process," Hanscom said. In fact, he says, there is a 35 percent incidence of disc change in adults between the ages of 20 and 39, and that rises to 100 percent by the time adults reach 60. And yet, it is also the most common reason why so many people have needless back procedures.
"Surgery almost never helps 'back pain,'" he said. That's because, due to a number of factors, most back pain is simply "in your head" and cannot be surgically repaired.
Using his Structured Care Program, Hanscom says he's managed to "cure" nine out of 10 patients who come see him for chronic pain. That's because most pain is more about perception than reality.
"If you think about it carefully, pain impulses in the body - whether structural or soft tissue - has been interpreted by the brain to be pleasant or unpleasant," he said. "So all pain impulses are in the nervous system. The difficult part is, however, even though the switch is on (in the brain), you still feel the pain" in your back, your knee or your shoulders, for example.
What's more, he says, even weeks or months later, after the initial event which caused the pain has healed, some people still think they feel pain because they have memorized it, making the so-called pain pathways permanent. That feeling of constant pain creates dramatically increased levels of anxiety and, eventually, anger.
Creating 'detours' around pain pathways
Hanscom's program helps people create what he calls "detours" around established pain pathways:
-- Start by writing down your anxiety-producing thoughts and then rip the paper up. Don't just crumple it and toss it; don't burn it. Rip it up. And do this every day.
"Pain pathways are permanent," Hanscom says, but this process "creates a detour around that pathway."
He says he has seen patients who become relatively pain-free within five to seven days, but some take longer. One patient took seven years.
"It all depends on how much you're willing to put into the process," he said.
-- Deal with your anger, because "anger = loss of control," he says. Anger and pain are very closely linked in our nervous systems, and they tend to feed off each other: "If you feel you are not angry in the presence of unrelenting pain you are just not connected to it - most of us really hate feeling angry and we really despise being in pain."
-- Go from being reactive to being creative. "You cannot be creative if you are reacting. You must be able to see your reactions in order to make new choices. Then your life will move forward," Hanscom advises.
-- Take back your life. Those who suffer from chronic pain tend to become socially isolated. As they begin to control it with the previous steps, they can once more reconnect with friends, relatives and others.
-- Finally, live your life to the fullest. While that sounds trite, it's true. Hanscom believes former sufferers would be cheating themselves if they didn't take advantage of their new, anger-free, pain-free, anxiety-free lives.