Healing the Mind in Order to Heal Chronic Pain in the Body (by Howard Schubiner, MD and Ed Glauser, LPC)

November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Posted in Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Stress Management | 10 Comments

An epidemic of chronic pain and related disorders is occurring in the United States and around the world.  Investigators estimate that 113 million individuals have chronic pain in the United States, and this number is increasing.

Howard Schubiner, MD
Author of “Unlearn Your Pain”

The traditional biomedical model attempts to identify an underlying local and structural cause of pain. The efficacy of this approach has not been demonstrated for these chronic painful conditions however, as is clear when one considers the number of people who suffer with these conditions on a regular basis.  The disorders considered in this article exclude those with objective evidence of structural disease, such as cancer, fractures, and inflammatory and infectious conditions.

Little doubt exists that genetic predispositions occur with many conditions, such as migraine, anxiety and depression.  However, studies have shown that life events are required to trigger these conditions, that is, to cause expression of underlying genetic predispositions. Because of the inability to identify and treat the underlying cause, attention has shifted to pain management.  However, biomedical approaches to pain management, including pain medications, injection techniques, and surgical and chemical ablations, have also not been shown to be efficacious.  Clearly, a new model for these disorders is needed.  This article will describe a mind-body model in which these disorders are considered to be related to individual reactions to stressful (and even traumatic) events and unresolved emotions.

Clear evidence indicates that pain can originate in the absence of a tissue disorder in the area where pain is being felt as seen in phantom limb syndrome.  A study by Derbyshire et al confirmed that pain initiated by the brain is identical to pain originating in peripheral tissues.

Learned pain pathways can develop after an injury (even a mild one) or can be created during times of significant stress and emotional reactions.  Although most injuries heal within a reasonable amount of time, pain pathways can persist (become “wired”), thus creating chronic pain that is often refractory to medical therapies.  These pain pathways are often very specific and can involve discrete or large areas of the body.  Pain induced by psychophysiological (PPD) processes frequently moves or changes, as opposed to the pain caused by a specific injury or disease process.

Once a biomedical condition has been ruled out, the next step is to understand the linkages between priming and triggering (bio-psycho-social) events and the onset of PPD symptoms.  Howard Schubiner, MD, who is the author of the article this blog is recreating, as well as his book,  Unlearn Your Pain provides an evidence-based protocol that can assist clinicians and the lay public to become educated regarding the nature of PPD’s.  The Unlearn Your Pain program consists of a mixture of cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, and emotional expressive techniques.  The author’s program has been shown to increase an internal locus of control (i.e. participants begin to believe that their thoughts and actions are capable of reversing their PPD symptoms).  Finally, individuals who have endured significant childhood and adult stressors and who have suffered with chronic pain often have a negative view of themselves and low levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy.  Therefore, an overarching theme for guiding individuals with PPD to health is the development of love and kindness toward oneself.  This can be accomplished by positive affirmations, by meditations and visualizations, and by encouraging participants in the program to stand up for themselves and take time to do things for themselves.

Dr. Schubiner’s webinar on the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC entitled “Chronic Pain and Associated Symptoms: Healing the Mind in Order to Heal the Body,” on Sunday, November 11, 2012 will be an ideal way for clinicians and the lay public to more specifically learn and apply these effective chronic pain reduction (and in many cases, pain eliminating) and life enhancing techniques in an interactive format.  For those people that register for the webinar, a free audio and video recording will be available as an unlisted URL link on YouTube.  To get more information and to register for the webinar with Dr. Schubiner, please click on the following link at:


(Blog was taken from excerpts from Dr. Howard Schubiner’s article in the Expert Consult Book, wwww.expertconsultbook.com, Chapter 100 – Emotional Awareness for Pain, In Rakel, Integrative Medicine, 3rd Edition, 2012.  Ed Glauser, LPC developed blog from this article)


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  1. Thank you for your comments. I`m so happy to experience that other fysisians are thinking in the same way as I. I am fysisian in DK , general practioner, and daily I use mindfulness with my patients to learn them how there body and thougts are connected. Its very nice and fantastic to work with people in this way,that they themselves can solve their problems, but yet its not accepted in the healthsystem,

    • Mette, I am so pleased that you are on board with the same mind body medicine approaches that are shared in the article. You may want to see the archived recording of Dr. Schubiner’s webinar by going to http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html

      • Thank you for this link and for answearing me. Its like if a new world has opend for mee in my clinical practice. Small miracles are happening. But im only a beginner and last time I had my patients group, I left them with the experience how problems can sustaine fysical pain, without releafing them. I need back up, but I dont have a network in Denmark yet. Your Webnars are very intersting, I must try to figure out the time, so I can watch them in Denmark 🙂

  2. Dear Mette, Thanks again for responding to my post as well as getting so much out of the blog. I appreciate you sharing about your practice and the back up that you need with your patients. I would highly recommend you consider going to my website at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html to get Howard Schubiner’s webinar recording as well as going to his website to purchase his book, Unlearn Your Pain at http://www.unlearnyourpain.com. This will provide you with ample evidence-based back up to assist your patients in reversing their health outcomes and help them to better self-regulate their pain and other associated physical symptoms. It is a very empowering approach and can change lives significantly for the better. Ed

  3. Your article has established beneficial to us.

    It’s very informative and you’re simply clearly very experienced of this type. You have got opened up my sight for you to different thoughts about this matter using interesting and strong written content.

    • Thanks so much for your extremely kind comments. On behalf of Dr. Schubiner and myself, we are thrilled that you are getting benefit from this information. We wish you all the best!

  4. I blog often and I genuinely thank you for your information.
    Your article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.

    • Your comment made my day! Thanks so much for following us : ) I wish you all the best and look very forward to any future contacts we may have with one another.

  5. Hi to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this site, and your views are nice
    designed for new people.

    • Thanks so much for acknowledging the efficacy of our blogs and how it can help folks learn to self-regulate their pain and feel more empowered in living their lives with more peace and ease.

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