chronic pain

Spine surgeon David Hanscom does some of the most complicated surgery you can imagine on bad backs. But his patients get even more benefit from chronic pain by employing the nonsurgical techniques he offers them in preparation for surgery. Sometimes they feel so much better they don’t even need to go under the knife.

How Can You Alleviate Chronic Pain Without Surgery?

Learn how a skeptical patient whose years of crushing back pain started with a bad fall from horseback reluctantly put Dr. Hanscom’s expressive writing advice into practice. What happened next was astonishing. The principles Dr. Hanscom uses in his practice apply not only to back pain, although that is his specialty, but to any form of chronic pain.

This Week’s Guests:

David Hanscom, MD, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in complex spine problems in all areas of the spine. He has expertise in adult and pediatric spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis. A significant part of his practice is devoted to performing surgery on patients who have had multiple prior spine surgeries. He works for Swedish Neuroscience Specialists in Seattle, WA. The photo is of Dr. Hanscom.

Though he believes that surgery and medication have a role, he knows that these standard courses of treatment aren’t what’s needed to treat chronic pain. Instead he provides the framework so the patient can find his or her solution allowing them to live free of pain. His book is Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain, 2nd edition.

His website is   Facebook   Amazon link

Mark Owens, MEd, worked for more than two decades as a wildlife scientist in some of the most remote parts of Africa. He survived a plane crash, charging lions, leopards, elephants and Cape buffalos, as well as ivory poachers who tried to kill him . In 2006, after he had returned to the USA, being thrown from a horse broke his back and crushed his chest. He suffered excruciating chronic pain for the next nine years. Then Mark met Dr. David Hanscom who offered him an alternative to yet another spinal surgery. His experience is detailed in the foreword to Back in Control.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. 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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  1. Arlen

    I’m wondering if there are brain-based similarities between this chronic neural pain and some cases of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) that are otherwise unexplained.

    Are there any instances of the same therapy salad helping with CFS?

  2. Marilyn L. W

    I wish we could get more info via this column as promised in the heading rather than having to buy a book or article or try to listen to a radio broadcast at a later date. I don’t own an iphone (really, everyone doesn’t) and don’t even know what a “podcast” is. Lots of people don’t.

  3. Lois

    Expressive writing has helped me in many ways, with mental and emotional pain, some of which translates into physical pain. But it is not a cure-all. Many approaches help some people, but no one approach helps all. We each must seek for what helps each individual, which takes willingness and perseverance. I am mostly skeptical of those claiming to have “the” answer. I am glad we have the full range of options to try.

  4. Carolyn
    Plano, TX

    Thank you for this important information. Writing is easy and available to all. I have tried many things to alleviate pain, medicine, ice, acupuncture, tens unit etc. but this is doable and free.

  5. Rebekah

    For the last 3 weeks, I’ve had ongoing knee pain due to a pulled muscle. It’s been bad enough that I limp and/or hold on to something as I walk along. Everything he talks about here is totally within my belief system and I really like that he wants to empower the patient. I am extremely pleased to say the journaling really, really worked!

    I was 90-95% pain free when I got up today and I had only journaled one time. My belief is that if this will work on the back….we’ll, it will certainly work on other issues. Thanks!!!

  6. Thelma
    N C

    Can you give me any advice on Shingles. I am having terrible pain after 10 weeks

  7. Mary Jane

    We need more non-surgical techniques, so we can participate in our own healthcare.

  8. Linda
    Charlotte, NC

    I just listened to the podcast with Dr. David Hanscom about chronic pain & just want to say thank you so much for airing this show! After a very distressful year, I developed myofascial pain syndrome & Dr. Hanscom has given me new hope with becoming pain free again without relying on NSAID”s, which have their own negative side affects. I’ve also ordered his book & can’t wait for it to arrive. Thank you so much for the wealth of information you provide to help people make educated decisions when it comes to healthcare & overall well-being.

  9. Karen
    North Carolina

    I only heard the end of the radio program and thought the repair to the nervous system was amazing. Bought the book

  10. Marilyn

    “White Coat Syndrome” When I see my endocrinologist, the nurse weighs you takes you to a room to wait 10 or 15 minutes for the doctor. Just before the doctor comes in she comes back to take your blood pressure. My blood pressure has never been high there. If more doctors followed that practice you would have fewer patients diagnosed with high blood pressure. The alternative is to keep a log which I have done.

  11. Esther

    I loved to listen to your ahows. This one , I have sent texts to family members and friends who have experienced back surgeries or put off back surgeries. The missing limb pain phenomenon was a perfect discussion point. I will definitely get his book. Thank you for alternative therapies. I wonder how this would work for drug addiction therapy? Should be similar issues. Right?

    • Ray C

      do all the research. your suppose to rest 15 min before taking blood pressure.i take mine at home,yet it is higher at dr office.rushing to weigh you,take vitals,then anxiety waiting on dr being late. i take 1/2 of the amount prescribe to me and my bp is fine and all my blood work is fine

    • Ann M.

      I completely agree, as I, too, have “white coat syndrome.” If my BP is taken soon after I’m rushed into the exam room, it’s sky high. Taken later in the visit, it has returned to a normal level. I had to work hard with the officious nurse to get her to realize that, by her waiting a while, she would get a much more accurate reading. She finally agreed when she saw the difference it made.

  12. Mary

    I wouldn’t think it possible, but was thrilled to hear answers to pain for so many people is happening through this revelation. Thanks for the show and allowing so many to hear options to heal without a knife. Excellent show. Excellent guests and excellent information. I don’t know how I lived without WPR/NPR before we discovered this gem of information and education. Thank you, thank you, thank you and BRAVO for job well done. Thank your guest, Dr. Holcomb for his wonderful work and bringing the education to the forefront.

  13. Mike

    On march 9th show on pain, meditation works simalar to writing thoughts down. You look at the negative emotions or resentments or anger and let it go out of the top of you head, so to speak. This was a great show.thanks for having it.

  14. Susan

    My husband died 6 months ago, and my grief is profound. I have found that the best way for me to deal with this emotional pain is by writing letters to him. I find, when I have finished a session of writing to him in my grief journal, I feel a sense of peace and calmness. The tears cease.

    • Cynthia
      Los Angeles

      Susan, this is beautiful, and I thank you for the suggestion. I also want to share that, in this moment, I feel for you deeply, and you have inspired me to continue on in life. I would never end my life. I just mean I have sort of quit living. I want you to know what an effect you have had on me and again, I thank you. Carry on bringing your light, as you may have no idea how profound and healing YOU are.

  15. Carol

    wish that when I clicked on the like that said “Listen to the Article” I could actually listen to the podcast rather than read a short review.

    • Joe Graedon


      Our shows are broadcast live on Saturday mornings at 0700. We must respect our public radio stations right to first access. Some stations air the show on Sunday. As a result, we do not post the radio show until the Monday after the live broadcast.

      If you wait until Monday morning you will have access to free audio streaming of the show via your computer. You can also order the mp3 file for free on Monday and download the show to your electronic device. You can also access it via iTunes as a podcast. Thank you for your understanding.

  16. Helen
    Columbia SC

    Show 1071. What is the broadcast date for Columbia , SC?
    Thank you. Helen

    • AMY

      Thanks for the explanation on podcast listening and availability. This program and guests are incredibly enlightening.

  17. Alice

    Recently a diabetes advisor said fruit should not be in your breakfast or evening meal. Is there any validation for this?
    Since yogurt and blueberries are my favorite breakfast I was not happy.

  18. William T
    Raleigh 27612

    Disappointed so little information about relieving back pain.
    Too much advertising.

    • Mary Jane

      I had enjoyed fruit for breakfast for years, but one of the most useful pieces of advice I have received in recent years was to start the day with, e.g., a vegetable omelette. My osteopath told me, “the first thing you put in your mouth SETS THE DIALS for the day.” In other words, even if you avoid sugar, the fruit causes your body to anticipate more sweets. I have found that following this advice changes my desire for something sweet. I have a piece of fruit mid-afternoon, and that seems to suffice.

  19. Jim

    “But his patients get even more benefit from chronic pain by employing the nonsurgical techniques he offers them in preparation for surgery.”

    Unless you have discovered some “benefit from chronic pain” I think you mean “relief from chronic pain”.

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