Ben J. Klein, PhD
Behavioral Pain Psychologist
Lovelace Medical Group
Ben J. Klein, PhD
Behavioral Pain Psychologist
Lovelace Medical Group
Against overwhelming odds, a man suffering from chronic pain and spine disease was able to put one foot in front of the other for 2400 miles as he walked along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. He made this trip as part of his own healing process. The many long hours that he spent on the highway provided him with ample opportunity to reflect on his hard-earned wisdom as it evolved, minute by minute. In meetings with people along the way, many of whom were chronic pain sufferers, his strength and compassion deeply touched those who took a few minutes to get to know him.
This book is a testament to one man’s triumph over the disability that was caused by his chronic pain. Even for those readers who do not suffer from chronic pain, the story in this book will inspire each of us to meet our life challenges with greater openness, optimism, and dignity. Dennis Kinch was an ordinary man who encountered extraordinary obstacles in his life. In this book, Dennis shares with us his decline into the misery and loss that chronic pain created in his life, and he then describes his heroic journey back to a joyful and thriving life.
We have come to expect that the modern medical systems will treat our health problems effectively so that we can be cured and go on with our lives with little or no limitations. Unfortunately, many people now live with chronic diseases that cannot be cured but are only “managed”. For most chronic pain sufferers, pain will be a chronic disease to be managed, much like diabetes or heart disease. Just as with diabetes or heart disease, some patients with chronic pain manage the disease very well while others allow the pain to constrict and control their lives. As a behavioral pain psychologist who has worked closely with chronic pain patients for over 20 years, I have seen over and over again how easily fear, anger, and grief can overwhelm those in pain. It takes someone of uncommon courage, such as Dennis Kinch, to show us how to open our hearts and minds to the possibilities for joy and growth that we can create when chronic pain threatens our health, happiness, and livelihoods.
One of the unique perspectives that Dennis promotes in this book is the idea that chronic pain sufferers must learn to surrender the fight to conquer or get rid of chronic pain. Another way to say this is that a person with chronic pain can benefit from accepting the reality of ongoing pain, choosing to create joy and meaning in a life with pain rather than waiting for a cure or retreating into a frozen state of withdrawal from life. Dennis goes on to describe various aspects of “re-inventing” one’s life.
In this book, Dennis describes the kinds of medical care systems that can be most helpful to those in chronic pain. He is probably too kind in his criticisms of many doctors, treatment centers, and other “caring” professionals. Many care providers do not understand or accept chronic pain, they overstate the value of their procedures and medications, and they underemphasize the importance of behavior changes and broader personal transformations that are essential for patients with chronic pain. All too often the clinics and doctors’ offices are set up for the convenience and profit of the providers rather than being designed as healing environments that welcome and embrace those in pain who are seeking understanding and compassion.
This book outlines one man’s way of understanding his struggles with chronic pain and his unique efforts to rebuild his life. While it may be helpful to you in some ways, it may leave you wondering what else you can do to help yourself to live with chronic pain. You may be interested to know that Dennis and his colleagues are developing a series of related projects to further the efforts of those trying to live well with chronic pain. These include a documentary movie, a patient-oriented magazine, a system for starting and encouraging patient support groups, patient and professional education materials, and a comedy tour to promote the use of humor in coping. You can check out these and other developments by visiting this website: www.walkforhealing.weebly.com .
It is my wish that through this book some part of this man and his efforts will provide the spark that you need to surrender old patterns that are not working for you, to embrace the chronic pain and the lessons that is has for you, and to re-invent a life for yourself that has more meaning and joy than you could have imagined before the pain became a part of your life!
I looked up and saw the road ahead... thirty miles ahead.
The daytime sun was bearing down and it was hot. I'd already seen 115° for six hours and knew it was four more hours to go before the sun would go down. I had met a patient named Nancy in the clinic the day before. She was wearing a neck brace and was in a clinic office for a procedure. We talked about my “Walk”, and the medical system, and how blessed she was to be seeing a group of pain professionals who knew how to treat her. She felt she was blessed to be talking to me...
I felt the need to write a book about the “Walk” but as I neared the heart of the blazing desert I knew that a book about the complete Pain Cycle was much more important. I saw this more and more throughout the 3000 miles. This book needed to be about the truth, that no one ever says to you. Plain language, things I was never told as a patient either. You see...
Nancy had pretty much the same story as the thousands of people I had met in the various clinics and on the streets. Some of these patients had, by accident or coincidence, ended up in a situation where they could get proper treatment. That's if they weren't completely jaded and bitter by the, which was usually the case. Nancy wasn't. She was filled with hope and a high spiritual energy and her face, especially her eyes, was evidence of that. As we talked I was being brought to tears and my heart was filling with the same hope and a powerful inspiration that I'll never forget. If I had any doubts of continuing the walk, especially the desert part of it, they were gone now.
If only I could have shown her the Pain Cycle chart. If only I could have explained to her where she was on the chart and why the treatments hadn't been working. She was getting an inspiration for me strictly on need, trust, and hope. That's all I could do for most patients. I represented to them someone who knew first hand what they were going through. I was someone who could offer hope, someone who could offer change, and the book about the journey through pain will be the thing to do just that. It will tie together the enormous amount of loose ends, asking both patients and professionals to come together through education and awareness.
To face each other at the table and start a dialogue. To forgive each other through understanding. To ride this “Train” to victory through trust and belief. It also establishes the Pain Amplifier as another tool in the doctor's bag to help professionals understand a patient's pain. Many doctors told me how inept the present system is.
The simple one to ten scale to measure pain is just not enough. The Pain Amplifier allows us to understand how a person's state of emotions adds to their sensitivity to pain, eventually causing it to fill their life and identity. A simple questionnaire will be able to figure out where a patient's pain sensitivity is set.
Most people would be at the high end, as most are deep into the negative side of the pain cycle. It shows us how to understand why, for some of us, a “6” is mild, while for others it is crippling. Most professionals understand the term “pain cycle”, but most don't know there's a way out of it, a step-by-step methodology to swinging the curve. Most of us will need help rounding the corner, help in making those steps. You see, we really do need the medical system, but their understanding of the Pain Cycle should completely change how the clinics see the patients, or more importantly, treat them.
I have been asked by many doctors who heard me speak in the clinics to come back and talk to their staff. This would always revolve around the Pain cycle. They were Q and A sessions, usually luncheons, where most of the questions were about how patients see the system. How can the staff members be better caregivers? What are “we” doing wrong? I would always explain the Pain amplifier and use the Pain cycle Chart to explain where a patient stood and why treatments, medications, and therapies weren't working. Even on the cases these treatments did work, it was probably 40% of the time, the same percentage as the placebo effect. Only those on the positive side of the cycle, beyond the “Belief” stage, would gain lasting benefits from the clinic's help.
With well over 50 million diagnosed cases of chronic pain in the United States alone, plus the fact that pain knows no boundaries, there became a huge need to get the word out to the country that there's an answer. It is an answer for everyone and this answer lies within each of us, as individuals.
Originally the idea of a book was to be one based on “The Walk” about what it was like, stories from the road, a Charles Kuralt sort of thing. But I started getting asked by patients to give them the book about the Pain cycle. “Where's the book? “ they would say. Then the professionals wanted to see it and I started saying that I would write one and even then, I was wondering why I was saying that. That's exactly what a “calling” is. Divine Providence. Finding your cycle. Being led by the nose to a higher purpose. Call it what you will. In this case it was undeniable.