The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1071: How You Can Get Relief from Chronic Pain (Archive)

In this broadcast for Jan. 13, 2018, a spine surgeon motivated in part by his own struggle with chronic pain has found nonsurgical techniques for relief. We also hear from one of his patients.
David Hanscom, MD, author of Back in Control
Current time

How You Can Get Relief from Chronic Pain (Archive)

0% played0% buffered

Spine surgeon David Hanscom does some of the most complicated surgery you can imagine on bad backs. But his patients get even more relief 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. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD

Download the mp3

Rate this article
3.9- 112 ratings

Today's Newsletter Reading List

    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
    Tired of the ads on our website?

    Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

    Browse our website ad-free
    Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

    We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

    Showing 44 comments
    Add your comment

    It is amazing how every comment on here raves about the ability to overcome chronic pain without medication or other means. Well I am here to tell you that after 23 surgeries 10 being on my back 4 hip replacements, 3 to repair my nose and eye sockets all caused by a drunk driver but there is no way I could cope without pain meds.

    I take two different regimens one long acting and one for breakthrough pain and I do great when the doctors leave it alone at the appropriate dose where it was effective.

    Last Friday, they discontinued my breakthrough meds and I feel like I wanna die. Wouldn’t care if I did right now. Quality of life PEOPLE, not quantity. Does anybody understand this concept?

    Not all patients respond to all therapies but if you get one that you do, please leave the medical providers alone and let them do their jobs.

    I think I may be the ONLY one here outside the US so thought I’d share what our UK and French friends say about Americans: ‘They always travel with a pill for everything’; ‘They seem to get sick a lot.’ We discussed this and can only come to the conclusion that you’ve not had the benefit of a NATIONAL health service which so many European countries have. This leaves you at the mercy of ‘the market’ and Big Pharma. Self-help and remedies seem to be what everyone has to do as medical care seems so expensive or perhaps you’re at the mercy of insurance companies. It’s very sad to see.

    I totally agree with you! Unless you a chronic care sufferer and depend on your pain meds to get out of bed and have somewhat of a normal life NO ONE UNDERSTANDS! Not even your Dr! They are all so afraid of the DEA AND ALL THEIR STUPID RULES. I would love to give them some of my pain and see how they cope! I was in three car accidents. All NOT MY FAULT. I have been on disability for 15 years and tried EVERYTHING to help my back and neck. Nothing helped. So I depend on my medicine. My Dr also has been cutting my qty. It’s hard enough to deal with this pain but when your pain meds are not available it not only puts you back in pain but I go days so depressed I don’t even want to live anymore. It’s sad.

    Please provide valuable free information rather than a slew of infomercials! A lot of us don’t have the money to keep buying books and CDs. Please consider us when lining up doctors who, if truly motivated by helping and not the almighty buck, would freely disseminate non-surgical pain relief options.

    David Hanscom has a ton of material and resources available on his website and in his e-newsletter for free:
    Plus you can look for all the interviews he’s done available on youtube…

    I am a professor or orthopaedic spine surgery and practice at the University of North Carolina. While I agree with much of what was said about non-operative treatment of spine issues during the program, I felt that the practice of spine surgery was misrepresented.

    Several comments were made about the lack of success of spine surgery in general and how often spine surgery can make chronic pain worse. I disagree with this statement and I believe that to publically feature these comments without appropriate explanation is doing harm to the general public.

    I am in agreement that many surgeries can be avoided, and that non-operative treatments should be exhausted before surgery is considered, however there are occasions where spine surgery can be very successful. In my own clinical practice, I believe that my patients do very well with surgery, namely because the indications to do surgery are very specific. Surgery specifically for back pain does indeed have questionable results, however there are other indications for surgery (ie ongoing spinal cord compression) where surgery is not only effective but really necessary to prevent worsening neurological issues. I believe that the practice of spine surgery was misrepresented and wanted to clarify.

    May I ask why my comment was deleted? I’d like to know so I don’t make “mistakes” next time you ask for feedback. Thank you.

    Dr Hanscom sound very much like what Dr. John Sarno has written in HEALING BACK PAIN, THE MINDBODY Rx, AND THE DIVIDED MIND. I have read all thee books and have personally experienced a cease of back pain as well as heel pain in both feet for which I wore orthotics for years. I would be interested in what relationships these two Medical Doctors’ practice and study have to each other.

    Dr Hanscom sounds very much like what Dr. John Sarno has written in HEALING BACK PAIN, THE MINDBODY Rx, AND THE DIVIDED MIND. I have read all thee books and have personally experienced a cease of of back pain as well as heel pain in both feet for which I wore orthotics for years. I would be interested in what relationships these two Medical Doctors’ practice and study have to each other.

    I have read Dr. Hanscom’s book and it is well written.

    Dr. John Sarno was the original pioneer of this cure for many pains from different ailments. His book Healing Back Pain and another book Mind Body Connection were well received. Both books have helped me deal with ME/CFIDS.

    Haven’t listened to the show yet but from reading so much about Black Seed Oil I would buy a bottle and give it a try (I did buy one). There are over 450 studies backing up the benefits of BSO and pain is just one of them. I have been using it for 1 week as of today. Taking 1 tsp in a.m. and one before bed time.

    Back pain affects many people. I’m actively looking for help in trying to handle the systemic problem of lower back pain. I went a number of different routes trying to find a solution that I could live with. Appears to be many contradictions from different medical resources on what is the right thing too do. It seems to be difficult to get a consensus of opinions. I have often found one approach totally lambasted by another medical person. Confusion appears to be common place and creates a lot of fear to a person that is suffering from the pain.

    I walked out of a neurosurgeons office after never actually being able to talk with a doctor. Three trips to the office and three times only got to talk to a Physicans Assistant who’s solution was to get an cortisone injection. I was never physically examined. The PA just said we would start with the cortisone injection routine. Showed up for the injection and my blood pressure was so high they canceled the injection. Reschedule the procedure and was told they would sedate me. I was called a couple of weeks later and said the doctor disapproved sedation. Came in again for the injection and they gave me anxiety medication and again blood pressure problem prevented getting the injection. Never did talk to a doctor. Left this office and went to Pain Management.

    They were glad I did not get the injection. Actually talked with the doctor and went through a number of injections as part of a required test for Medicare. Did not like the required process, but Medicare required that two separate positive tests had to be done and then they would go in a third time and burn a number of nerves that send pain signals to the brain. I did not like the injection process the firsts time and decided the problem would never be resolved this way because the burned nerves would grow back in approximately 8 months. I would be back in again to have the nerves burned off again. This procedure was not going to solve my back problem and instead it was only going to resolve the symptoms on a temporary basis. Had a great doctor that explained everything. I did not like the idea of having this done and knowing this was only going to give me temporary relief.

    Decided this was not the route that I preferred taking. Will continue to look for help in finding the corrective action that might solve the problem.

    Rick, See Dr. Hanscom’s website… I think you will get a lot of help from it. Good luck.

    I just listened to the podcast with Dr Hanscom on the advice of my PCP whom I went to out of frustration! My stress -anxiety -and sleep deprivation and depression are all calming down after 4 years of searching for help with the life that I had not planned⚡️

    Now, to be able to write about it, as Julia Cameron suggests in the “Artist Way,” which I found very helpful 20 years ago! Tearing it up will be an welcome benefit:)

    I will be ordering the book and asking my dear PCP to walk on this journey with me!

    Claudia, I think that is wonderful that your PCP will help you with the program. I would very much like to find a healthcare provider here in Durham, NC who knows about the program and could help me along with it. Good luck to you.

    Do some research on a spinal cord stimulator by Boston Scientific. I sends msgs to your brain that you aren’t experiencing pain. It’s pretty amazing. There is a support group for it on Facebook.

    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?

    I love The People’s Pharmacy, but I really do agree that many of the articles mostly lead us to a place to buy a book or a tape or something. I’m not interested in that. I also haven’t the time to sit and listen to the radio sometimes. I would love it if information could be available on the People’s Pharmacy newsletter or if there were instructions so I could print out the info and read it later. Meantime, I keep listening and loving your e-mails. I’ve learned a lot over the years.

    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.

    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.

    Ask your library if they have the book. I think people often forget to use the library

    I agree with a few comments. Thought I may be getting some info as opposed to buying a book etc.

    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.

    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!!!

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

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

    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.

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

    “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.

    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?

    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.

    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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.


    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.

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

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

    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.

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

    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.

    “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”.

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^