I had realized that when people have a serious injury where they lose an arm or a leg, their brain initially receives horrific pain signals. However, somehow, their brains LEARN how to IGNORE pain signals from portions of their bodies which no longer exist. Their brains HAVE to do this, or else they would forever be consumed in processing pain signals from sources which actually no longer exist. By (somehow) selectively ignoring all such spurious messages, then their brains could better deal with all the complex processes of getting through daily life.
Out of shear desperation, and in continuous horrific pain of my lower back, I decided to TRY to get MY brain to (somehow) treat my lower back in such a manner. I had no idea of how to do it, but I considered myself to be decently intelligent.
Three different Specialist Doctors in early 1967 had each assured me that I would be in a wheelchair by my twenty-fifth birthday, which was less than four years away, because of how messed up my lower back vertebrae were (and still are). When I was nineteen, I did an incredibly stupid thing in trying to impress a cute local girl. I regularly rebuilt car engines and I did not have a mechanical hoist to lift the engines out of and into the cars that I was paid to rebuild the engines. One day, when I had just gotten a V-8 engine out of a Ford pickup truck, a cute girl was walking by. For some macho reason, I thought she would be impressed if I carried that entire V-8 engine under my right arm! I did not realize that girls had no idea that such an engine weighed around 350 pounds! In any case, it was clear that she had not been impressed. I only carried that engine around 20 feet, but the SIDEWAYS STRESS of carrying it that way caused the lowest four of my back vertebrae to become shifted over sideways about 3/8 inch, to the next vertebra up from them. I am not sure if that affected the muscles in my back, and Orthopedic Specialists later informed me that the only real effect on me had to do with the HOLES through the disk vertebrae through which my spinal cord had to pass. Before I did that stupid thing when I was 19, my spinal cord had had plenty of room to pass through my entire back, as is true of virtually everyone.
One of my lower back vertebrae is shifted over sideways about three-eights of an inch (10 mm) over the vertebrae beneath it. This greatly restricts the space for my Spinal Cord to pass through, and it is so restricted that my Spinal Cord has always been constantly pressed against the (relative sharp) inside edge of the vertebrae (bone) opening on both vertebrae L-3 and L4. This results in two concerns. One is the one that I have successfully dealt with, that of getting my brain to not pay attention to those specific nerve endings where the Spinal Cord rubs against both vertebrae bones whenever there is the slightest movement in my body. The other is scarier to me, that of the likely WEAR of the outer nerve fibers in my Spinal Cord during my life. The Specialist Doctors did not know whether my entire Spinal Cord would fail, where I would have immediately become a paraplegic, or whether individual nerve fibers might wear away such that I would lose incremental contact with my lower extremities, whether about moving specific muscles or sensing specific nerves such as for heat or cold, pressure, etc. So far, 2017, I still seem to be fully active, and even though I have been alert to possibly losing some sensations in my feet or legs, I am not aware (yet) that that has yet happened. At the time in 1967, all three Specialist Doctors wanted me to submit myself to an extreme medical operation, where each of the three admitted that the operation alone might put me in that wheelchair! I was not impressed, but I realized that even very smart Doctors still often have to improvize during major Operations, and I would not agree to that. None of those three Specialists seemed to have any clue about how to SHIFT my entire backbone 3/8-inch sideways in 1967. I am not sure that Specialists in 2017 have yet figured out how to do that!
I am obviously not a Medical Doctor, but I had formed my own idea of a possible idea. But all three of the Specialists were very arrogant, and none were interested in listening to a mere Physicist student about their specialty! But I had decided that the ONLY possibility that I might have then agreed to regarding a 1967 operation would have been an EXTERIOR CLAMP, around those two specific vertebrae. I imagined a C-clamp idea where once the clamp was around the two vertebrae, its screw would have beened tightened, to (slowly) SQUEEZE the two vertebrae to move them into better alignment, so their holes for my spinal cord might then have been more open!
The conversations with those Back Specialists in 1967 convinved me that I should just try to live whatever life I might still have available, apparently less than three years, and so I decided to TRAVEL. The US Government had just made available a 'Golden Eagle Pass', for $20, which got me into around a hundred National Parks and Monuments, and it often even included a free space to put up my little pup tent! My atttitude was that I wanted to get the greatest diversity of experiences that I could, which I might look at during a life in a wheelchair.
I hiked and climbed nearly constantly for the following three years! After my 25th Birthday, I have considered every day to be 'gravy', as being one more day of activity before my life in a Chair.
So far, nearly fifty years later, I am still getting such gravy!
So now that person has an arm severed. What happens? Immediately, there ARE thousands of nerve signals sent to the brain, which each alert the brain to some major change, that is, the normal messages identifying the air temperature and local pressure and other variables, are now totally different. The brain might not realize that they are different because those nerve endings no longer exist, but it receives an overwhelming number of messages, many of which describe severe pain.
This is Medically referred to as Trauma. For some minutes, the brain IS overwhelmed by so much information and especially so much pain information.
Logically, that overwhelming amount of nervous system messages should continue for the rest of that person's life, as the arm is never going to grow back. But humans (and nearly all other animals) need to be able to think clearly, because that severe injury might have been part of continuing danger, such as being bitten by a shark, and it is very important that the person try to do solid thinking to try to escape, or to climb out of a burning car, etc.
So the brains of humans and most other animals developed an amazing ability! In order to be able to think clearly about urgent circumstances, the brain (somehow) developed the ability to SHUT OFF incoming nerve signals from that arm, after a suitable time, usually minutes but sometimes even just seconds. And so the brain proceeds as though THERE IS NO ARM TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT (whether there still is or not). And hopefully, the now clearer-thinking brain comes up with some plan to keep the situation from being even worse, like kicking at the shark or breaking a car window to escape.
THIS is a natural ability that YOUR brain has built into it!
I often refer to this as my brain IGNORING nerve stimuli signals that are extremely repetitive. If you tap on one of your fingers over and over in the same place, after a few minutes, you will notice that the pain of the hammering seems to fade and even disappear.
Hypnotists can convince a subject that a bowl of water is comfortably warm, even though the water is filled with ice cubes. A Zimbardo Psychology program on PBS demonstrated that with a smiling young man not being aware of how cold the ice water was.
All this convinced me that my brain SHOULD be able to (somehow) ignore pain messages from a small area of my lower back. And, over a period of a number of weeks, my brain (somehow) learned to do that!
Self-Sufficiency - Many Suggestions|
Public Services Home Page
So when I was about 21 years old, in 1967, I was in excruciating back pain. I was then in Graduate School, and I had previously realized that I better schedule all my Classes for afternoon, as it often took me all morning to sit up in bed and then become standing upright. I did most of my homework while lying flat on my back in bed, as that seemed to be the ONLY position where I could endure the pain!
But that is about when I thought through all the logic described above, where the brain MUST have a natural built-in capability of 'blocking sensory input'. I concluded that MY brain MUST have the capability of blocking all sensory input from the lower several vertebrae of my back! Then I just had to discover how to learn how to enable it!
I think that my approach at the time was exactly the OPPOSITE of what might seem logical or even obvious. It might seem a good idea to try to IGNORE the pain, expecting the brain to buy into that. I imagine that some people have successfully used that approach.
But I did exactly the opposite of that! I CONSTANTLY FOCUSED on the pain, and for several weeks, I rarely thought of anything else. My idea was to see if I could OVERWHELM my brain with powerful pain signals, trying to never let up at that (except while sleeping, of course). My idea was to try to get my brain sick and tired of constantly and continuously having to deal with lower back pain messages.
Yes, this DID result in even more horrific pain than I had become used to having to survive. I used NO pain killers at all, WANTING to increase the level of pain to my level of endurance, and sometimes even beyond that. I remember times when I would start to cry from the intensity of pain, but I knew that I could not give up.
The process took me many weeks. I managed to develop a level of FOCUS that I had not previously thought I was capable of! I THINK this is what happened in me. By trying to eliminate thinking about anything else, I think I created a situation where my brain was minimally occupied elsewhere, where its primary activity, by default, was in receiving and processing endless pain signals from the small area in my lower spine where all that pain was coming from. My theory was that maybe I could get my brain to get sick and tired of getting the SAME pain signals, every second of every day, where my brain might apply its natural and built-in ability to start to block pain messages from that small area of my body.
I don't actually know whether that happened as I had theorized. But I DID notice that after many days of this extreme focusing, the INTENSITY of the pain seemed to have gotten SLIGHTLY less! THIS was now new motivation that I was getting somewhere! Once I realized that my idea seemed to be working, I noticed that the effect of reducing the pain seemed to proceed nicely after that!
Within a couple months, I again had a full and active life. I still did not like early Classes, but I then could get up and around in a few seconds every morning instead of requiring several hours to get out of bed. I even became a prominent starter on the College's Men's Volleyball Team, where we traveled all over the Midwest to compete with many other College Teams (and won our share!)
My back was (and is) still physiologically screwed up very terribly, and I STILL have no interest in any Orthopedic Surgeon trying to shift any of my lower back vertebra by half an inch laterally! One of my lower back vertebra is shifted sideways nearly half an inch, where my spinal column inside them barely has enough room to squeeze through from one to the other. Most of my pain was apparently due to the physical stresses on my (squeezed) spinal column rubbing against the inner edges of those two vertebrae whenever I make any movements at all. But once my brain CHOSE to ignore all sensory information from that part of my body, I have generally always been able to have the very active life which I have lived for the following 50 years!
There are a few minor quirks which exist due to my approach. (1) When I first wake up every morning, my brain has NOT been in its pain-blocking mode during the night, so I DO wake up with considerable back pain. But as I become conscious, my brain seems to reliably and quickly get into its pain-blocking mode, and so WITHIN ONE OR TWO SECONDS, the lower back pain disappears every morning. (2) I happen to be a person who sneezes quite enthusiastically! My whole body briefly shakes as a result of a sneeze, and these are vibrations that my brain is not used to dealing with. So a sneeze generally results in a VERY BRIEF sensation of pain from my lower back, but in less than half a second, the shaking and vibration is done and my brain gets back to eliminating my lower back pain. This IS a little annoying, but the effect is so brief that I have come to accept it. I have watched people who 'sneeze quietly' and I have sometimes asked them if they might be able to teach me how they do that. None have so far, and I now simply accept that I sneeze enthusiastically! (3) There ARE a few activities which I gave up, such as riding the small Honda 150 motorcycle I then had. The suspension and seat on that small bike were not very good so there was always a lot of vibration, from simply the tires on the pavement. I am not sure that most people even notice that vibration, but I certainly did. I think that the IRREGULARITY of those vibrations caused differences enough that my lower back was probably sending CHANGING messages to my brain, which were so rapid that it could not ignore all of them. So riding that small motorcycle was still a very painful experience! Much later, I bought a REALLY cushioned seat for my bicycle, which cost more than the bicycle did, but that bicycle now rides so smooth that I have NO sensation of back issues. (4) The fourth effect is one that even I consider to be very peculiar! Say I am hammering nails in some project and I manage to smash my thumb with the hammer. Nearly anyone would feel intense pain in that thumb, but not me! Apparently, such a blunder caused my brain to briefly have a new focus of attention, and the result has always been that I would immediately have instantaneous and severe lower back pain! All from smashing my thumb or dropping something heavy on my toe! But, in a few seconds, the severe pain due to the thumb subsides, and my brain then seems to get back to its important work, that of blocking pain signals from my lower back!
The approach which I have used might not be the only one available for learning how to get the brain to develop this response pattern. In fact, I had great doubts when I first started trying it, of trying to eliminate all other thoughts to let my brain think about almost nothing OTHER than that constant and intense back pain. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to choose to FOCUS my brain's activity on the one thing I wanted it to ignore! So there may be better ways. I just described the method I used because it has WORKED for me for 50 years!
One other detail: Early on, my brain came to ignore virtually all my back pain when I was stationary, but as soon as I moved, it went back to detecting and acting on the pain messages. THAT part developed more slowly, where it was probably several months before my brain simply ignored ALL sensory pain input from that area of my body, including when there was any motion involved.
IF you experience back-pain, especially if it is similar to the overwhelming back pain which I constantly endured, you currently think you only have one course, having a Doctor prescribe some powerful medication, like Morphine. I did not want to even consider such a course, because I had known several people who had quickly become addicted to such pain-killing medications. I wonder what might have happened to me if my approach had not worked, as I like to believe that I would always have resisted having to rely on such powerful drugs to get pain down to manageable levels. As it happens, once my brain learned how to ignore sensory input messages from my lower back, I rarely even sense ANY back discomfort at all. Not just Pain Reduction, but absolute ELIMINATION of all lower back pain!
In those following 50 years, I have NEVER taken anthing other than generic aspirin, except for the itching of Poison Ivy!
Disclaimer: I am NOT a Doctor, I am just a Theoretical Physicist.
If you ALREADY use powerful drugs to deal with pain, I wonder if this approach would work, or whether it would work as totally as it has for me. I also note that I developed this while I was still fairly young, and I wonder if an 'old brain could learn new tricks'. I think it should be able to, but I wonder if the older person is capable of developing the extreme level of focus which I considered central in my learning this process. I hope it is possible, and I hope that someone might even discover a faster or easier method to develop what I have long used. I have long had one idea along that line, but have never known anyone who might see cause to try it!
If you followed the LOGIC of this presentation, you should know that YOUR brain already HAS the needed capabilities and skills. In other words, 100% success seems very likely, as it has been for me for the past 50 years.
I have been very skeptical of how safe all the thousands of powerful drugs are which are sold to the American public, or used on that American public by Doctors. In my opinion, giant Corporations are in such a hurry to make billions in profits that I feel that many drugs are put on the market far before they have been truly proven safe. I believed this since I was a teenager in the early 1960s, and so I have virtually never taken ANY medications, except for generic Aspirin and topical cremes for poison ivy and such, in my entire life. Usually, in the first few years of having a new Doctor, the Doctor tends to do the wild perscription game which nearly all patients insist on. I have always been the opposite, and my Doctors eventually learned that IF they see extreme need for prescribing something, they had to give a Perry Mason argument to me regarding WHY I should actually take it! And when I have argued against that, the Doctors have usually backed off!
In addition, most medical drugs affect the entire body, even though they are often prescribed to reduce pain in one specific area, such as in a lower back or an elbow or knee. My method obviously has no chemical dependence problems but it is also extremely specific regarding location. If I happen to injure a foot or knee or wrist, I feel the same pain sensations that anyone else feels. Just not if the pain is related to my lower back. I have noticed something else. As a good scientist, I always want to keep learning, so I once did some experiments where I strapped an ice cube against the skin of that specific area of my lower back, and I certainly was aware of the cold and of the wetness as the cube was melting. I also tried using a heating pad on my back as I laid on my stomach, to see if there might have been a 'donut hole' in the middle of the warmth, but there was no difference regarding the sensation of warmth. I conclude that my brain geenrally does not block ALL nerve sensations from that area, but somehow only seems to block the pain sensations! I have NO idea how my brain does that! But it is certainly wonderful!
Every day, you feel tiny 'itches' or 'irritations'. You naturally just rub or scratch the area of your skin that has that sensation and you make it go away. What I suggest is to NOT rub or scratch! Instead, try to get your brain to briefly FOCUS on the irritation and try to get your brain to STOP reacting to whatever caused that specific constant itch or irritation.
I am pretty sure you can LEARN how to do this very quickly. It seems a little weird when you first do it! But once you learn how to do this for really minor sensations, you will have a better understanding of how to accomplish getting your brain to ignore the pain of more serious situations. I really believe that virtually everyone can do what I have successfully done for 50 years. Try it!
Maybe there are other types of chronic pain which might also be alleviated by this approach. Feel free to try!
I am tempted to encourage people to read Dr. Rankin's six books, particularly one called 'Mind Over Medicine'. I have the distinct impression that those Medical Doctors are approaching modern curing and chronic pain reduction without having to resort to powerful chemicals, where their approach struck me as surprisingly similar to my NON-Medical approach, one that was only created because I was then (1967) a Theoretical Physics Student in University! It seems to me that the comments presented by Dr. Rankin seem to provide strong medical confirmation for my approach, which until now had only had the ANECDOTAL evidence of my having lived 50 extra happy and active years (WITHOUT any medications!)
It was nice to see what modern Medicine is doing!
In my personal case, I have noticed that as of mid-2015, my brain has been slightly less effective at doing this. After about 47 years, I wonder if I might now start to need Meds! I am thinking that my now-elderly brain might not be as good at truly excellent concentration, and it may now be less effective at deleting my lower back pain. The Jury is still out on this so I don't really know for sure.
This page - -
- - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -