Chronic pain is probably one of the toughest challenges we face during our life that holds us back from enjoyment. On one hand it’s that nagging discomfort that won’t go away, on the other is an ever building frustration that comes when every professional you seek seems to have a different opinion, yet none of them offer a solution that works.
This article discusses why it is absolutely great to get an opinion or treatment that turns out not to be helpful!
“Why would you say that?” you may well ask
I agree, it’s a strange thing to say but it follows an issue I see every day in clinic. When people have chronic pain, they usually come to my office having seen almost everyone. For several years they’ve seen the Physio, the Osteopath, the Chiropractor, the Doctor, the orthopaedic surgeon and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, to name but a few. Everyone has their opinion and, so far, nobody has helped.
Seeing everyone like this is basically the same as looking for a second opinion. You are still asking the same question “What do you think is wrong with me?” They then give you their definitive answer “It’s your shoulder causing it” or “It’s your childhood trauma” etc.
This approach is logical. Of course you want an answer. It’s immensely frustrating to get opinions with no improvement and you quickly lose faith in us pain therapists. I’ve had people say “you’ve all done training to fix people in pain, so why aren’t you fixing me?” I get it, it’s disheartening.
Another way to think about it.
Therapists don’t actually go to school to learn how to fix people. They actually go to school to learn how the body works and practice ways in which it can be assisted back to health. It’s an important distinction. I like to say “I don’t fix, I facilitate change”.
So what we can learn from all the work you have done so far, is that whatever methods have been used, they have not managed to facilitate any change in you. With this in mind, it is now time to dismantle the haystack to find the needle.
Needle in the haystack
Think of your pain as a needle in a haystack of possible causes. There are quite literally thousands of reasons to have pain in any part of the body. So I try to think of every failed therapy attempt being one of the strands of hay that’s been tested. Try enough and you’ll eventually find the answer BUT, only if you don’t put the strand of hay back on the stack!
Make a new haystack
This is where people go wrong once they start to get frustrated. When a treatment fails to help, clients seem to throw away the treatment but hold on to the diagnosis. They’ll say Physio, Osteopathy and Chiropractic don’t work. Then they’ll say It’s to do with my posture, my spine, my weak glutes, and my disc degeneration. Can you see that the massage therapist that told you it is your posture worked on your posture and didn’t help the issue. You fired the massage therapist but you didn’t let go of the idea they gave you about your posture.
This is just like looking for a needle in a haystack and pulling out straw, saying “that isn’t what I wanted” then putting the straw back on the haystack.
So I want you to think differently. Think about all the failed therapies and opinions as things that the problem IS NOT, like “posture”. With a good list of what the problem is not, you are left with an ever decreasing list of what it could be and the odds of success become greater.
A new approach
Our approach here is to eliminate things that your pain is not. We will never be so bold as to tell you what your pain is or give you a label of hypermobility or bad posture or whatever else you’ve heard. People have tried that and it didn’t help, so please don’t carry those labels with you any more.
We may also not be successful at resolving your pain, but by the end of working with us you’ll know clearly a set of other things it is not. Which means a set of things you can stop worrying about it being. If we don’t help then we can also suggest things it could be that are outside of our skill set and you haven’t tried yet. Further narrowing down on the source of the problem.
It is this approach that makes us so successful. We hold no attachment to any one thing your pain has to be, like bad posture, which gives us the ability to explore with you. Treating is a voyage of learning about someone. If you also come on that same voyage, you will certainly get to your destination.