Stevens' Dudek says dealing with chronic pain is all in her head

New Jersey News - 28 January 2009

Dealing with pain is nothing new for Stevens Institute of Technology point guard Dani Dudek.

Diagnosed with Post-Strep Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when she was in the fifth grade, Dudek is now able to block out the pain in her knees, wrists and elbows, and rewrite the Stevens record books, through self-hypnosis.

"If I'm ever at an orientation event or anything that's new, it's always the fun fact that I put down about myself and people are like 'really?'" Dudek said with a laugh. "I think everyone just thinks it's weird."

"I thought she was crazy when she told me as a freshman that she hypnotized herself," head coach Jon Hochberg said. "I told her she was out of her mind."

Dudek was taught how to perform self hypnosis as a freshman at Morris Hills High School. There she was taught the process by Dr. Gary Walco at Hackensack University Medical Center.

This isn't the type of hypnosis you see on stage -- no swinging watches or sleight of hand is required. The process itself is short, taking roughly two minutes to complete, she explained. But Dudek can't going into much detail about the process, even to her family.

"My dad always asks me to tell him how to do it and I can't," she said. "I learned like a signal for myself and that's what triggers me to be able to go into it and I just repeat a few steps and that's it."

Dudek said she can control how long she is in a hypnotized state. Good luck trying to figure when she is or isn't under hypnosis. Hochberg said he "couldn't tell you when or where she's been in her hypnotized state of mind."

Dudek herself, isn't offering any clues about whether she is under hypnosis at a particular moment.

"You wouldn't be able to tell," she said. "I always tell people I could be hypnotized right now and you would never even know."

Dudek prefers to avoid doing it before games. Instead, she often does it before classes since she said her knees will start to "tighten up" if she's sitting down for a long period of time.
Rather than a self-hypnosis session, Dudek's pregame routine includes eating peanut butter and jelly, writing the team a poem before each game and making sure that she's the first player to arrive at the arena, as much as 40 minutes before the team is required to be there.

Being the first one in the gym before a game or practice is just one example of Dudek's competitive nature that has been harbored throughout her childhood, dating back to being chased around with a soccer ball by her father at age two.

"My family's very competitive," Dudek said. "If we go out to dinner, when we come back we race to the door. We've gotten in fights and haven't talked on vacations because of mini golf. It's intense."

The competitiveness with her younger brother Doug, a defensive back at William Patterson, has been especially intense. During the summer, Doug would help rebound for Dani as she practiced her shooting.

Dudek has taken that physical style of play from the blacktop to the hardwood. In women's college basketball playing a post-up game in the paint is reserved exclusively for those standing 6-foot and up. But the 5-foot-4 Dudek (the Ducks' shortest player), has made her inside game a strength, leading the team in points and rebounds with a post game that Hochberg can't recall ever seeing from a player Dudek's size.

"I really like to play with my back to the basket," Dudek said. "I think its something that's helped me a lot in college. If someone were to post me up, I don't really know how I'd guard it."
Considering Dudek's size and extensive medical history -- she also tore her ACL as a high school junior -- it would be understandable if she tried to avoid the physical aspects of the game. Instead it's a part that Dudek embraces.

"A lot of people run away from pain and physicality of things and I think she actually runs towards it," Hochberg said, recalling a time her face was bleeding yet she didn't want to come out of the game. "She's a tenacious player and I think that stuff makes her stronger."

As a way to keep Dudek fresh as the season goes along (and possibly protect herself), Hochberg tries to limit Dudek's work during practice, particularly in contact drills. She'll also have to deal with occasional "flare ups" of her arthritis at the beginning and end of the season.
Living with the juvenile arthritis played a key role in her decision to switch her major to biomedical engineering. Now, she knows what her body is experiencing in addition to how to block it out of her head.

"I absolutely love it," Dudek said about her choice of studies. "I've learned a lot about what my body is going through, which I never really understood before."

Pain brought on by disease or illness can be hard to cope with and many of the drugs to cope with the pain leave patients drowsy or with the possibility of other more harmful side effects.  Hypnosis is 100% natural and is painless and drug free and has been used for many years in the relief of pain.  Hypnotherapy is very effective for pain relief, enabling clients to deal with the pain and to control it. At the Harley Street Hypnotherapy Clinic in London, the hypnotherapists teach clients self hypnosis techniques that they can practice at home in order to quell the pain.  Speak to one of our leading hypnotherapists at the London Hypnotherapy Clinic and start living a life free of pain.

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