Back in 2012, I had spinal fusion surgery. 17 of my vertebrae ended up being connected by titanium rods and screws. I had pain before the surgery, but afterward, I had to relearn how to hold myself up, how to keep my shoulders straight, and what proper posture feels like. Jump to the present, and I’m better, but there are lasting effects: nerve damage, chronic pain, and numbness in my legs if I sit cross-legged for too long.
This makes meditating hard and distracting. In fact, it’s something I have only done a few times in the past few years. When I would try, I couldn’t concentrate on my breathing because my back would start tightening up and my feet would get pins and needles. Laying down was better, but by that point, I was in enough pain I didn’t want to bother trying anymore.
And then my friend texted me.
She told me about a cell phone app called Overcomingpain based on EMDR. It’s available in the app store and was created by Mark Grant, M.A., who also lives with chronic pain. I went ahead and downloaded it, and honestly, I’ll keep using it as long as I have chronic pain.
Features of the App
Grant is an Australian psychologist, researcher, and writer. He has extensive experience treating the effects of chronic pain and stress on the brain. His pioneering work on EMDR focuses on the sensory-emotional aspects of the brain as well as the cognitive parts.
The app itself has four different tabs. These include the:
- Home Page
The Home tab provides information on how to use the app and five other resources by Mark Grant. He includes links to his books, other apps, the Overcoming Pain website, and his YouTube channel. This is a good introduction to the app if you really want to dive deeper into all of his other work.
The Information tab covers what chronic pain and EMDR are, as well as more details about the app. The app itself is pretty straightforward. While I have tried different things for my chronic pain, I had never heard of EMDR. EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing”. It’s a type of psychotherapy that can help you heal from emotional stress and the symptoms of PTSD.
EMDR worked so well for emotional stress/PTSD that it has now been adapted for chronic pain and the stress that comes with it. Grant has clearly done his research on the topic and even has some sources listed.
I found the Resources tab to be redundant. It links to the same resources as the home page, just with a more thorough description under each link. I skipped over them and jumped back to the Playlists tab instead.
The first two categories on the Playlists tab are for moderate pain and severe pain. They’re titled “Mental Health Strategies” and “Sensory Healing Strategies”. The last category is labeled “Stress Management”.
The “Mental Health Strategies” playlist is the longest one, with ten different options. Tracks range from four minutes all the way up to twenty-seven minutes. Meanwhile, the “Stress Management” playlist included four tracks while the “Sensory Healing” had five.
My Experience with the App
When I first used this app, I went straight to the Sensory Healing tab because of a tight knot in my neck. You need a friend, however, for most of the sensory healing strategies, which can be hard to factor into your routine.
On the other hand, the “Heat Pack” track, which is a solid 15 minutes, was incredibly beneficial. It guided me to lay on my heating pad and focus on the speaker while pushing me to really settle into and be aware of my body. It helped a lot and is one I go back to on my bad pain days. This alone made the app worth it to me.
I found myself listening to the “Stress Management” playlist when I was feeling my best physically but was having an emotional off day. My favorite is the “Mindfulness Meditation”, which I come back to often. It should be practiced regularly and works on the stresses that come with life and chronic pain. I have actually looked more into mindfulness meditation since using this app and is something I would suggest to others.
The Mental Healing Strategies works for me as well, but a problem I did have was falling asleep too quickly. With some of the tracks being so long, I would accidentally fall asleep halfway through. It happened a few times. Whoops. But part of having chronic pain is losing sleep, so I still count this as a win, because of how quickly it relaxed me.
Complaints and Final Thoughts
I had two problems with this app. First, some of the pages are largely redundant. In addition, some of the tracks had trouble loading completely. It was aggravating to be in the middle of a long track and suddenly have it stop. I would get annoyed because I was so immersed that I didn’t want to move. I had this happen twice before realizing it was a combination of my own bad wifi, and seeing that each track is downloadable. As for the redundant pages, it’s not a deal-breaker, and would only truly annoy me when I was first using the app.
I love that Overcomingpain was designed with chronic pain in mind. At the beginning of many different tracks, the speaker states that it doesn’t matter if you’re laying down or sitting up— instead, it’s about being comfortable. The meditation has great sound mixing and a calming voice, and while there are not a countless amount of tracks, the ones that are there are both useful and easy to relisten to.
I plan on continuing to use this app and may go on to try out other Mark Grant creations.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
What apps do you use to alleviate chronic pain?
Tell us about your pain journey in the comments.
What topics related to chronic pain apps would you like to see us explore?
Email us at email@example.com with your ideas.
Are you on Facebook?
Join our online community by clicking here.