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A Pain in the Neck

Her complexion and tired eyes told me she had been suffering.


It was during my training in London. She was french but her accent was still strong with her slightly broken English.


She wore beautiful multicoloured headscarves. I don’t think she ever took them off in public.


Her pain fascinates me till this day. She had had head and neck MRI’s with no indication of a problem besides a very small lesion on her occipital lobe. This is where we process and make sense of what we see. But she had no visual abnormalities.


In fact, she had no other problems besides an excruciating neck and head pain. It would seem to make no sense.


My treatment helped, but after many return visits, it was not improving.


I was puzzled.


Family History


It was the last time I saw her when I had a change of tact. I decided to try and talk to her about her family despite the slight language barrier.


It so happened that a month or so before her pain started, her brother-in-law had suffered from a stroke. He succumbed to his illness and passed away.


Pain is influenced by our beliefs and expectations as well as any physical injury we may be submitted to. Till this day, I believe that this lady had experienced serious psychological trauma from losing a family member.


This could have explained why she had so much pain but had no significant sign of a problem.


The subtle neck pain she may have experienced initially (like any crick-in-the-neck we may wake up with) was exacerbated by the worry and anxiety she had associated with her brother-in-law’s terminal diagnosis.


The lesson


Stress, worry and anxiety can play a huge role in our pain. This is not to say it is ‘all in your head’ but our beliefs, expectations and fears DO play a role. So make sure you see a health professional who takes you seriously but allows you to feel at ease and tell your story.

Because your story is the one we are interested in.




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