19 Sep Chronic Pain Following Surgery for Cancer – Successful Treatment
Luckily, most people who have surgery to remove a malignant or benign tumour recover very well, with excellent return to function and little or no pain at all after the acute healing phase. However approximately 1 in 5 patients will have continued pain weeks or even months after the surgery. Many people experience 1 or more of the following persistent symptoms:
- The pain can remain as is, with little or no improvement
- The pain can worsen (hyperalgesia)
- The pain can be completely out of kilter, for example a feather touch feeling like burning (alodynia)
- Can generalise into other areas and even other symptoms, such as heat, inflammation, and actual swelling
- Can affect the entire nervous system, and all functions which have nervous system involvement (severe central sensitisation, such as in fibromyalgia)
It is well accepted that currently some 80% of people who suffer from chronic pain are not being helped by standard treatments, whether pharmaceutical, physical therapy, or psychological treatment.
Maria came along to the clinic because she had had a small tumour removed from her neck 6 months previously. She was a strong, bright and likeable professional who was still working despite debilitating pain in her neck, jaw, and shoulder which was constant, and which made it difficult to sleep at night. Naturally she was very run-down and fatigued, partly because pain itself is so exhausting, but also from lack of sleep.
At the clinic we work on the basis that while the pain is very real, and is definitely being generated physically, it is in fact triggered by conditioned (learned) brain activity that is happening at a subconscious level. Failure to understand this is the reason current treatments are so terribly ineffective. (See our video for psychologists at www.mdrtherapy.org/mdr-webinar-for-psychologists) in order to get an explanation of the theory and practice of our treatment method.) So it’s of crucial importance to seek to identify at least some of the links between brain activity, and subsequent pain.
We discovered some important brain activity linked to Maria’s pain, and got her to intentionally concentrate on that brain activity in relation to the neck pain while getting her to do some multi-sensory stimulation which could act as a disruptor to the activity. Very quickly we were able to eliminate the neck pain, much like flicking an “off” switch.
Please note that this is not an attempt to distract from the pain, because if the patient is distracted the technique will not be successful. He or she must maintain concentration on the pain in order to get a successful outcome and switch the pain off.
Having eliminated the neck pain, we then moved to the jaw pain, which by now was less, but still had an “achey, warm feeling”. That pain was also switched off in just minutes.
Finally we moved to concentrate on the shoulder pain, which Maria described as “throbbing”. Again, within a few minutes that pain was also completely gone.
Is this all that’s necessary to eliminate chronic pain? No, most typically it is not. We need to repeat the treatment, and also discover other links which may also be producing pain signalling, in order to get a permanent result. Typically this will require at least 3 sessions before the client is able to self treat with any kind of skill. Some people will get complete elimination of pain in just days, while others will continue to make progress over a number of weeks.
The length of time required for treatment depends on the complexity of the pain, and whether other serious issues, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep dysfunction are also present and require assistance.
Note: Our treatment method, which we developed in 2001, is MDR (Multi-sensory Disruption of Reconsolidation of conditioned responses). It is well supported by an updated understanding of the nature of chronic pain, and recent work on extinction of conditioned responses through successful disruption of the reconsolidation phase of the response.