Sideways Viewing: A New Approach to Pain Management
I lost most of my vision two years ago and became legally blind. It was devastating. Through the course of rehabilitation with a low vision clinic, I was taught how to see in a very new way, called eccentric viewing.
Eccentric viewing is a method by which a person looks sideways at an object to see “around” the blinding scar damage in the eye. Eccentric viewing won’t change the eye damage, but it has taught me how to look at the world in a different manner by looking sideways without focusing. It also inspired me to look at pain management differently.
In the book “The Brain and Pain: Breakthroughs in Neuroscience,” author Richard Ambron explores the present and future of pain management. Pain is an inevitable part of existence, but severe, debilitating, chronic pain is a pathological condition that diminishes the quality of life.
Research in 1965 disproved the conventional thinking that pain nerves send a one-way signal to the brain with the intensity of the pain correlating to the seriousness of the injury. That is why surgery is successful with general anesthetics — the pain pathways are closed.
Taking this concept further, it is the brain that is sending signals about pain perception. Psychiatrist Norman Doidge proposes the “gate theory of pain.” Pain messages sent from the body must pass through several gates in the nervous system before reaching the brain. Each gate decides if the signal is important enough to give it permission to pass. If permission is granted, the gate opens. This causes certain neurons to turn on, escalating the pain.
The good news is that we can learn to apply mental influence over those pain gates. Step one is letting go of the idea that someone or something will magically make the pain go away, always and forever.
Yes, I believe miracles can happen, but just in case they don’t get on my schedule, I’ll turn to hard work. Chronic pain is my life, and trying to escape just escalates attention into an all-consuming flame. With symptoms worsening, I can no longer let pain drain the well of resources in my futile attempt to put out the flames. Time to move on to new solutions.
Step two is to take a detailed pain inventory every day. I can’t change what I don’t recognize is happening. In doing so, I especially note the occurrence of any new pain. I don’t use sideways viewing with new pain, only familiar pain. It is prudent to have new pain evaluated by medical providers.
My inventory includes all triggers and healing practices in order to avoid the triggers and persistently apply healing. Pain is my No. 1 problem, and its management is a topic of several of my columns.
Step three involves the practice of sideways viewing pain, which is inspired by eccentric viewing. Sideways viewing approaches chronic pain with a shift in perspective by experiencing the pain without focusing on it. Feeling it without becoming it. You acknowledge it, but your brain shuts the gates before the pain escalates. I concentrate on the sacredness of life while looking sideways at the pain.
Parkinson’s makes pain experiences more complicated. The second dopamine center, which is damaged by Parkinson’s, monitors pain as part of its normal function. It has been my experience that the pain signals are often exaggerated because of Parkinson’s.
This has become especially clear to me with episodic neck and back pain not due to any injury. This pain can drop me to my knees, making it tough to enjoy life. With sideways viewing, the pain is experienced and acknowledged but the focus shifts to calm, sacred awareness.
I tried all of the approaches to pain management covered in my columns and still use them to lower the pain a notch or two. But my pain management wasn’t getting to the core of my back pain. It felt more like placing Band-Aids than a healing intervention.
When I tried the new technique of sideways viewing, I was pleasantly surprised by a 50% reduction in pain perception and the elimination of the most severe back spasms. It felt like I had found the root of the back pain experience, and the relief was, in some sense, miraculous.
Practicing sideways viewing requires concentrated energy. It’s why I work hard on personal well resource management to have enough internal energy every day to practice and strengthen sideways viewing pain management. When I can keep the pain low, it makes a huge difference in my energy levels, which helps overall chronic illness self-management.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.