My mission falls into two broad categories.
- Connect mainstream medicine with existing science – most symptoms, illness and disease are created by the body’s physiology (how it functions), and not structures.
- Establish the necessity of a trusting dynamic relationship with your clinician. Feeling heard and safe is not a luxury. They are healing modalities in that they shift physiology from threat to safety. Also, if we don’t know you and understand the details of your situation, how can we make accurate decisions.
Most chronic mental and physical disease is caused by the body being in a sustained state of flight or fight (threat physiology). The fallout of treating most diseases from a structural paradigm isn’t effective and causes harm. It is particularly damaging in spine surgery, and the rates of spine surgery for chronic low back pain continue to skyrocket. It eventually became clear that we were performing low back fusions for anxiety (sensation created by threat physiology) with a success rate of less than 30%.1
Understanding chronic symptoms, illness, and disease
My efforts evolved out of my own 15-year struggle with chronic mental and physical pain. Most of my approaches failed and then some began to help. As I pursued treatments that worked and abandoned the ones that didn’t, I inadvertantly escaped out of this Abyss in 2003. All 17 of my symptoms resolved and continued to improve. However, I still had no idea why I become ill and why I healed. I was shocked, as many of my fellow clinicians, that the answers have been in literature of over 60 years.
In 1962, two researchers clearly documented that stress causes illness, disease, and early death.2 I was aware of this data, but I did not connect the dots. I treated my patients from the paradigm that it was my responsibility was to find a structural cause of pain, and I felt badly if I could not find a reason to perform surgery. I aggressively performed fusions for low back pain for the first 8 years of my practice. When a paper out of Washington State3 showed a success rate of less than 25% for low back fusions for pain, I stopped doing them, but did not know what to do.
The healing journey
My current approach represents what I learned from my struggles, witnessing what helped hundreds of my patients heal, and now understanding the science behind these concepts. The DOC Journey course and app and my other efforts are simply a framework that presents documented science in amanner and sequence that is accessible by patients and clinicians. My vision is to connect medicine with known science of chronic stress causing illness, with the fundamental idea being that the doctor patient relationship is at the core of healing. If a patient can’t feel safe with their health care provider, the rest of the treatments are of limited value.
Many people heal with just these self-directed concepts, but outcomes are always better and more consistent with added resources. This framework is intended to allows patients to take charge their care, the clinician can leverage his or her efforts, and provides a long-term template for ongoing learning and healing. It evolved out of my busy practice with increased efficiency, effectiveness, and enjoyment. It is inspiring and energizing to witness patients emerge from hopelessness to thriving.
An important aspect of these concepts is the clinician learning and implementing these approaches in their personal and professional life. A dynamic working partnership can then be created when both parties understand these healing principles. These resources are an adjunct and/or foundation for other clinical practices, and not an alternative.
Anxiety is a physiological state
It took me many years to realize that anxiety is not primarily a psychological issue. It is the intentionally unpleasant feeling generated by your body when in flight or fight. Avoiding this powerful sensation is the driving force behind human behavior, and much of it is dysfunctional. We are not taught how to regulate our body’s danger response. Our conscious brain is no match and our efforts to control it create a lot of misery for us and those around us.
It is actually a gift that keeps us alive. This survival warning signal is necessary, and the key is developing a “working relationship” with it. It is what you have and not who you are.
This is an article I wrote for Psychology Today regarding the mental health crises.
Obsessive thought patterns and OCD
Crippling anxiety is what almost took me out. It initially manifested with panic attacks and progressed to severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) for over 15 years. The hallmark of OCD is repetitive intrusive thoughts that for me became quite intense. I had “internal OCD” which consists of a disturbing thought following by a compensatory counterthought. There were no external behaviors. So, I had no idea of what was going on, and there seemed to be no endpoint.
OCD is relatively common,4 and variations include nail biting, hoarding, body image disorder, skin picking, hair pulling, and eating disorders. Additionally, many if not most people are bothered by disruptive thought patterns or ruminations, which detract from quality of life. One could also consider addictive behaviors in light of efforts to escape these repetitive unpleasant thoughts. Much of the mental health world views OCD and ruminating thoughts as unsolvable and the approach is to manage them. The missing link is that threat physiology is not being adequately addressed. Half the brain consists of glial cells, which have cytokine receptors and are part of the immune response. A fired-up brain fires off a lot of thoughts.
My hypothesis is that RUTs (repetitive unpleasant thoughts) are a major driver of chronic mental and physical disease by stimulating sustained threat physiology. Humans are trapped by unpleasant thoughts with the main variables being frequency and intensity. They are a universal function of human consciousness. They may be a significant factor in driving teens to commit suicide, “deaths of despair.” However, I am seeing RUTs create misery in every age group, and as young as 6 years old. RUTs were the main source of my misery followed closely by social isolation.
I no longer suffer from OCD, and I escaped from this Abyss over 20 years ago. I don’t even have the disruptive thoughts I had before I became ill. It has taken many years to figure out how and why I escaped from these obsessive thought patterns. High level achievers are particularly prone to them. This is a link to the section I created on my website that presents my concepts of a solution.
This RUTS section is a rough outline of my upcoming book. Solutions are discussed first and the background of the problem later. There is a large body of research of the mental mechanics of the brain, physiology, consciousness, and effects of stress. I learned a sequence of healing while helping many other people out of this hole and it continues to evolve.
Action needed soon
The burden of chronic disease continues to rise in the US and lifespans are dropping compared to other developing countries. We spend almost four times as much per capita as any other nation.5 The business of medicine has essentially kidnapped all of us – clinicians and patients. How can thoughtful decisions be made without patients feeling heard and clinicians not understanding all of the dimensions of their lives generatingthreat physiology (anxiety)?
Performing risky and expensive interventions that are not data-based are causing a lot of harm. “First do no harm.” Individually and as a society, do we embrace this core manifesto or is this just rhetoric? I feel there is some urgency for change as the fabric of our society is coming apart.
Clinicians allied with patients are the only possibility of taking back our medical care. It will require ongoing collaboration from all parties. Whether my resources or another similar set are utilized, we have to treat people in a manner that honors the body’s physiology and capacity to heal. We have the data. Let’s implement what we already know!
- Carragee EJ, et al. “A Gold Standard Evaluation of the ‘Discogenic Pain’ Diagnosis as Determined by Provocative Discography.” Spine (2006) 31:2115-2123.
- Holmes TH, Rahe RH. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale.J Psychosom Res (1967); 11:213–8. doi:1016/0022-3999(67)90010-4
- Franklin GM, et al. “Outcome of lumbar fusion in Washington State Workers’ Compensation.” Spine (1994); 19:1897–903.
- Carmi, L., Brakoulias, V., Arush, O.B.et al. A prospective clinical cohort-based study of the prevalence of OCD, obsessive compulsive and related disorders, and tics in families of patients with OCD. BMC Psychiatry22, 190
- Bezruchka S. Increasing Mortality and Declining Health Status in the USA: Where is Public Health?Harvard Health Policy Review [internet]. 2018.