man holding his back with red background

Two groundbreaking books have recently been published on the topic of chronic pain. I read both because I wanted to do a deeper dive into the origins and meaning of my 4-year battle with post-concussion syndrome. I read these books even though I was already cured of my headaches and dizziness through the Curable app. (I am not affiliated with this app. See my blog post I’m Cured!! – My True Story About Chronic Pain to read my recovery story.)

It turns out that the information in the books I read is the same as the information in the Curable app. This isn’t surprising because the book authors are also involved in the content creation of the app. A few doctors and scientists around the country are doing groundbreaking work on chronic pain, working together and separately on the same problem and coming to the same conclusions.

Even though the information is the same as in the app, the books are more methodical and comprehensive about presenting the information. Having read them, I have a much better conceptual framework on what chronic pain is, how it arises, and how to make it go away.

The first book I read, The Way Out: A Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven Approach to Healing Chronic Pain, by Alan Gordon with Alon Ziv, is a short and entertaining read with actionable information that anyone can use to enhance their healing journey. I recommend it to everyone, whether you are in pain yourself, or whether you know someone who is in pain, or whether you simply want to understand the fascinating and sometimes detrimental interplay between the mind and body.

“When the brain experiences pain over and over, those neurons get ‘wired together,’ and they get better and better at firing together. Unfortunately, that means the brain gets better and better at feeling pain. If a brain gets too good at experiencing pain, the condition can become chronic. Basically, your brain can unintentionally learn how to be in pain.”

This happened to me. At first, my brain experienced pain due to a physical cause in the actual tissue of my brain: my concussion. But those same pain circuits were hijacked when my pain became chronic, and the pain continued even after the tissue of my brain healed. A scientific study examined the transformation from physical pain to chronic pain:

“Researchers followed people who had recently injured their backs. At first, their pain was active in the normal pain regions of the brain. But when the pain became chronic, it shifted to parts of the brain associated with learning and memory.”

The crazy thing about this transformation from physical pain to chronic pain is that, even though these are two completely different types of pain with different causes and utilizing different brain areas, the pain neuropathways are the same. Furthermore, the pain feels exactly the same to the sufferer. And so the sufferer can live for years and even decades thinking that their body is still injured, when in fact their brain is malfunctioning in a very specific way.

Gordon and Ziv go on to say that the reason for the malfunction is fear. And this fear may be unconscious, aka not consciously apprehended by the sufferer, as happened to me.

(Please note: Not all long-lasting pain is chronic pain. Both books explain how you can tell whether your pain has a physical or mental cause. I will write about this topic in a future blog post. However, both books emphasize that chronic pain is far more common than most people, and most healthcare professionals, realize. The authors document numerous cases where a doctor tells a patient that their pain has a physical cause, but it becomes apparent that the true cause is chronic pain.)

How does your body feel today?