How Mindset Kept and RAF Pilot Working – Despite a Broken Neck

RAF officer Stephen Brunell served for a six weeks in Afghanistan after falling 12 feet and breaking his neck. But he shrugged the pain off – thinking it was from pulled muscle, and continued in active service. 

This is a extreme example of the power of thought in the management of pain. While the medical specifics of what happened to Stephen aren’t available in detail, one thing is clear – this shows that your belief about your injury determines what you’re able to do. Also, the concept that you have about your injury can determine the level of pain that you feel. 

According to Stephen, “I had six weeks left on my tour, and completed it no problem. I had a few anti-inflammatory tablets when the pain got bad.” Bear in mind that this was despite a significant neck fracture.

Your brain is capable of changing (the technical term is modulating) the pain messages that come from your body so that you may, under extreme circumstances, feel no pain even with a major injury.

The opposite is true – if you believe that your injury is dire, you are more likely to feel significant pain, and have a high level of disability. As evidenced by the Department of Work and Pensions shelling out around £1.4bn a year on incapacity benefit for chronic back problems. 

It is vital to realise that your belief about your injury is a powerful determinant of pain and disability. This can give you the tools you need to speed your recovery and reduce your pain. 

Head on over to to find out more about mindset in recovering from chronic pain

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