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Norman doctor, author finds faith plays role in healing process

Dr. Rita Hancock, of Norman, OK, author of “Radical Well-being: A biblical guide to overcoming pain, illness, and addictions,” sometimes talks with patients about their faith and the role it plays in their recovery.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 8, 2013

Asking about a patient's faith is a somewhat regular occurrence for Dr. Rita Hancock.

Hancock, a pain management specialist in Norman, recently published “Radical Well-being: A biblical guide to overcoming pain, illness, and addictions.”

The book focuses on how a person's spiritual life, their emotions and their physical well being are connected.

Hancock answered questions about her approach to helping people relieve chronic pain and illness.

What prompted you to start asking people about things outside the physical diagnosis?

Hancock said she regularly sees people who have ailments that can't be explained.

For example, a patient might come in with irritable bowel syndrome and have been told by multiple doctors that they can't find a reason for their syndrome. All their tests will show up negative, and there won't be a clear-cut medical diagnosis for what's wrong.

“So what I've started doing in the last few years is really confronting them to try to find out if there's a stressor that could be contributing in some way,” Hancock said.

Hancock said she expected most people to resist her questions about faith and emotional health. She doesn't ask every patient, but for the ones she has asked have been receptive.

“They were just waiting for somebody to ask them about what was going on in their lives that was causing stress,” she said.

What symptoms to find in people who might be suffering pain related to their past traumas?

Before bringing up faith, Hancock uses every medical test available to rule out a physical problem. But if someone has a persistent problem, she might delve into their emotional and spiritual health, as well, she said.

“I think we should still rely on those primarily,” she said. “I'm a doctor primarily. It's just that sometimes science doesn't give us all the answers.”

Hancock said she has talked about faith with patients who suffer from fibromyalgia, migraines, unexplained spinal pain, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, unexplained rashes, pelvis pain and TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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