Putting it Together

It was in 2005 that my friend and fellow Jiulong instructor, Eric Reynolds and I co-founded a chronic pain group therapy program. We incorporated meditation/relaxation training, mental imaging, body mechanics and gentle exercises modeled after those used in Jiulong Baguazhang. Participants are taught to stay within the limits of their individual tolerances. Staying relaxed takes precedence over performance. Awareness of posture and tension is a focus of instruction.

The patients we treat range in age from their 20’s to 80’s and have different kinds of chronic pain. Even the most disabled have been able to participate, at least to some degree. We’ve listened to a man in his 70’s tell the group how learning to use Baguazhang principles has allowed him to walk his Siberian huskies without being pulled off his feet. A woman who first showed up with a walker told me with wonder in her voice how she had physically supported someone who needed help crossing the street. I’ve watched as a roomful of chronic pain patients walked in circles trying to adopt Bagua postures, smiling and laughing like kids at recess.

Medical research has shown that the feeling of pain is a function of mind and body together. As a student of Baguazhang, I’ve learned that mind and body  can be changed with training. What is fascinating to a pain doctor is Jiulong’s focus on learning how to change physical sensations through conscious use of the imagination. Perhaps the sensation of pain can be changed using the same methods. My experience with those patients who persist in their practice has led me to believe it can.

From my personal perspective as a pain physician and Jiulong student I sometimes joke to myself that my medical practice has finally caught up to the methods of battle hardened professional bodyguards. A collaboration between medicine and martial arts has led to the approach to pain management I take today. It is responsible for my understanding of what mind-body training can be.

By the way, the man with the huskies wrote in to say “that man in his 70s now 81, has also not slipped and fallen on a patch of ice, with or without huskies attached,from that day til now” !!

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