Dr. Hanscom

At some point during our lives, most of us will have at least one episode of back pain. Sharp or dull, the pain can come on at an unexpected moment and dominate our lives for days or weeks, until it disappears as mysteriously as it came.

When Pain Becomes Chronic

For some people, however, low back pain becomes chronic and debilitating. With suffering, many people are anxious for an ultimate solution: surgery to fuse the vertebrae. Unfortunately, too often this approach is applied inappropriately and fails to provide the expected relief.

According to Dr. David Hanscom, a leading spine surgeon, back pain can be overcome, but surgery is frequently NOT the best choice. People with chronic back pain may need to overcome their anger and anxiety and use an integrated approach to build new neural pathways that circumvent the pain. Some of the best tactics include finding a way to play as well as a way to confront anger and find forgiveness.

This Week’s Guest

David Hanscom, MD, is one of the nation’s top orthopedic spine surgeons, practicing at Swedish Neuroscience Specialists in Seattle, WA. His book is: Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Road Map Out of Chronic Pain.

Listen to the Podcast

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date (Dec. 6, 2014). The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:December 6, 2014

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  1. Marvin W.
    Newton MA.
    Reply

    My continual back pain seems to have started about a year ago although I’ve had frequent intermittent pain for over 50 years. Dr. Hanscom’s interview offered the first bit of insight I’ve gotten in how to treat this chronic problem. Thanks very much for offering this podcast and for your program. I will be seeing a physiatrist again who prescribed a cortisone injection a few weeks ago, the benefit of which lasted only a couple of weeks of pain free movement.

    By considering the mind body component I intend to work on that, especially my chronic sleep problems. Anger in my case may be cause by an underlying depression. I see a psychologist who specializes in sleep problems so this is an area that I will concentrate on more in my sessions with her.
    Again many thanks for your good work.
    Sincerely yours,
    Marv W.

  2. Marvin Wilkenfeld
    Newton MA.
    Reply

    My continual back pain seems to have started about a year ago although I’ve had frequent intermittent pain for over 50 years. Dr. Hanscome’s (sp) interview offered the first bit of insight I’ve gotten in how to treat this chronic problem. Thanks very much for offering this podcast and for your program. I will be seeing a physiatrist again who prescribed a cortisone injection a few weeks ago, the benefit of which lasted only a couple of weeks of pain free movement.
    By considering the mind body component I intend to work on that, especially my chronic sleep problems. Anger in my case may be cause by an underlying depression. I see a psychologist who specializes in sleep problems so this is an area that I will concentrate on more in my sessions with her.
    Again many thanks for your good work.
    Sincerely yours,
    Marv Wilkenfeld

  3. jimmy
    wilmington nc
    Reply

    interested to know if anyone has had fibromyalgia relief with Dr. Hanscomb’s techniques.

  4. Stephen
    Dallas
    Reply

    These are most of the safe and holistic options to reverse, treat or cure long-term pain or chronic pain category:
    Myofascial Release Therapies. One can visualize all these therapies on a spectrum; Self care with Wellness, stress management, Work-Life Balance, Mind-Body-Spirit therapy, magnesium supplementation, stretching, aerobics, yoga, massage, traction These are most of the safe and holistic options to reverse, treat or cure long-term pain or chronic pain category:
    Myofascial Release Therapies. One can visualize all these therapies on a spectrum; Self care with Wellness, stress management, Work-Life Balance, Mind-Body-Spirit therapy, magnesium supplementation, stretching, aerobics, yoga, massage, traction or inversions, Rolfing, Active Tissue Release, John F. Barnes Myofascial Unwinding and Chiropractic adjustments.

  5. Doug
    SE Florida
    Reply

    Call me skeptical.

  6. Noah Vaile
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Reply

    Anybody think about Hatha Yoga?

  7. Rankin
    Reply

    An inversion table for back pain is the best invention since sliced bread. Think about it: in your home you put yourself in traction and exercise your core muscles for a few minutes every day. What could be better for your back?

  8. NoWorryNoPain
    RGV,TX
    Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed this broadcast. I truly believe one’s mindset has a lot to do with one’s ailments and granted we are all aging, I feel we can minimize our pain by our attitude. I speak from experience as I suffered IBS and now as an aging baby boomer, I suffer a host of ailments just from arthritis alone. However, I had to learn to let go of the things I can’t control, get a dog and enjoy owning a pet with laughter, play, and affection along with gardening and just learning to enjoy simple stuff in life. It was amazing how when I learned to forgive and let go of toxic relationships, my overall health improved; of course with the help of adopting a healthy holistic lifestyle and diet most of the time. I go to the doctor when I need to but I learned it’s very true what this doctor mentioned about anxiety and anger. One saying someone shared with me that has become my mantra and keeps me balanced about anger and anxiety is, “Holding on to anger and resentment without forgiveness against people is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to drop dead.” This is so true because if we are consumed with anger then it is we ourselves who become toxic and eaten up with anxiety and pain that can be our demise. Thank you for the program I plan to read the book.

  9. marie
    Reply

    Chiropractic care is very often the answer in my opinion. In this country we go for allopathic medicine first, instead of last. Herbal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic and more offer non-invasive treatments. You need patience; not everything is an overnight cure.

  10. tsm
    Springfield, Missouri
    Reply

    I listened w interest to Dr. Hanscom’s explanation about chronic pain. My chronic pain is result of degenerative discs (L4, L5, S1, S2). I also have sacroiliac dysfunction and lumbar stenosis. My pain doctor has been treating my pain the last 15 or so years with steroid injections, which got rid of the pain, but they didn’t last very long. The injections were just treating the symptoms, though, and didn’t get to the root of the problem, which I found out recently is muscle asymmetry. I was suffering from ischiogluteal bursitis, trochanteric hip bursitis, gluteal tendinopathy, and inflammation of gluteus medius.

    After my last injection, I went to pain doctor for follow-up, and I told the nurse that the pain where I got the injection was gone, but I hurt in another place on my hip. The nurse referred me to an occupational therapist, who saw that some of my muscles were weak, which caused muscle imbalance, which contributed to the pain. I now do the exercises the therapist taught me, and my pain is less severe or at times is gone altogether. I now see how therapy is helpful to people with chronic pain, and I wish I’d been referred to the occupational therapist years ago.

  11. Diane H
    Southwest Missouri
    Reply

    THANK YOU! I was thrilled to hear your interview on the People’s Pharmacy. Hearing you (a surgeon) talk about the mind-body connection and the real cause of chronic pain just made my day! As a massage therapist I have been spreading the word too, and learning all the tools I can to help people with chronic pain. I can’t wait to read your book. I wish we had a way to band together to help spread the truth. This is my calling, helping people out of pain. I know for sure I will be referencing you and promoting your book a lot! And a big thank you to Joe & Terry Graedon for having you on their program!

  12. Karen
    United States
    Reply

    Dr. Hanscom, This was so true for me also. In the late 90s, I had chronic tail bone pain that lasted for over two years at a very difficult time in my life. I had a lot of anger at the difficulties that surrounded my life, which made the pain even worse. I tried so many remedies, treatments, doctors appointments. I was angry at doctors for not knowing what was wrong with me after x-rays, MRIs and blood tests.

    Anger is what continued to fuel my ankylosing spondylitis (AS) pain, a rheumatologist finally told me, is what I probably had. I would also get migratory skin rashes. Looking back now, I attribute how I got rid of chronic pain to changing my life, my thoughts and adding anti-depressants to help over time. It took longer than a year for the de-anger process to happen. Anger was a poison in my case. I truly believe and feel this.

    That was 14 years ago. I’m relieved to hear you understand this and that you’re a doctor gives me hope in the medical profession changing it’s “pharmaceutical” solutions to everything. Thank YOU!

  13. Beth Ann
    Oak Creek, WI
    Reply

    My joint laxity and scoliosis were first diagnosed 37 years ago. This year I had to swing swiftly from a yearlong feet-up recovery from a bone bruise in my knee to hauling hundreds of pounds of boxes out of my small car and into our new home. Simply rolling a softball back and forth between the wall and my spine every morning for about 20 minutes kept my muscles and mind relaxed enough to keep going. I never had to take time off. It’s also very important to do heavy work at a pace that enables you to pay careful attention to how you are moving, and to use chairs and whatever you can find to keep from having to lift from the floor.

  14. Gary
    Western PA
    Reply

    I listened, LISTENED. Aside from finding out that back surgery is 84% NOT effective. I was lost. I wanted to know why a pinched nerve takes so long to recover? What exercise can do to speed recovery? What exercise might compound he problem? Can heat, cold, sitting, walking (as much as possible),isometrics, assist or not? What I heard is “learn to forget that you have a problem and everything will be fine”.

    And, by the way, just who am I supposed to forgive for the pain? That philosophy seems eerily similar to the religious order that plays with snakes — and if you get bit, ignore the bite. We all know how that works out. I do believe that mind over matter can be helpful, but seven, eight, even nine scale pain is real, and on doctors orders of wishing it away or ignoring it seems counterproductive and perhaps, unethical.

  15. Lamont C.
    Hickory NC
    Reply

    A truly AMAZING radio program. This reminded me of the classic definition of holding resentments against someone, something or even ourselves,”Resentments are the poison we swallow hoping someone else will die.” If I can practice acceptance and follow the belief that “nothing happens by accident” and also practice forgiveness, especially of myself, I could become virtually pain free. It sounds, then, like the source of pain lies in unresolved anger, which results in holding resentments.

    “We have met the enemy and they are us.”- Pogo, comic character drawn by Walt Kelly.

    • David Hanscom
      Reply

      Hi Lamont, Thanks for your interest and support. It is when the forgiveness aspect of this entered the picture about six years ago is when people began to go pain free. It was also true in my personal journey. Best of luck, David Hanscom

  16. Robin
    wisconsin
    Reply

    I had a very interesting experience with what I consider rerouting chronic pain circuits. I had pain in the sole of the foot, plantar faciitis, for close to a year, which was really hampering my lifestyle. I tried taping, icing, stretching, new shoes, all to no avail.

    As a primary care physician I had long noticed the mind body connection, and one day I had an idea that I could perhaps convince my brain that the pain I was feeling was actually only the normal sensation of the foot hitting the ground. Every time I felt the pain I told myself that, and was (permanently) pain free within a week. It was surprisingly easy.

    Unfortunately I have no idea how to teach that to others. I also managed to learn how to thwart low back spasm by disconnecting the pain-tension-pain cycle, so that now if it starts I can consciously relax the muscles, which has been quite effective. I really appreciated the show, and the acknowledgement that pills and surgery are not helpful for this kind of emotionally generated chronic pain. There are a lot of people with vested interest in maintaining the cultural construct that pain is best treated with meds or surgery, so this is very hard to combat.

    • David Hanscom
      Reply

      Hi Robin, Thanks for your interest and your story is remarkable. I also inadvertently found my way out of chronic pain and it took many years to figure out what had happened. I did put together a website that evolved out of my patients’ successes. It is http://www.backincontrol.com/. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Best regards, David Hanscom

  17. Marlene M. A.
    Idaho
    Reply

    I feel its worth looking at alternative ways of treating health issues and not just popping a pill.

  18. J. David Auner
    Springfield, MO, USA
    Reply

    Dr. Hanscom is certainly a progressive force in medicine. Several of the good doctor’s comments reflect his own situation and experience and some are doctrinaire. Anger would be the typical emotion for the “successful surgeon” type of person. Even meeting a mason’s expectations as a hod is part of this personality. Other people are different in their emotional reactions and still have pain. PTSD patients come to mind first where anger is usually not prominent.

    Disc disease in the spine can cause back pain when lateral forces are stretching or avulsing lax ligaments or when, because of loss of intervertebral distance, extra pressure is placed on facet joints, especially in people with arthritis. Obviously this does not mean surgery will provide lasting pain relief although better technology may help in the future.

    Thank you and Dr. Hanscom for this interesting presentation.

  19. Lonna B.
    Reply

    This Doctor made so much sense. I would like to hear him again.

  20. shirley h.
    desoto,texas 75115
    Reply

    none at this time

  21. tommy h.
    charlotte n.c.
    Reply

    A visit to the shoulder doc. showed that maybe I needed a rotator cuff operation. Instead, I purchased rubber bands at walmart approx. fifteen dollars. I know some pain, back to playing 18 holes of golf weekly, used a paint roller last week for approx. 2 hours. I am 79 years young. Above should read I now have some pain. EXERCISE I BELIEVE WILL CURE MOST PAIN.

  22. earl
    VA
    Reply

    Has the doctor had any success with the treatment of PHN resulting from shingles?
    Thanks!

    • David Hanscom
      Seattle
      Reply

      Hi Earl, PHN is very tough. We have seen a decrease in pain regardless of the source with many going to pain free. I am not quite as optimistic with PHN going to pain free but you can certainly diminish the intensity. I would look at my website, http://www.backincontrol.com/ as a one year journey although changes take place much faster. Best of luck and let me know. David Hanscom

    • ebm
      Reply

      Hi Earl, some time ago a lady wrote to Peoples Pharm. saying she woke uo with severe PHN and was desperate. Found at PP
      website to use origian gold Listerine, original or Target brand and found great relief, enough to go back to sleep. Worth a try!!

  23. Cellecho
    Georgia
    Reply

    I made a special note to listen this morning (12/06/14) to the program with the back pain specialist. It was incredibly difficult to follow the guest. It was as though he was addressing a forum of orthopedists, not lay persons not fluent with his specialty. His speed of speaking was also off-putting. I gave up trying to follow him.

    • David Hanscom
      Reply

      I am sorry Cellecho about understanding the concepts. It is something I am actively working on as public speaking is not yet my forte. That is one of the reasons I put the book together. I wish you the best. David Hanscom

  24. ladyliza
    Los AMy husngeles
    Reply

    My husband and I have been working for years to get rid of all of our aches and pains and we have been really successful at it. My husband had chronic pain for years in his neck from a ski accident years ago. His cure, and I mean cure, was a little physical therapy showing him exercises that target that area. He can do these at home and he does them faithfully. Pain gone.
    I have bulging discs in my lower spine and muscle issues in my thoracic area. I, too, have used physical therapy for some issues but I have also discovered serrapeptase, which eats up all the inflammation in your body. That means all my arthritis, carpel tunnel, tendonitis and spurs don’t cause me pain anymore. My inflammation markers are back in the normal range and I feel great. Joining a gym after finding target exercises is probably the cheapest way to rid yourself of all the pain.

    • Mildred
      Winston salem, nc
      Reply

      LADYLISA – I am interested in getting rid of inflammation in my body so would you please give the definition of “serrapeptase”. I am not familiar with that word and it is not in my dictionary. Thank you.

      • ebm
        Fl
        Reply

        Mildred, Serrapeptase is a type of enzyme you get at health food stores
        There is a health show from NY on Saturday mornings at 9am here in Boynton, Fl that discusses people’s health issues, they often mention Serrapeptase.

  25. BobK
    Bluffton, SC
    Reply

    Some of the worst pain I’ve had was lower back pain. I would take passing a kidney stone anyday over the pain that I endured in the back. Fortunately for me was that this pain was apparently due to tightening muscles or tendons in the lower back as all it took to rid myself of the pain was a few knees-to-chest stretching exercises. The pain (which was unbearable) went away almost immedately. Yes it was sore after the exercises but I could get up and function normally. Unfortunately all my doctors did was throw pain pills at the problem which did absolutely nothing. Thanks to “Mens Health” mag for showing me this technique. Bottom line for me is to routinely stretch all of my joint muscles. It makes a huge difference in body aches and pains.

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