Welcome to this feature about the recently published The Way Out. The full title is
The Way Out: The Revolutionary, Scientifically-Proven Approach to Heal Chronic Pain by Alan Gordon with Alon Ziv. My thanks to Jessica at Vermillion for agreeing to send me a copy. The below is my own opinion and review. The author Alan Gordon is a psychotherapist who struggled with his own debilitating pain. Frustrated, he developed a technique which helped him and now he uses it to treat others. Here, I’ll describe my motivation for reading, what the books is about, give my review and share the official synopsis. You can learn a bit more about author Alan Gordon and his work from this interview.
When I was doing my PhD I was an RAF reservist. I put my name down for a 50 mile road march, my squadron was putting in a team and planning training sessions. I had to do lab work abroad and missed all the training. But, walking is the one ‘sport’ I’m passable at, so I turned up for the event anyway. And I completed it! It was tough going, my body wasn’t used to that kind of distance, my blisters had blisters, two of my toes nails fell off and for 3 days afterwards I couldn’t climb the stairs. But the following week I was fine, completely recovered.
A Chronic Pain Story
When I developed ME/CFS it came with horrendous pain in my lower back and legs. I had an MRI scan and a neurologist said it was clear. She asked me cover my eyes whilst she touched my legs with a cotton wool ball or poked me with a cocktail stick. She said my response was patchy. I try all sorts of things for my pain; physio, tens, painkillers, yoga, hot and cold compress, activity, massage, rest etc. I’ve not been able to control or reduce it much. So I’m very keen to learn any ways in which I can minimise it!
In The Way Out, the authors explain that pain can be useful as it’s often a sign of injury. Once the injury heals, the pain usually goes away. Sometimes though, pain persists and becomes chronic despite the injury healing. This is because the pain signal in the brain has got stuck in the ‘on’ position. Now, saying that someone’s pain is actually ‘in their head’ sounds like gaslighting. So, I was really pleased when the author explained that if you can feel it, then the pain is real. The presence of pain is also borne out in the brain scans which are done on patients with chronic pain.
The authors explain the pain-fear cycle and how it’s possible to break that and create new connections in the brain. Changing associations in the brain takes time and repeated effort, but it is possible. This concept is called neuroplasticity. The authors have developed a way of conducting this ‘re-wiring.’ Their method is called Pain Reprocessing Therapy. You don’t have to believe whole heartedly in it, in order for it to work; but setting aside scepticism will help it to work. As is often the case in medicine and recovery, a positive attitude helps with a positive outcome!
The therapy is an easy to follow process, the authors have made it clear and given advice for when any inevitable set backs occur. In one of their younger patients, whom they saw weekly, a total transformation occurred within 3 months. Again, this was also borne out in brain scans after the treatment was completed.
This book is a perfect example of how to write popular science. It’s easy for anyone to understand, you don’t need any prior medical knowledge. It’s also very engaging; the style is warm, witty, informal and empathetic. The authors use every day analogies to explain parts of the process so the reader can be completely confident that they can correctly apply the therapy for themselves. The authors also use a range of real-life case studies of people with different pain conditions. I found this is helpful because elements of their experience mirror my own and I have some of the same queries and reactions.
Another thing I rate this book for, is it’s brevity; there’s enough detail to ensure everything is clear and covered but no superfluous text. Many health books take time at the beginning to establish the credentials of the author(s). This is important because the reader needs to feel confident in trusting the advice which follows. But so often the credentials bit reads like a vanity project, especially when it takes up half the book. Not so with this one! It’s important to know about the test case that seeded the therapy, but the only thing radiating off the page is the excitement of scientific discovery. At the end of the book is an afterword about the opioid crisis. If you’re of a scientific persuasion, there are no less than 160 annotated references if you’d like to do a deep dive.
Who I’d Recommend It To
I highly recommend this book to anyone with chronic pain, whether they’ve been given a cause for it or not. Because the therapy is quite straightforward you can do it even if you’re severely affected by illness. And as it’s drug-free there are no side effects! You have nothing to loose by giving it a try and potentially a pain-free life to gain.
I truly love that the therapy is easy to follow, I’ve already been picking moments to do the somatic tracking and I hope to come back in Spring 2022 and tell you how I’m doing.
The Way Out Synopsis
Rewire your brain, end your pain.
From back pain to migraines, arthritis and sciatica, over 1.2 billion people worldwide suffer from regular or chronic pain, 28 million in the UK alone. It’s a global epidemic that regularly resists treatment and can totally derail people’s lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
This is the revolutionary message from psychotherapist Alan Gordon who, frustrated by the lack of effective treatment for his own debilitating pain, developed a highly successful approach to eliminating symptoms without surgery or medication, offering a viable and drug-free alternative to existing – and often addictive – methods.
Based on the premise that pain starts in the brain not the body, Gordon’s Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) enables you to rewire your neural circuits and turn off ‘stuck’ pain signals. In a ground-breaking study, PRT helped 98% of patients reduce their pain levels and 66% were completely cured. What’s more, these dramatic changes held up over time.
In The Way Out, Gordon provides an easy-to-follow guide to ending your pain with PRT. Drawing on cutting-edge research along with his own experiences as a chronic pain sufferer, he will help you:
– Understand how the brain can unintentionally ‘learn’ chronic pain
– Turn off pain signals that have become ‘stuck’ – these are false alarms
– Use revolutionary techniques to break the cycle of fear that causes chronic pain
– Develop long-term strategies for living pain-free
Game-changing, practical and full of real-life stories from Gordon’s clinical practice, this book will change the way you think about pain forever – and give you a way out of your pain today.