Nothing annoys a backache sufferer more than hearing someone say, "It's all in your head." But that's what spinal surgeon David Hanscom, MD, in Seattle, told more than 600 of his patients. And after three to six months on his plan – with no prescription drugs or even without exercise or weight loss – 95 percent of them have seen significant relief.
How? Although most people have lower back pain at some point in their lives, doctors often can not find the cause. You could prescribe painkillers or plan surgeries with possible side effects, says dr. Hanscom. Take the case of head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr. After spinal surgery, Kerr developed a new problem: leakage of spinal fluid, which can cause headache, nausea, hearing loss, and so on.
Even "successful" surgery to correct anatomical problems does not always end pain. The reason? "Back pain starts as a muscle problem, but it is anchored as a neurological problem," says dr. Hanscom. Pain is transmitted through nerves and "wires those who shoot together," he says. They actually become more sensitive to pain everywhere.
In addition, Northwestern University researchers, who studied MRI scans on people with back pain, found that brain activity related to pain shifted from the brain's pain processing center to its emotional centers. Just as stress, anxiety, anger, or depression can trigger headaches, so too can back pain flare up. "They feel the same pain, but another neuronal driver leads the show," says Dr. Hanscom.
"It's a cycle in which physical pain can cause mental pain and mental pain physical pain," says Robert Gatchel, Ph.D., a psychologist who studies chronic pain at the University of Texas. "But you can not really say what came first, because there is a constant interaction between the two."