More than 20 percent of Americans experience chronic pain, but few know how to deal with it without medication. A new book should change that. In The Way Out, psychotherapist Alan Gordon explores the science of pain and how the brain sometimes scrambles its signals and creates pain that is not tied to a real physical illness. This is called “neuroplastic” pain, and Gordon also presents a powerful new way to alleviate it: Pain Management Therapy, or PRT.
“Our brains are imperfect and sometimes it misinterprets signals from the body,” Gordon tells the Men’s Journal. “The body is fine, but the brain is still causing pain. In other words, neuroplastic pain is a false alarm. “
But even false positives can be incredibly debilitating – pain is pain from whatever source. This also makes treating neuroplastic pain particularly difficult as there are no physical problems. There are few effective options for relief for those affected.
“This is what makes ‘ignore the pain’ advice so unhelpful,” says Gordon. “Just like this fire alarm, pain is a danger signal. And just like the alarm, the pain is designed in such a way that it cannot be ignored. “
PRT, which Gordon developed himself, offers a novel solution. While the pain feels like it’s coming from the body, it’s actually being created in the brain, he emphasizes, and that’s the best place to address it. PRT is a mind-body technique that uses the principle of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to make new connections – to train the brain to stop mixing signals and creating pain. By working through a variety of psychological techniques, patients can essentially rewire their brains and relieve chronic pain.
It’s a best practice. Aside from being rooted in neuroscience, PRT is also backed by the overwhelmingly positive results from a recent study at the University of Colorado-Boulder. In this assessment, 98 percent of the patients saw an improvement in their pain and 66 percent were pain-free or almost pain-free at the end of the treatment. This is strong stuff.
It’s also something Gordon has firsthand experience with. He too suffered from chronic pain and was fed up with ineffective medical advice. In addition to examining how neuroplastic pain works and how PRT is used to treat it, The Way Out includes Gordon’s heartfelt and funny reflections on his own struggles with mysterious, lingering pain.
Combining psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness, The Way Out offers a thoughtful, fun, deep dive into the science of pain – and lots of hope for relief too.
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