May 11, 2020
Dr. Hanscom is an orthopedic complex spinal deformity surgeon who was based in Seattle, WA. He quit his surgical practice in 2018 of over 32 years to focus on teaching people how to break the grip of chronic mental and physical pain. His mission is to re-introduce true healing into medicine. He feels that doctors should be given the time to listen and understand their patients. Difficult life situations surrounding their medical problems have a tremendous impact on care and outcomes.
He was part of the movement that began in the 1980’s that espoused that persistent low back pain (LBP) was best solved with surgery. However, he happened to combine forces with several national-level rehabilitation physicians early in his career and quickly noticed that patients were having better outcomes when surgery was combined with a thoughtful rehab approach. When the data came out in 1993 that the success rate for a fusion for LBP was less than 30% at two-year follow up, he immediately stopped performing the procedure. In the meantime, he descended into his own deep pit of suffering from severe chronic pain for 15 years. It began with a panic attack and he eventually developed 17 different physical symptoms. He didn’t understand what hit him, and no one could offer an explanation.
During this period, he spent four years in Sun Valley, ID as primary care spine surgeon. He was able to observe the onset of acute back pain and how it would evolve into chronic pain. Since he wasn’t performing fusions for pain, he tried multiple different approaches and gradually the treatment paradigm emerged that is presented in the two editions or his book, Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. He began to witness patients improving that he thought had no hope and his own set of 17 symptoms also resolved. Over the next 15 years, he watched hundreds of patients not only break out of the grip of pain but thrive at a level that they had never before experienced. Even patients who had surgical problems cancelled their surgery because the pain resolved, which is the foundational force behind his third book, Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice.
In spite of overwhelming data that has revealed the answers to chronic pain, the medical culture has become more aggressive in performing interventions that have repeatedly documented to be ineffective, expensive and risky. The consequences are brutal both at a societal and individual level. This ever powerful juggernaut of ineffective spine surgery caused him to quit his practice to pursue educating the public and providers about the dangers of current situation and also present the consistently effective solutions.
His efforts include:
Helping patients heal from chronic pain has evolved into the most rewarding phase of his long surgical career.