Help for Pain

Free and low-cost tools, plus carefully curated articles, to help you experience less pain.
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Here are resources which may help you better manage or even overcome chronic pain.

*** Try searching this page’s text for a specific topic or body part that interests you.

  • Tools that Help Pain Sufferers
  • Videos Explaining Pain
  • Podcasts and Audio
  • Articles, Research, Topical Videos, etc.

Tools that Help Pain Sufferers

Retrain Pain: Learn a Science Based Approach to Overcome Chronic Pain

Includes over 25 free short brain training lessons (a minute each) that cover:

  • Understanding pain
  • Mind and goals
  • Sleep and pain
  • Medications
  • Relationships

Also offers a few additional paid and free resources. Translated into over 20 languages too. Highly recommended!

Learn more >>

Tame the Beast

“Be brave and have hope, because it is possible to tame the beast.”
Rethinking pain is the goal of this brand new web site, founded by leading pain scientist Professor Lorimer Moseley and physiotherapist David Moen. [As of this writing, December 2017,  the site only contains the one video shown below, but I expect it will be growing exponentially in the coming months.]

Learn more >>

Greg Lehman’s Recovery Strategies Pain Guidebook

Free download. “The workbook is an introduction to pain science and is composed of one page infographics that are followed by questions to be worked through.  The workbook can be used in its entirety or single pages can be selected.”

Learn more >>

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

According to Wikipedia, “Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that incorporates mindfulness to assist people with pain and a range of conditions and life issues that were initially difficult to treat in a hospital setting. Developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful. In recent years, meditation has been the subject of controlled clinical research. This suggests it may have beneficial effects, including stress reduction, relaxation, and improvements to quality of life, but that it does not help prevent or cure disease. While MBSR has its roots in spiritual teachings, the program itself is secular.”

Find a local MBSR therapist

Free online MBSR training course

While it’s not MBSR, world-renowned Tara Brach offers these online free guided meditations. You can also attend her free/by donation meditation classes in Bethesda, MD.

Also check out the Frederick Meditation Center, including Heather Stang’s classes as well as free guided meditations online.

Graded Motor Imagery

“The most up to date rehabilitation program – based on the latest science and clinical trials — to treat many complex pain and movement problems.” Some free and some paid resources.

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The Pain Toolkit

The Pain Toolkit helps people all over the world self manage persistent pain. Includes free: 12 videos and tools, two online games (1, 2), and a pain self-management quiz for patients and their healthcare providers. This resource also offers an inexpensive handbook that may help you better manage your pain.

Learn more >>

Endless Possibilities Initiative

“Our mission is to empower people living with pain to live well. We provide experiential learning retreats and workshops that offer a place to make sense of pain in a supportive, encouraging community set amongst extraordinary surroundings. Through pain science education, mindfulness, movement, creativity and adventure we learn more about ourselves and what’s possible and practice strategies for living well.”

Learn more >>

Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach

“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.”

Learn more >>

Videos About Pain in General

Pain Lectures with Pain Experts

An outstanding resource! Lars Avemarie (writer, international lecturer, trainer and therapist) pulled together this excellently curated resource of “great videos which all contain the latest knowledge about pain from experts in modern pain science. We’ve even selected the best videos – so you don’t need the hassle yourself to find them.”

Action!

Learn more >>

Podcasts and Audio

The Big Questions offers Adam Spencer’s interview with Professor Lorimer Moseley on “Why Do We Feel Pain?

The Brain’s Role in Pain, a conversation with Dr. Tasha Stanton, a clinical pain neuroscientist and pain researcher.

Articles, Research, Topical Videos, etc.

Quality articles I’ve curated, with information that is well researched, trustworthy, reliable and/or excellent overall. If these look useful and you want to stay current on future gems, please like or follow our social media presences at:

Facebook • Twitter • Google+ • LinkedIn

KEY: ***** = The Best of the Best!

Massage and Manual Therapy

“Just Swedish” – the gold standard of massage — When is the last time you had “just” a Swedish Massage? Come and get it!

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Anxiety and Depression — Massage significantly helps Anxiety and Depression: “Massage therapists can be confident that MT [massage therapy] has been scientifically demonstrated to reduce anxiety and depression, and that the benefits are substantial. Indeed, there are probably no other effects in MT research that have been as consistently demonstrated as these mental health benefits.” — Christopher Moyer

The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease — Case studies show that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of muscle rigidity, joint contractures, and associated pain.

What manual therapy can and cannot do, by Diane Jacobs [ON FACEBOOK]

Pain

General Pain Articles

***** Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain — Sometimes the cause of chronic pain is Central Sensitization: “Pain itself often modifies the way the central nervous system works, so that a patient actually becomes more sensitive and gets more pain with less provocation.”

Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider’s Guide: Return to Your Life: Ways to Confront and Relieve Pain Through Avenues Other Than Drugs (book)

It’s 2016. Why Is Our Understanding of Pain Still Stuck in the Past? Part One

Pain and Memory — “How do we get annoying jingles out of our head? Listen to something different. How do we forget how much our back hurt the last time it ‘went out’? Create as many new memories of pain-free bending as possible.”

Why Your Body is Not Like a Car — Have you been told you have a leg length inequality / discrepancy? Don’t be alarmed, such a condition is widespread and is seldom a problem for most people.

Tissue Provocation Therapies — The problem with Tissue Provocation Therapies (therapy that produces pain such as some physical therapy methods, Graston technique and related, trigger point therapy, dry needling, prolotherapy, some Rolfing approaches, aggressive “deep tissue” massage, etc.): “We also now know, thanks to the last 20 years of chronic pain science, that chronic pain is often a failure of nervous system itself. Many people with serious chronic pain problems — the very same desperate patients who might try something riskier — are actually pathologically oversensitive. Pain can make us more sensitive to more pain.11 What happens if you “stress” a nervous system in that condition? Simple: the problem gets worse, not better.”

Is Movement Therapy Rocket Science? — “Simple common sense interventions work for chronic pain, just as they work to raise a healthy child. • Get support from family, friends and healthcare practitioners. Go to a PT. Get a massage. • Learn more about pain. Maintain an optimistic outlook and internal sense of control. • Experiment or play with with different ways to move. Confront your fears. • Apply a Goldilocks level of exercise stress to the painful area to encourage adaptation without further injury. • Exercise, sleep well, eat well and try to reduce stress.”

Can Romantic Partners Help to Reduce Pain? — Yes!

Emotional and Physical Pain Activate Similar Brain Regions

Research: Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation (The Journal of Neuroscience)

Back Pain

***** Low Back Pain — Watch this excellent video, one of the most thorough, concise and motivating discussions on back pain (and some leg pain), diagnostics and remedies I’ve encountered. Remember: Motion is lotion … movement is medicine!

***** Low Back Pain Tutorial — Excellent for the sufferer and clinician. The most comprehensive, science-based and trustworthy resource on low back pain I’m aware of.

***** Back Pain Myths: Posture, Core Strength, Bulging Discs — Have you been told one of these is causing your pain? Read this.

***** When to Worry About Low Back Pain … And when not to! What’s bark and what’s bite? — Excellent.

Of shiny pictures and poorer outcomes: Spinal MRI and back pain — A cleverly-designed analysis of a large workers compensation database revealed something I find astonishing. The workers with low back pain who received an MRI suffered far longer than those who didn’t, and nearly all who received MRIs had back surgery. This includes the workers whose type of back pain made it less likely they’d be recommended for an MRI at all … 100% of that population who received MRIs underwent the knife! “MRI is itself an independent risk factor for poor outcome […]. The statistically adjusted results indicate that folk in the MRI group came off of disability 200% slower (from a raw average of 134 days with MRI to 23 days without!) than those who did not have an MRI scan. Perhaps more worryingly while those in the no-MRI groups had a surgery rate of less than 10%, the MRI groups had surgery rates of 80-100%. To be clear: in the group who had clinical characteristics that made them less likely to be offered an MRI, but who still received one, 100% underwent spinal surgery. These, you might notice, are large effect sizes.”

Back pain? Try some placebo surgery — This is a MUST-READ if you or someone you know is considering back surgery (or you think you someday may).

Research: Resolution of Lumbar Disk Herniation without Surgery — Are you worried about a herniated disc? They can heal on their own!

Knee Pain

Research: Comparative Effectiveness of Tai Chi Versus Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Trial — Disability from knee osteoarthritis can be significantly improved for up to 52 weeks after a 12 week Tai Chi practice. “The Tai Chi group had significantly greater improvements in depression and the physical component of quality of life” than physical therapy.

Hip Pain

Research: Prevalence of Femoroacetabular Impingement Imaging Findings in Asymptomatic Volunteers: A Systematic Review — Hip pain? It may not actually be caused by a degenerating or injured hip. A recent review of 26 studies reveals that labral damage (such as labrum tears) and hip bone degeneration markers are common in people who have NO SYMPTOMS AT ALL. Yet another indicator that structural “abnormalities” very often AREN’T the cause of pain. Studies of this type and conclusion have now been done for every part of the body. Your pain (whether hip or elsewhere) may be caused by something less tangible, such as stress or emotional trauma, insomnia, or even central sensitization.

Jaw Pain

Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, and TMJ Syndrome — Do you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, suffer from TMJ Disorder, or use a mouthguard? Here are some great tips on how to relax your chewing muscles. If you still can’t get enough relief, I have special training to help with jaw pain. Give me a call to consult about your condition or make an appointment.

Research: Changes in Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Symptoms Following Massage Therapy: A Case ReportTMJ Disorder can be significantly improved by skillfully applied therapeutic massage of the head and neck. Treatment is pain-free. Recommended therapy is 45 minutes, twice weekly for five weeks. Home-care guidance is included.

Neck Pain

What a Tibetan monk taught me about my chronic neck pain — and how to relieve it — “If bodily sensation rippled through the mind, couldn’t thoughts ripple through the body? Could an anxious mind, burdened by subtle, subconscious fears, trigger a detectable, flesh-and-bone tension? If so, might I look to my stiff neck not as a nuisance, but as a reliable, early warning system, a canary in the coal mine of consciousness?”

Elbow Pain

Video: Tennis Elbow – Centre Court — David Butler* demonstrates a neurobiological approach to working with tennis elbow, including some fun exercises that are helpful. *Co-author of _Explain Pain_, the _Explain Pain Handbook_ and others, as well as many research articles.

Medical Conditions

How to Control Inflammation with Your Brain — Yet another reason to practice diaphragmatic breathing.

The Virus That Could Cure Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and More — This promising treatment for Alzheimer‘s, Parkinson‘s (and more) is SO INTERESTING, as is the story behind it.

Research: Surgical versus non-surgical treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis — Considering surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis? A meta-analysis of “Surgical versus non-surgical treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis” concluded “it should be noted that the rate of side effects ranged from 10% to 24% in surgical cases, and no side effects were reported for any conservative treatment. No clear benefits were observed with surgery versus non-surgical treatment.”

Research: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Prospective Clinical Trial — Fibromyalgia? This study is very promising.

How a vitamin cured my anxiety: Elisa Black’s story of lifelong struggle and new hope for the future — If you have been diagnosed with anxiety, clinical depression, migraines (esp. with aura), the MTHFR genetic mutation, phobias, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or know someone with autism, read this. If you’re described in the last sentence and want to explore this possible remedy, GO GET YOURSELF TESTED FOR **MTHFR**. To quote one of my teachers (who first posted this elsewhere): “Though the article focuses enthusiastically upon some genetic factors that seem to play a role in the manifestation of many common symptoms, I suspect that the average reader will instead focus on the supplements mentioned as helpful. Instead of recommending testing, they’re likely to jump immediately to ‘try these supplements.’ The emotional appeal of ‘curing’ our girl with vitamins is very strong, and I can understand why some people would jump right to that step. However, without the genetic testing (and possibly other tests), how would we learn which one(s) would be most appropriate, and in which forms, and in what dosages? Could we harm her by trying random combinations? What are the risks of using too much, or too little?”

Stress

Human brain hard-wired for rural tranquillity — “I think we have neglected the relationship that human beings have with their environment and we are strongly connected to it,” he said. “If you don’t get the conditions right in zoos, the animals start behaving in a wacky way. There have been studies done with laboratory animals showing their feeding is abnormal. Sometimes they stop eating and sometimes they eat excessively. How far we can draw that parallel, I don’t know.”

A Science-Backed Reason For Leaving Work Early Today — Workaholics take note.

Video: Kitten Therapy: The Prescription for Stress

Video: Gratitude — This is stunning and will help you feel better.

Video: Święte miejsce (Holy Place) — Sweet silence and good effort.

Injury and Recovery

***** Why Ice and Anti-inflammatory Medication is NOT the Answer — Injured? Skip the rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. Recover faster and better with light exercise.

Research pours cold water on ice bath recovery theory — More evidence that applying ice to the body isn’t helpful: ice baths for athletes reduces muscle development. Two studies are cited in this article, one states: “This is the most comprehensive study of its kind and the results suggest individuals who use strength training to improve athletic performance, recover from injury or maintain their health, should reconsider using cold water immersion as a recovery aid.” It should be noted that an active warm down was shown to be much more beneficial.

SuperBetter — Seeking really effective self-improvement / recovery? Game researcher and designer Jane McGonigal had a concussion that didn’t resolve in the ideal time, leading to troubling symptoms as she struggled to heal. She developed a game for herself which she eventually called SuperBetter, it was remarkably helpful and became popular for self-improvements in all kinds of ways (anxiety, depression, weight loss, etc.). I first heard Jane in a *very* interesting interview on the The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast). She’s done three TED talks.

Science (for the Client and Clinician)

***** Three Reasons It Matters Why A Treatment Works — “Speaking of bad explanations: Foam rolling probably doesn’t work by breaking adhesions or melting fascia. Chiropractic manipulation doesn’t put joints that are “out” back “in.” Deep tissue massage doesn’t get rid of toxins or “muscle knots.” Acupuncture doesn’t access special points or meridians – putting the needles in random places works just as well. Some sham surgeries work just as well the real thing. Motor control exercises often work to reduce pain even though motor control hasn’t changed.”

Why We Need Science: “I saw it with my own eyes” Is Not Enough — Understanding why something works matters. (In contrast to the oft-heard statement, “I don’t care why it works.”)

Research: A newly discovered muscle: The tensor of the vastus intermedius. — The Quadriceps are now technically Quinticeps, as a new muscle was discovered in the thigh.

Research: Soreness probably not caused by inflammation, but by something it prevents — Muscle soreness due to lactic acid was disproven years ago. Now soreness due to inflammation appears to have been disproven as well.

Doctors, Medicine, Alternative Medicine (and some Quackery)

Surgery

50 Secrets Surgeons Won’t Tell You — A must read for someone considering surgery.

Book: Surgery, The Ultimate Placebo: A Surgeon Cuts through the Evidence — Are you considering surgery? “In a recently published systematic review of all placebo trials of surgery it was found that in about half of the fifty-three trials found, surgery was not better than placebo treatment. And in the ones where it was better, the difference wasn’t great.” Also see: Back pain? Try some placebo surgery

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Adoption of NAHA policy on Raindrop Therapy — Do you receive essential oil treatments or practice aromatherapy? The Aromatherapy Registration Council issued a formal paper banning the practice and teaching of “Raindrop Therapy” and “Aromatouch” in 2010.

Why Essential Oils are Not Water Flavoring Agents — Are you adding essential oils to water for flavor? Time to stop.

Homeopathy

1,800 Studies Later, Scientists Conclude Homeopathy Doesn’t Work — If you’ve been helped by homeopathy, it’s likely you’ve experienced the placebo effect. Did you know the “active” ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is equivalent to 1/4 drop in all the world’s oceans?

General Health

Exercise and Movement

How to Walk on Ice — A good reminder.

Research: Gut Microbiota Modification: Another Piece in the Puzzle of the Benefits of Physical Exercise in Health? — If nothing else, go take a walk.

Food and Eating

Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast — Not hungry in the morning? Feel free to wait for lunch.

The latest study about antioxidants is terrifying. Scientists think they may boost cancer cells to spread faster. — Three studies have shown that antioxidant supplements boost cancer cells.

Relationships

16 Body Language Mistakes That Make People Distrust You — Want to develop better rapport with people? Consider this.

18 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence — A large study reveals the core traits of emotional intelligence (EI). It appears improving your EI reduces stress, leading to better health.

Miscellaneous

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You — Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Congratulations, you’re normal!

Yes, You Can Become Addicted to Tanning — “The UV mice had a pain threshold up to three times higher than mice that had not tanned.”

 

“Clients should be dubious of any [healthcare] practitioner who (1) is ignorant of or hostile to mainstream science; (2) cannot supply a reasonable rationale for his or her methods; (3) uses promotional patter laced with allusions to spiritual forces and vital energies or to vague planes, vibrations, imbalances, and sensitivities; (4) claims to possess secret ingredients or processes; (5) appeals to ancient wisdom and ‘other ways of knowing’; (6) claims to ‘treat the whole person’ rather than organ-specific diseases; or (7) claims to be persecuted by the establishment and encourages political action on his or her behalf, or is prone to attack or sue critics rather than responding with valid research.

“Practitioners with degrees from unaccredited institutions or who sell their own proprietary concoctions in their offices and stress the need for frequent return visits ‘in order to stay well’ are also a cause for concern. The presence of pseudoscientific or conspiracy-laden literature in the waiting room ought to set a clear thinker looking for the exit. And, above all, if the promised results go well beyond those offered by conventional therapists and it is claimed that there are no side effects, the probability is that one is dealing with a quack. In short, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“When people become sick, any promise of a cure is beguiling. As a result, common sense and the willingness to demand evidence are easily supplanted by false hope. In this vulnerable state, the need for critical appraisal of treatment options is more — rather than less — necessary.

“Those who still think they can afford to take a chance on the hawkers of untested remedies should bear in mind Goethe’s wise advice: ‘Nothing is more dangerous than active ignorance.’ ”

Ref.:
Acad Med. 2001 Mar;76(3):230-7. Alternative medicine and common errors of reasoning. Beyerstein BL.

[Thanks to Lars Avemarie for this quote and reference.]

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What Our Clients are Saying...

"When I leave a session with Marlene—I have the feelings of someone that just got fantastic news. I believe her touch encourages you to connect with yourself and at the same time let go of stress and let her help. I find in my sessions with her—she is attentive/knowledgeable and intuitive to the point where verbal communication is not necessary. She is truly talented.” — Gina Click
"Marlene Mayman has a unique and amazing gift of healing through the art of massage therapy. After just two sessions, she provided me with much-needed pain relief from a pinched ulnar nerve, as a result of whiplash. I had tried months of physical therapy with no success. I was so desperate to escape the numbness in my hand & arm and to my amazement she accomplished what others could not do. I feel so fortunate to have found the gift of Marlene… My husband sees her as well and we cannot sing her praises enough. Thank you, Marlene!” — Becky Stallings Schneider
"My entire upper body feels much improved. The most noticeable effect is the lack of pain in that little area near my shoulder blades. This is such a relief. I have been on the computer for long periods of time, and it has not been a problem. Also, my entire shoulder area feels more flexible and there is significantly less pain on that left side. Thank you so much for all of the hard work you put in to this.” — Alison Roeser
"I have suffered with carpel tunnel for many years. Marlene was able to improve my situation tremendously in a few visits. Marlene is not your average therapist; she is highly trained, committed to excellence and very professional in all she does. I would trust her and recommended her to anyone without reservation.” — Mac Caldwell