Doubting diagnosis of primary pain ... what do you do?

What do I do about doubt of the primary pain diagnosis? It seems like every time pain flares it’s so easy to go into doubt. Why is it so easy to doubt over and over again?

Hey there! Alan Gordon talks about doubt being an important part of the pain recovery process to recognize, and says it comes from us being biologically hard-wired to associate pain with injury. So it feels crazy when the pain feels very real, and based in a specific muscle or joint, to say “this is in my brain.”

I’ve been in this work for a while, and STILL when I got back pain out of nowhere last year, and during a really stressful time in my life figuring out a housing emergency, my first thoughts were “I’ve strained my back somehow, I need to do something physical to relieve it.”

So I’ve found a lot of benefit in sitting down with my doubt, understanding why it’s there, and then asking myself if that doubt is serving me. In the case of my back, every time I tried to use physical therapy exercises or massage to help, it would alleviate the pain for a bit, then everything would come rushing back a couple hours later. And when I sat with it, I realized I was going through constant cycles of doubt that weren’t helping me get better.

So I instead started writing about my stress, and did breathing and self-calming exercises, and tried to challenge my internal stress thoughts (“is it okay if I don’t figure out this housing situation this week? Will everything be okay if I end up having to focus on this for another month?”). And it was these solutions that helped me more than anything.

Curious on other folks’ thoughts!

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For me it has to do with fear… I’ve come to recognize my doubts and the “what if’s” as another manifestation of my fearful mind. And when I can acknowledge that I’m afraid I can…

  • offer myself some kindness and compassion in acknowledgment that this is scary and hard, and thank the part of me that is looking out for me
  • name the fact that doubting is just a habit of my mind, and I can learn different thinking habits
  • drop back into my body and feel the fear - great opportunity for somatic tracking
  • invite my curiosity and continue gathering evidence
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People are creatures of habit, and when you have been told something for so long, it is hard to get out of that mindset. I am self-proclaimed as quite stubborn, and it is really hard to accept big changes sometimes. It’s really easy to fall back into a habit or idea that has been around you and your headspace for so long, and the biggest thing that helps me is taking a step back, working through some basic breathing exercises, and reaffirming that my body and mind are healthy and that I am able to overcome anything. I remind myself that in order to grow, I must challenge my beliefs and welcome change!

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Doubt is so normal, but also can feel so challenging. I try to consider doubt in a positive light… a sign that my brain cares deeply about the topic and is trying hard to analyze. Then I take a few deep breaths, and try to switch from analyzing to an exploring/ curious mind with guided somatic tracking. I prefer guided in these times of doubts. I also have written out an evidence list of things I have come to learn confirm a diagnosis of primary pain. I add to the list anytime I can, and pull out the list in a time of doubt. Re-reading my own evidence can be a wonderful reminder.

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Thank you all. This is definitely something I struggle with, and I appreciate reading your answers.

When I had chronic pain and first discovered this work I had lots of doubts and fears creep in. I felt like I’d already tried so many things and “failed” and I was frustrated. But this work really offered a solid way out, a light at the end of what had been a very long, dark, lonely tunnel. So when the old thoughts and doubts would try to tell me I couldn’t I would… decide. I decided that I could. I decided I did have primary pain and that I was going to get better even if I felt awful that day. It might sound silly or small, just a decision. But over and over again I decided. This was going to be my way out and that I’d do the tools and learn as much as I could and listen to other people’s recovery stories. Especially when the pain would get worse because it did. I just kept reminding myself of all of the other people who had gotten better and instead of believing I was special and that I couldn’t, I would decide that if they did so could I. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound flippant. It was powerful for me and some days it was really hard but I hope it helps. #keepgoing

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