In The Body Doesn’t Lie: The Three-Step Program to End Chronic Pain and Become Positively Radiant, Integrative medical practitioner Vicky Vlachonis offers a groundbreaking program to eliminate pain and look and feel your best every day.
Cameron Diaz: Hi Vicky! Thank you for joining us today to talk a little bit about your philosophy and approach to a holistic wellness. I’ve sent many of my friends to you and they’re always blown away by your treatments. The general report back is, “she helps me understand my body in a way I never have before, in a way that helps me take better care of it.” What is your approach to the body and why pain is at the epicenter of your program?
Vicky Vlachonis: Good to see you! Let’s get right to it. Pain is a signal from the body that something is not right. Some pain is acute, caused by an injury, which is solved pretty easily with proper physical treatment. Chronic pain is trickier, because that pain is hiding some pretty serious emotions. As you’ve said to me at times, “There are issues in those tissues!”
We talk about the mind-body connection, but they are not JUST connected – they are one and the same. We feel our emotional pain as physical pain, sometimes long after the original heartbreak. Several parts of the brain – including the somatosensory cortex and the insular cortex – register physical and emotional pain. Researchers have found the same brain patterns occur whether you experience physical pain or emotional pain.
These pain signals have the power to embed themselves in your tissues and in the synapses of your brain, long-term. You have to face your pain if you are ever going to be able to let it go. That means you have to feel it first—you can’t just numb the pain and hope it resolves itself, because then it will never go away. Once you face it, you can release it—and then you can emerge stronger and more radiant, into the life you’re meant to live.
That’s why I always say that pain is our most powerful teacher. Pain helps us know ourselves better. I created what I call a three-stage Reflect/Release/Radiate process to help us take note of, learn from, and heal from, any kind of pain.
CD: Most of the work you do is one-on-one and in person, but more people need your magic! How can you help people who never get the chance to meet you experience and understand your philosophy?
VV: Even when I’m doing treatments with my patients, I take a whole lifestyle approach to healing pain and improving health. When someone comes to me with pain, instead of reaching for a pill or even putting my hands on them, my first questions are always, “What have you been eating? How have you been sleeping? How are things at work, at home, in the bedroom?” Each of these areas have a major impact on how much pain you feel.
CD: In your book The Body Doesn’t Lie, you ask more of those kinds of questions and explain the Positive Feedback Program-can you briefly walk us through it?
VV: The program covers four categories to help ensure we’re looking at and then seeing that whole picture:
- Structure – Teaches you release your pain with self-healing trigger points, somatic symptoms, self-care
- Function – Empowers you release your pain with diet and nourishment
- Motion – Shows you healing exercises for circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Emotion – Guides you to release your pain with positive thoughts, feelings, and relationships
Any little step forward you can take in any one of these areas can start a chain reaction. That’s why I start the program with the most pleasurable steps first—you spoil yourself with little luxuries that release beta endorphins and all these other happy neurochemicals that immediately relieve the pain. Those tiny steps make you feel so great, you want to keep trying more and more.
CD: It seems like this program is about longevity; so knowing there isn’t an exact answer to how quickly can one expect the pain start to subside and how long will the relief last?
VV: Any change you make in structure, function, motion or emotion creates an automatic ripple effect through the other three areas. The more of these moments you string together, the more you tone all of your physiological systems, making easier and easier to feel healthy, well-rested, and strong. When you follow the program long-term, your whole system will relax into a more peaceful, limber, flexible state. Your blood pressure and blood sugar will decrease; you will decrease fat and increase muscle; your skin will start to glow. You’ll handle everyday stresses with energy and confidence without turning to “numbing” agents (like food, drugs, or sex). In fact, any challenges you face, instead of breaking you down, will only help you grow stronger and more resilient through a mechanism called the “Adaptive Response.” You’ll avoid many of the ravages of chronic stress, which ages our body faster than anything else.
CD: You and I both believe, “You are what you eat!”–can you elaborate about how do you help people make that connection between what they eat and how they feel in the “Function” section?
VV: We all know certain foods aren’t good for us—but some don’t realize that what you eat has an immediate, powerful impact on your level of pain. If you are suffering from pain in your joints, your shoulders or your lower back, reducing or eliminating certain foods like sugar, wheat, dairy and vinegar can help—these foods tend to heighten inflammation and aggravate an inflamed area. I also recommend my patients suffering from consistent digestive problems or muscle and joint inflammation to get tested for their food sensitivity. This will give them a good idea of which foods work for them instead of against them—and they’re not the same for everyone! Keeping a food/feelings diary can tell you which foods give you energy and which foods make you feel sluggish and cause pain.
CD: So that being a more physical manifestation or connection, which category would you next focus on to start immediately relieving the pain?
VV: You’re right, all four are equally important, but I would say emotions are the KEY. Your emotions are born in your nervous system. They trigger neurochemical changes in your brain and hormonal releases in your endocrine system. If you have a negative thought in your brain, your nervous system will carry the imprint of that negative thought directly to your spinal column, which connects directly to your heart, your liver, your gut, your ovaries—all your vital organs.
Instinctively, we know that these negative emotions keep us in pain—but sometimes we cling to these negative patterns because they are familiar, like a security blanket. If you can, instead, start with a single positive thought, you can begin to change this entire chemical cascade in an instant.
CD: You know I’m a science nerd—love knowing all the nitty gritty about how our bodies work–What are the most surprising things you have discovered as a pain expert?
VV: I especially love it when Western science confirms something that Eastern medicine has described for years. The most fascinating piece of recent research proves that our brain detoxes itself just like our body does. We’ve long known that lymphatic drainage keeps the currents our fluids circulating through the body and allowing blood and oxygen to get to all of our tissues. This past year, researchers from the University of Rochester found that our brain has a drainage system similar to our lymphatic system. These scientists found that while we sleep, this “glymphatic” system is ten times more active when we’re asleep than when we are awake. Our brain pathways expand by sixty percent, and allow cerebrospinal fluid to wash away plaques that may cause Alzheimer’s.
CD: Oh, I love that! You know how much I love my sleep!
VV: Yes! The glymphatic system is only one of the reasons sleep feels so restorative — all the neurotoxic waste that accumulates in our nervous systems during the day gets swept out at night. Our beds truly are anti-aging miracles! I talk more about this in the book, how you can make your sleep as restorative as possible so you can get the biggest benefit out of this nightly detox, and make it another way your nourish your function.
CD: Thank you Vicky for spending time with us, and laying out your philosophy in such a concise and comprehensive way. We can’t wait to get our hands on the book!!
VV: Thank you for letting me stop by and quickly explain so hopefully I can reach as many people as possible and help them start to live without pain.
Leave your question for Vicky in the comments below and she may answer it in a follow-up post.
About Vicky: Vicky Vlachonis (pronounced Vla-koh-niss) was born in Athens, Greece, into a sports and health-oriented family, inspiring Vicky to go on and be one of the first women to earn a Master’s Degree from the European School of Osteopathy.
Vicky began her professional career working as a musculoskeletal specialist at some of London’s most prestigious holistic clinics, including the Hale Clinic and the Integrated Medical Centre, treating dancers from the Royal Ballet and major West End theatre productions such as Cats and The Lion King.
Vicky established her own practice in 2001, combining a variety of holistic treatments and methods which include individualized, concrete steps and practices to alleviate and release physical, emotional and mental pain. With a reputation for achieving long-term, sustainable results, Vicky has gained a dedicated following, including members of the British Royal Family and some of the world’s most recognized faces in business, media and the arts.
Today, Vlachonis practices in Beverly Hills, California where she lives with her husband and two sons.
Photos: Vicky Vlachonis