Out of the Abyss with Forgiveness

posted in: Stage 2: Step 5 | 0


Hi Dr. Hanscom,

It’s Beverly, a former patient. I just wanted to write and tell you some good news regarding my back situation. You were right about forgiveness as well as the emotional aspects of back pain–at least in my case.After following the physiological recommendations and taking the various classes you suggested at Swedish, I read your book and began my own journey of forgiveness with the help of my church.

I continued to get stronger and feel better as I progressed through the various stages. However, the nerve pain continued to remain. It would crop up for no apparent reason and take me out. The final step to my healing process was a worship night at my church and prayers of healing. I was able to release all the guilt and shame I had been holding onto unbeknownst to me. I had received prayers, love and unconditional acceptance in return from the prayer team.

With all that said, the bottom line is, I am out of pain!! It has attempted to return but I am able to pray it away and remind myself of the healing that took place and it goes away. There is a huge element of emotional healing involved, as you have stated. I thought you might be interested in hearing another success story. Thank you again for all of your insight, wisdom and help! It is truly amazing to wake up pain free!

Gratefully Yours,



Bev was an extremely pleasant and motivated  aerobics instructor who came to me for a second opinion regarding a proposed spine fusion.  It was going to be her sixth spine operation in seven years. She began to experience LBP around 2000 without an obvious inciting event.  She underwent the following procedures:

  • Two-level lumbar spine fusion from L4 to S1
    • Marginal results
  • Spinal hardware removed
    • L5-S1 non-union was found.  Although they re-grafted the weak area she was not re-instrumented
  • Neurostimulator placed into her spine (two trials placed)
    • Helped for about a year
  • Saw me with the following problems
    • Disabling LBP and some leg pain
      • Could not work
      • Single mother for three teenagers
    • The L5-S1 fusion still had not healed
    • L3-4 just above the L4-5 fusion was completely broken down
      • The disc was destroyed so the vertebrae were “bone on bone”
      • Her facets joints were arthritic
      • She was stable in that her vertebrae at this level did not move when she leaned forwards and backwards
        • There also no pinched nerves

My assessment and recommendations:

  • No more surgery
    • She was stable
    • There is little if any correlation between degenerative disc disease and back pain
    • If L3-4 was fused, there was a high chance she would not improve—L2-3 could break down quickly and over 5-10 years she might be fused up into her thoracic spine
      • She is an aerobics instructor.  With a fusion that high you can no longer twist.
  • Pursue the treatments outlined in the DOC protocol
  • Referred her to a non-operative physician to help her along


What happened?

  • She pursued every part of the protocol aggressively.
    • She addressed sleep and stress
    • She did not want to use pain medications
    • She attended some of the wellness classes
    • She re-engaged in working out at the gym
    • She chose to move forward with her life in spite of her pain
  • She initially did not improve very much and moved to another state
    • I don’t think I have seen another patient work so hard at getting better with so little improvement.
  • Her spine pathology was severe enough that I still had some questions in my mind whether I should offer her more surgery.  She by this time had ruled that option out.

I  received her letter a couple of years later. I had lost track of her and was surprised at her degree of pain relief.  Her spine was  very degenerated. However, I have seen this degree of pain relief occur in many patients that have deeply engaged in learning tools to heal. The most consistent predictor of success is letting go of the anger engendered by the chronic pain experience. True forgiveness is not an intellectual exercise. I have seen few patients really improve before they cross this hurdle.  I call it the “Continental Divide” of chronic pain.


Remember you have legitimate and understandable reasons for your frustrations.  Anger will still destroy you.