Q.  I am in pain most of the time due to osteoarthritis. I heard you had hip replacement surgery for a similar problem. How did your brain handle the pain?

A. Pain is definitely a fascinating topic and every brain and body is different. I was in constant pain at some level for three years prior to my last hip surgery: morning, noon, and night. No medication really made the pain go away and I didn’t like the side-effects anyway. When it got especially painful, I learned to talk to my body and say something like: “Thank you for reminding me that my joint is experiencing osteoarthritis. I understand that and no longer need a reminder.” Usually the pain faded considerably, sometimes for several hours, even though it never went away completely. When I talked kindly and gently to my body and then thought about something else, my body usually stopped trying to get my attention, at least for a while.

When you dwell on the pain you are in even more pain because the brain wants congruence. If you say, “I am in pain, I feel awful, I really hurt,” a representation of what that means to your brain goes into working memory. Now the brain begins to search for and surface any and all other instances when you were in pain, which can actually compound the pain. It’s so fascinating. 

In my case, surgical hip replacement was the way to go. Post operatively, once the incision healed, I virtually have had no pain. That makes my orthopedic surgeon, Bill Bowen, MD, a miracle worker from my point of view.