Transcript: Thanks Allan, this is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our special guest from Albany, New York is Cindy Perlin. She’s a licensed clinical social worker, certified biofeedback practitioner, chronic pain survivor and the author of “The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments, The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free”. She’s also created the alternative pain treatment directory, which we’ll talk about. And she has a private practice, she’s had that in New York for over 25 years. So Cindy, welcome to the show. It’s a treat to have you here.
Cindy Perlin: Well thank you for inviting me.
David Brower: You’re very welcome. Are you pain free today?
Cindy Perlin: Pretty much.
David Brower: You had a broken ankle not too long ago right?
Cindy Perlin: Right. About 3 months ago, I broke my ankle and had to have surgery and I’ve been managing it without the aid of pharmaceuticals and that’s going pretty well.
David Brower: Good.
Cindy Perlin: And I’m almost back to normal.
David Brower: Well good for you. That’s … Sometimes it’s … A lot of people find it easier I guess just to take the opioids and head on down the road and you’re so well equipped to not do that and obviously that’s one of the skill sets you have to help people through their pain right?
Cindy Perlin: Right. You know I usually work with people with chronic pain, but there’s a place for my work with acute pain because that’s often where people get in trouble with the opioids.
David Brower: Gotcha.
Cindy Perlin: They start with acute pain and go on from there.
David Brower: Yep, yep. Absolutely. So let’s talk about chronic pain. What kind of examples of chronic pain do you find do you work with more often than not?
Cindy Perlin: Well a lot of people have back pain or widespread body pain called fibromyalgia. Neck pain, joint pain. There’s all kinds of ways to get pain. Complex regional pain syndrome. Which starts with an injury to a limb and becomes pretty unbearable for the people who have it. So there’s lots of different kinds of pain.
David Brower: And the chronic is just means it goes on forever or it feels like that to them in other words.
Cindy Perlin: Yeah. You know they say that chronic pain is anything that lasts more than about three months because the assumption is that tissue healing will occur during that time. So they call that chronic pain, but a lot of people mistake a diagnosis of chronic pain with I’ll never get rid of it, I’ll always have it and that’s just not true.
David Brower: I think … Well, I don’t think, I know, that’s the assumption that I’ve had for many, many years and I know a lot of people have as well. So let’s talk about how that’s not true. How do you help people manage that?
Cindy Perlin: Well I think that what happens when people have chronic pain is they just haven’t found the right treatment for their pain. Because I’ve seen all kinds of pain reversed even after decades. You know you just have to get to the right thing. And the right thing could be physical therapy or chiropractor or acupuncture or some kind of mind, body treatment. It could be low level laser therapy, which is a kind of light therapy. It could be nutrition. Most people don’t understand that nutrition is critical to staying healthy, including staying out of chronic pain.
David Brower: Wow. I mean that makes sense to me. I never thought about that before. I mean the staying healthy piece for sure, you hear that a lot, but to have that be a part of chronic pain is … That’s interesting, I don’t know that a lot of people would know that piece.
Cindy Perlin: Well the American diet is very pro inflammatory. It actually causes inflammation in the body. And also there’s a role for nutritional deficiencies like the majority of Americans are vitamin D deficient.
David Brower: Right.
Cindy Perlin: And magnesium deficient’. And either of those deficiencies can cause chronic pain.
David Brower: So you are skilled in so many areas, how do you help people decide what might be the best way for them to be treated for their chronic pain? Is it a trial and error thing? Or does your expertise allow you to through interviews and conversations and examinations and those kind of things, kind of narrow it down?
Cindy Perlin: Yeah, usually I can narrow it down. You know, depending on the history, what they’ve tried that did or didn’t work. I find that, and this is the case for me when I first developed my own chronic pain problem 40 years ago, most people stumble’ around trying to find a treatment because their doctors don’t know anything except writing prescriptions and they’re completely without someone who’s educated who can help them find the right treatment.
So through interviewing them and looking at their history and what kind of problem they have, I can usually pin it down. You know that there are certain things that are really important that everybody should pay attention to no matter what kind of pain they have and that’s proper nutrition, it’s paying attention to their mental state and making sure that they’re not chronically in a stress response and paying attention to moving their bodies and getting exercise. Keeping their bodies flexible and strong and balanced.
David Brower: It makes a lot of sense. A lot of sense. So 40 years ago, what was your chronic pain that you gave you, I guess the epiphany for lack of a better term, to start this business?
Cindy Perlin: Well, I was only 25 years old and I decided to start running to get in better shape and after I started running, I developed lower back pain and upper back pain. And I went to the doctor and the doctor said stop running, so I did. But everything I did seemed to make the pain worse, even the back exercises that the doctor gave me to do. Everything that I tried just made it worse and worse. I was in graduate school, working on a Masters in Social Work at the time and I had to drop out of school because I was in too much pain to get to class and sit through a class.
And I got to the point where my whole life stopped because I was in agony 24/7 and no one could tell me what was wrong. Doctor’s gave me lots of drugs that didn’t help. Even early versions of the narcotics that are out there now. And nothing helped. Muscle relaxants, anti inflammatories, nothing helped. And so I spent three and a half years in that state until a friend of mine suggested I read a book about the mind, body connection. And at the time, I was watching the Holocaust mini-series and reading books about World War II and the Holocaust and I didn’t understand why I was depressed and why my body hurt. So that was a real revelation to me and they mentioned biofeedback in the book and I went and found a biofeedback therapist and in a day, my pain was 50% less.
David Brower: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Cindy Perlin: So I feel very highly motivated to help people with chronic pain because it hasn’t improved in 40 years. In fact, they still don’t know what to do with pain and in the meantime, we’ve had this whole problem with opioids because the pharmaceutical companies convinced doctors that the best solution to pain was opioids.
David Brower: That’s fascinating. I mean I can’t imagine how you felt after three and a half years of that and then going to biofeedback and a day later feel 50% better. That just had to be … I’d be crying, if it was me to be honest with you.
Cindy Perlin: I don’t remember if I was crying or rejoicing, but a key piece of it was that I didn’t know what was wrong with me and no one could tell me and no one could tell me what to do. And when I went through biofeedback, I was told that all the fear and worry I had was making things worse. And I was instructed in how to reduce the worry, reduce all that negative emotion and calm down. And big piece of it was now I had some feeling that I could have some control. So a lot of the fear about it went away.
David Brower: Does breathing have a lot to do with that?
Cindy Perlin: Well, it can because when we’re stressed, our breathing is very rapid and shallow. And that rapid shallow breathing cues in the rest of our body to gear up to the stress response and if we just change our breathing to relaxed and deep, our whole body kind of goes along with that and calms down and then our muscles relax, our heart rate slows down, our blood flow normalizes to our extremities, our digestion improves, our immunity improves. So just learning to properly breathe is very, very helpful.
There’s a type of biofeedback called heart rate variability training where you breathe at a certain pattern that normalizes your heart rate and synchronizes your breathing with your heart rate and that calms the whole body.
David Brower: We do a thing … I do a chair yoga class once a week and I’m just not flexible enough for real yoga and Pilates and all that kind of stuff. But I love chair yoga. And one of the things that we do at the end is breathing and we do stretching and all that. But the breathing I find so fascinating and so easy to do and so now I do those exercises every day, whether I’m having that class or not. Between that and meditation sometimes, I feel like I’m doing pretty okay for an old guy you know?
Cindy Perlin: Yeah, I mean taking what I call a stress break and relaxing is really important for your body. Because otherwise, you could just gear up more and more and more into stress and it really affects your body and your health. And even if you just take a few minutes to de-stress, it makes a huge difference.
David Brower: Boy, I can attest to that. So some of the stuff you offer, biofeedback we’ve talked about that. Neurofeedback stress management, relaxation training. Rapid trauma resolution techniques. Tell me about that.
Cindy Perlin: Okay, so this is really important because when people have had some kind of trauma and it could be a one-time trauma like a bad car accident or it could be chronic childhood trauma, you grew up in an abusive family. When you’ve had trauma, your brain stays over aroused and that keeps your body over aroused and there’s a lot of research that says people who have had a lot of childhood trauma in particular are much more likely to become ill.
So another thing that’s been discovered is that talk therapy doesn’t heal trauma. Talk therapy can help you understand trauma and why you feel the way that you do, but it doesn’t get you past the trauma. And people have been traumatized, they often have nightmares, they have flashbacks, that’s very common for instance in combat veterans. So you know what seems to help is getting at the non-verbal level which is where the trauma’s stored. When we’re in danger, our right brain activates to get us out of danger and our left brain goes offline as one researcher termed it. And you have to calm that right brain and there’s some techniques that have been developed.
One of them is energy psychology or they also call it tapping therapy. It’s usually done by tapping various points on the body. It’s a reprocessing technique involving eye movements and these things get at the non-verbal level. There’s another one called Somatic Experiencing. The guy who developed that, Dr. Peter Levine is a psychologist. His theory is that post-traumatic stress disorder is not psychological, it’s physiological. It’s the undischarged energy from the trauma. And so all these techniques work with non-verbal, reconnecting the brain, discharging the energy. I’ve seen people carry things around with them for 30 years finally get over them in like one therapy session.
David Brower: Wow.
Cindy Perlin: Often times in 20 minutes and then I’m like okay, what am I gonna do about the … With the rest of the time? You have any other trauma you want to work on?
David Brower: I know. Wow. I was in Vietnam and served during the Vietnam Experience and so I have a couple of friends in particular that suffer those kinds of things and wake up in the middle of the night and scare their wives and do all that kind of stuff. So I get it, what you’re talking about and man. I’m gonna introduce them to you. That’s some interesting things. Interesting things.
Cindy Perlin: Yeah, I can do some work like with FaceTime or Skype or something like that, but you might want to direct them to a website called, Energypsych.org, which is not my website. It’s the website for the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. And they list practitioners trained in this technique and you can search by area. You know sometimes you know when you’re that traumatized, it’s good to be in person with a comforting person. It feels safe, but it’s an amazing technique.
And I learned it right before 9-11. And I remember this because one of my first clients came in and she had a fear of flying and I worked with her on that and then at the end of the session, she said she thought she was good and she wanted to go on vacation with her husband to Florida. So she thought she was okay and I said well let’s schedule for next week just to make sure. So she came back a week later, in the meantime, 9-11 had happened.
David Brower: Oh my God.
Cindy Perlin: And I said to her, how’s your fear of flying now? And she said, it’s okay. And I thought wow, that’s pretty powerful.
David Brower: That is way powerful.
Cindy Perlin: Most people develop their feel of flying remained phobia free.
David Brower: Oh my God. That is amazing. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left. I want to talk about the alternative pain treatment directory that you created. That looks very interesting and where you could browse by different categories from energy healing and electrical stimulation therapies and biofeedback and all of those kinds of things. How did this come together?
Cindy Perlin: Well this was an outgrowth of my book, “The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments.” I wanted some place again, where people could go who didn’t know what to do about their pain. So the website is paintreatmentdirectory.com and it has informational articles. It has products, including products you’ve never heard of that are pretty amazing and it also has practitioners that you could search by location. They all do alternative pain treatments. None of them are pharmaceutical oriented. They are all doing mind, body therapies. Nutrition, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture. Many of them do multiple things or have practices with multiple providers. So it’s a place people can go to get help.
David Brower: A great resource because ideally right, ideally you want to find somebody that you can actually go meet with right?
Cindy Perlin: Right. And if there are any providers listening who would like to be listed on the directory, I’d love to hear from you.
David Brower: Very cool. Very cool. I’m just looking at your book on Amazon. “The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments. The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free.” It’s available on Amazon and Kindle, hardcover, paperback, used, new. It’s all there. So be sure to check that out. Is it available in other places as well?
Cindy Perlin: I believe it’s on BarnesandNoble.com or any book store can order it for you.
David Brower: And if people have questions, want to reach out to you, is it best to go through your peakmindbody.com website?
Cindy Perlin: Well that’s my practice website, so if they’re local to me, if they’re near the Albany area that would be the website. Or if they’d just like to know more about what I do as a clinician, that’s a good website. But the paintreatmentdirectory.com also has my contact information. It has my book as one of the products. There’s a contact form. So people can get in touch with me that way. I also do phone consults. Hour long phone consults when people don’t know what to do next.
David Brower: Nice.
Cindy Perlin: I can do what I do in my office in terms of going through their history and their condition and their treatment and make some recommendations.
David Brower: How fascinating. This has been an incredibly fast 20 minutes because it’s been filled with so much information and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking with you and learning so much. I hope people reach out to you and visit the paintreatmentdirectory.com and as you said, if you’re a provider, just click on for providers and there’s a provider listing there. You can submit a product listing for review and of course tons of providers and places to look for all kinds of issues to mind, body medicine to psychotherapy, to stem cell therapy even.
So this is just really, really fascinating stuff Cindy. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today.
Cindy Perlin: Well you’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
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