Blocking Pain, Part I

My purpose in this column and the ones that will follow is to walk you through the science behind the unconventional methods Laura and Nadia used, as well as introduce you to other techniques employed for pain control that are beyond the scope of traditional western medicine.

To do this, we must first comprehend the difference between “pain”, the sensory experience that stems from injured tissues, and “suffering”, our emotional reaction to this sensory experience. These two are intertwined, but they can also be separate. This “split” has been remarkably shown in people who have been operated in the front part of their brain, having a surgery called frontal lobotomy to control intractable pain.

Some patients were still able to point the body part that hurt without reacting to the pain. In other words, if you can separate the experience of feeling that something is harmful to the body from the emotional reaction to it, you can control the pain! How can you harness your emotional reaction? There are several ways and one of them is to “alter” the meaning of pain. For example, if you attach a different meaning to this painful sensory experience the pain may be subdued. For example, instead of thinking “pain is damaging my body” and focusing on a thought like “pain is honourable” the pain may be blocked.

In the next article, we will explore exactly how this is done in some cultures.

Angela Mailis Gagnon, MD, MSc, FRCPC(PhysMed)
Director, Comprehensive Pain Program,
Senior Investigator, Krembil Neuroscience Centre
Toronto Western Hospital,
Chair ACTION Ontario

Keywords: pain, treatment