Is the Pain Care World Set Up to Really Help Us?

Is the Pain Care World Set Up to Really Help Us?

By Kerry Smith.

This will be one of the more controversial posts I have written on the National Pain Report but I have to write it. I know that my words will create anger amongst many of my pain suffering friends but still, I have to write about what I am doing to manage my pain which by the way is working.

Kerry Smith

I truly believe that our goal as sufferers with chronic pain needs to be to walk as far away from pain management doctors as possible. I know, the alarms are already sounding right now as you read my words, but it is true, isn’t it? How many pain management doctors will look you in the eyes and say to you, my goal is that you become cured of your pain? I haven’t heard it. I am betting you haven’t either. That is why they are called pain management clinics and not pain cure clinics. But as long as you and I are a part of their income packages, we will not be getting a cure. So let me tell you a story and then what I am doing to manage my pain.

My body was struggling with the level of pain meds that I was on. I was having problems breathing. My gastro system was giving me fits. I was taking 15 mgs of oxycontin three times a day and 10 mgs of hydrocodone for breakthrough pain. I was a walking zombie. I told the doctor in this one pain management clinic that I was having some difficulties but it went in one ear and out the other.  I had picked up Beth Darnall’s book “Less Pain/Fewer Pills” and started absorbing it. I started on my own, without the assistance of the Pain Management Clinic I was seeing at the time, of reducing my pain meds. I shared with the doctor that I was reading this book and this is word for word what she said:

“It is a good thing that more of my patients are not taking their pain management more seriously because if they did, I or my husband would not have a job!” Her husband was a pharmaceutical sales rep for cancer pain medication.

Two streams of thought occurred here: she and her husband needed pain patients for a job and by taking our pain management “more seriously” apparently we would not need a pain management clinic, thereby creating a new unemployment line. “More Seriously”? That phrase has stuck in my head now for some time. So did they know of something that we could do where we would take our pain management “more seriously? And why did Dr. Darnall’s book cause her to make such a statement? Could it be that there is a knowledge base that exists that you or I are not being told about which could result in a cure without the use of pain management clinics?

So I changed pain management clinics.

The federal and state governments haven’t been much better. They continue to focus its denial of pain medication to folks who really need it while pain management clinics have been eerily quiet. Why haven’t they come to our rescue if indeed they believed that more pain pills are exactly what we need?

We go to their practice monthly, to have our pain pills counted, to pee in their cups, to be herded in and out of their offices like cattle, while insurance and we pay for a lifestyle we don’t want.

Take my pain management more seriously?

You bet.

I wake up in the morning and put on a belt of the strongest magnets that are made. I have reduced my pain meds from the time of being a patient at the previous clinic by 75%.  I am reading everything and anything on the concept of brain rewiring. It seems that when the disease of chronic pain hits us, it changes our brain. You can work to change it back. The term is “neuroplasticity” and it describes the brains ability to change and it is entirely possible to change how much pain we feel no matter the injury. You may not know this but your brain produces opioids yet it is more financially advantageous for pain doctors to put you on manufactured opioids or to do other things like nerve blocks or whatever else is out there to try on us rather than helping us to increase the levels of opioids that are in our brains AND manage our pain ourselves.

Do you know that, whether you are 8 or 80, it is possible to rewire the brain filled with pain so that there is less pain? Mindfulness activities such as meditation can actually change your brain to the place where we start to feel less pain? Did you know that by walking, you cause the brain to grow, to make more cells, to make better connections between our brain cells, which convey to our brain that we are in less pain?

I have had 25 different procedures over the years. Many of you have had many more.

Too many of us have not been educated or even encouraged to find these other alternatives.

So today, in this month recognized as pain awareness month it should be “alternative, factually proven, non-pain doctor and non-pain management clinic where we take our pain management more seriously than going to a pain management clinic” month.

Please, do not take my word for it. Rather than someone to define the dynamics of pain for you, take your pain more seriously and start a journey, the same journey that I am on, where you begin to read about the facts of our pain and work to live a life of less pain.

Here are some books that I am reading. They’ve helped me. Hopefully they can help you as we all try to become more self-determinant in dealing with our chronic pain.

Childhood Disrupted; How your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (evidence suggests that our disrupted childhood creates biological paths of higher pain receptivity). This is one great book friends!

In addition to the book by Dr. Darnall I mentioned earlier, she’s also written The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit by Dr. Beth Darnall (she includes a meditation cd in her book which I use two or three times a day).

The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity  by Norman Doidge. This guy gives tremendous examples of people who have it way worse than most of it but the brain actually can heal from whatever happens to it)

Pain Free for Life: The 6 Week Cure for Chronic Pain-Without Surgery or Drugs by Scott Brady, William Proctor (This is written by a doctor who had chronic pain and he discusses how he overcame chronic pain). is the website for the company whose magnets I use. These are the strongest magnets on the market.

Do not think for a moment that I am cured.

I am not.

I am heading in a direction where I can better manage my pain through tools that do not require a script. I am just plain sick of it friends. I am sick of the way you and I are being treated and that we are not being given all of the facts of our pain management. A recent article in the National Pain Report was written by a medical student who asked the question why doctors are not given more classes on pain. I know the answer. It is because if you knew the story behind pain, you would not need to visit them for pain relief thus taking your pain management more seriously, thus making pain management clinics obsolete.

Kerry Smith is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report. The Tennessee artist and chronic pain warrior has been open about his battle with chronic pain. Today’s column seems like a fitting way to end Pain Awareness Month.

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Authored by: Kerry Smith

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Another great book involving neuroplascitity is “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doidge. It has been a while since I read it but I remember some pretty amazing stories -not all of which involved chronic pain sufferers however.

D. I. S. May

Our pain system, our drug laws, are NO WAY set up in our best interest. It is absolutely outrageous and in my not terribly humble opinion criminal. I happen to know the laws, the statistics and various other facts regarding our system of regulation due to my field (dual-diagnosis, specializing in treating professionals) my doctoral work and my personal history. One of my projects examined the criminalization of opiates and cocaine in this country. Until the Harrison Act, 1914, an ACT OF TREASURY passed in California in 1914, opiates were legal in the United States. A little household remedy, like aspirin, was in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Called laudanum, it was comprised of opium and alcohol. There were no problems with household remedy, any more than with paregoric. In California in 1914 Asian immigrants were flooding the labor market. By associating smoking opium with these human beings, they could be swiftly removed from competition for wages. Florida was so impressed with this that in 1915 the dept of Treasury in Florida followed suit, criminalizing cocaine, associated with people of color entering the US from the Caribbean. Cocaine was in Coca Cola. I am aware, despite my training to the doctoral level and 35 years working in the field, of any problems with Coca Cola abuse. Drug law sentencing still breaks down along racial lines. Now, look at the statistics regarding what drug causes the most deaths in the United States. Alcohol causes 2-3 times the death that all other drugs taken together cause; many of these deaths are automobile related. People not using alcohol die in the thousands due to the legal status of what is, in effect, a neuro-toxin. It can take blood flow up to two years to return to normal to the pre-frontal cortex after cessation of alcohol use; the pre-frontal cortex is where administration function is housed in the brain. This is why so many people intoxicated with alcohol behave in such, uhhhh, uninhibited ways. Their inhibition is literally off-line. So, tell me: what is the common-denominator between 400% increase in the poppy crop in Afghanistan under the US watch and the restriction on pain medication? Well, I would definitely call it “culling the herd” of unwanted people: weak, ill, infirm. But look further. Who are the people on pain medication? Women. More women are on pain medication than men by far. So by restricting pain medication more women are prevented from working. That is why women often get their pain treated; so they can work. Debilitating pain, untreated, has fewer women competing for wages. The same old same old. The media does not work for the people. Kaiser Permanente charged Pfizer of fraud. The judge hearing the case increased the charges from fraud to racketeering, and convicted Pfizer. The physician who provided expert testimony was delighted, looked forward to the public’s response. Only there was no public response. It did not make print or the evening news broadcast. Any more than the fact that Tylenol, the… Read more »


John S.,
You say in your post… “Addicts have but one goal in mind – it’s not pain relief.” I respectively disagree. I believe ALL addicts are suffering from some pain, either physically, mentally or spiritually, and are self medicating. Frankly, the people suffering from ‘traditional’ physical pain are also “addicts”. This is the nature of opioids.

– ivebeenthere

Sheryl M Donnell

Well bravo for you, you have back pain and are better. No kidding, most back pain resolves itself eventually on its own with proper exercise, posture training, ergonomics, gait training, and weight control. Now, let’s talk about the rest of us with diseases that cause chronic pain that is so extreme you want to tear your hair out. And, there is no cure, and no amount of self help will diminish it enough ever to live a life of any quality? I have been through the Chicago Rehabilitation Inst. Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program where I went 3 days a week for 8 hours and had physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, biofeedback, and every possible kind of treatments for self care to reduce pain. I am all for anything I can do to reduce my own pain and stress and anxiety that extreme pain can cause. Every single percentage point I can reduce my pain I will take. However, even with doing all of that everyday, I still have a spinal cord stimulator (thank God I am one of the lucky ones they help immensely) and because high dose opioids caused me severe gastro issues I have an implanted pain pump (another Godsend, I get huge pain relief from a miniscule amount of opioid compared to the oral dose). However, even all of that is not enough…I have a device that allows me to give myself a bolus of additional medication every 4 hours plus a prescription for additional opioids for breakthrough pain, in addition to several other medications to assist me with sleep, cramping, and spasms. My pain management doctor works for a large teaching hospital and I am on Medicare. He gets almost nothing for everything he treats me for yet he sees me whenever I want to see him. The government has tied his hands. You can see, in the last two years, a huge change in this once amazing doctor. This man, who on my second visit while I was terrified from my diagnosis, held my hands and promised me he would never give up on me and told me how there were so many different treatments to try, we would keep on trying until I was comfortable, has now lost that feeling. He knows he can’t tell his patients tht any longer. This doctor who once lectured all over the world on how to treat the worst chronic pain diseases, now, feels that he cannot do what is best for his patients. He cannot use the amazing skills he has honed over the years, skills that had patients fly from Alaska to Chicago to see him. And, I see pain management and internists and family practioners and even the AMA fighting these “guidelines” constantly. They are all fighting them everyday the same as we do. I do not understand why you say they do not but do some research. The medically untrained Congressmen and CDC officials (I discount the recommendations given them completely because the… Read more »


I’m agree with many who have spoken about your article Mr Smith. Ibin, David, Jeanine and others say so much. I’m 56 yrs old and was the recipient of 2 very botched surgeries from the Navy when I was serving in the AF. They managed to mess up my body for the rest of my life. At the age of 24 I went thru a horrendous surgery and had another one less then 9 months later to try and fix what was done. It did so much more damage to my body. So at the young age of 28 I was retired medically. Not so good for me. My pain has been getting progressively worse since, and I’ve also had to deal with many more serious and constant diseases that will not get better as I age. You seem to think we can will away our pain issues, and while I’m glad you found your new path do not think by reading books or meditating that we will all find clarity and be free of those (damned) pills that help us live day to day. I can not even go out for a walk as much as I wish I could. I can barely exist daily. It is my goal after barely any sleep to get thru my day in hopes that tomorrow will be a bit better…. it never is though, but I still try to have hope. The fact that you tell us to read these books is pretty much up selling more dreams then actual help. And Heather, I’m glad you can live within your world like you seem to do. But those of us who have tried everything and have gone thru dozens and dozens of specialist & doctors with no reprieve pain meds.. yes opiods, are all we have till we either get some miraculous intervention or we pass on. I’ve endured cancer that took a lot out of me, endured the full repercussions from EBV which after over 2 yrs I’m still living with severe CFS/ME and dealing with RA and osteoarthritis among so much else. Thing is I suffered for years due to a a couple members of my family thinking pain meds were a horrible thing to take due to the stigma attached to them. I had a friend make sense of the reasons to take pain meds because I wouldn’t even listen to my doctors. It’s not my fault I need them to exist. I use them responsibly and as prescribed. There should be no-one except qualified doctors to make regs that affect pain patients. Government is not in the position to look at each case/patient and tell them what is best for managing their pain issues. They think the CDC, DEA or other entities know more then qualified doctors? They think giving free/clean needles to drug addicts is good yet those of us who sign agreements with our pain clinics are the ones with the drug problems?? I signed an… Read more »

I was treated for chronic intractable pain for 18 yrs, after Many of types of injections in different parts of my body failed. After DEA involvement in the closing of his I now find it impossible to get all my records of previous failed treatments that were forwarded to my only treating dr of 18 yrs.What aren’t rights as far as 2 decades of my medical records? I had an appt with a new pain management dr but without any records,after dr looked at my rt leg scar from above knee, through it & continued into my buldging calf muscle he only wrote on my chart” small scar on rt.knee”? In my last 20 yrs I’ve suffered damage to many different parts of my my body,including cervical spine,lumbar spine,Rt.leg damage along with left foot ankle.The distributed pain through all parts of my body make it impossible for me to. Be a functioning human in society.loss of Sleep & depression all stem from the chronic pain I suffer now,feeling insane from no relief since tha change in opiate use in chronic pain patients.Im now suffering age related bone symptoms.I expect only to only get worse since changes in opiate prescribing in 2017.How can I help change these rules before I pass?

Maureen – I think you don’t have a good understanding of what Addiction is.

Pain Patients DO NOT fit the medical definition for addiction – most of us are looking for pain relief, not a BUZZ.

Addicts have but one goal in mind – it’s not pain relief.


John S


The most truthful article yet about chronic pain. The crawl questions we should be asking are regarding chronic pain are:
1. Medicating original pain complaint?
2. Medicating withdrawal pain?
3. Medicating the “fear” of pain?
All chronic pain patients are physically and psychologically narcotic dependent. No different from an addict who displays additional drug induced behaviors that do not fit societal norms as addiction is a spectrum disease. Chronic pain gurus, mostly backed by pharmaceutical companies like to use the word dependent vs addicted. I’m some way it makes them feel safer, separates them from a stigmatized sect of our medicated population and justifies the continued use of narcotics. Read that line again, “justifying the use of narcotocs”. Who goes to any lengths to justify pain pill prescriptions, pharmaceutical grade heroin, in addition recommended by the most educated and trusted profession?
Who else goes to any length to justify using narcotics? The similarities are frightening yet we continue to separate the 2 illnesses by a societal norm?
In the richest country in the world with supposedly the best health care, we have a pandemic of chronic pain? Our we a country of day laborers? Are our employment safety initiatives failing? Are we aware and education on mental health relation to pain? No, the pandemic can be directly correlated to the release of pain killers onto the US market. Legally prescribed taken as prescribed narcotic drpencey, chronic pain, and addiction pandemic are occurring simultaneously only in the USA where we consume >80% of the entire world’s opioids yet comprise <5% if of the world's population. These 3 public health crises are a result of what? Something in our drinking water. Yes, we continue to take pills whose risks now putweight the benefits at the direction of what we believe to be a very educated profession. However, we fail to realize that we are beungvtreated by a "for profit" medical system heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical companies. We must remember, pharmaceutical companies income is 100% dependent on a prescription pad held in the hands of the most "influential " sect of healthcare. The physician community. It is they who are in control and allow the above 3 public health emergencies to continue raging out of control.
Shameful that "profits trump public and patient health safety" such that we now have 3 public health emergencies in our country that lack the urgent response they deserve evidenced by the ever increasing morbidity and mortality across the board.

Hi Kerry, As there is no right answer for all, I would say that your line of thought is certainly a step in the right direction. There is a gross disconnect between the pain community, practitioners and third party payers and all groups have been dropping the ball. An analogy we use to help illuminate this dilemma is the “house on fire” scenario. To simplify, your house (body) is on fire (inflammation). The logical steps to be taken are: 1) Keep your head together, stay calm and call the fire department. 2) Put the fire out. 3) Mitigate cause. 4 ) Clean up. 5) Demo. 6) Call in the trades in a very specific order. In the pain world no one puts out the fire, no one does clean up and no one does demo. We simply rush to the trades (health care system) and trial treatments in no particular order. Third party payers start to balk on paying for treatments that simply do not work and the lines of communication between the three groups degrade. is a project that is attempting to piece all this information together in a coherent map or guide. We need to stop randomly trying mainstream, alternative or home remedies without a guiding rationale. Obviously, we are all individuals but biochemistry and physiology gives us a stable base. The two free introductory video lectures on the home page of the site lay out the format for how this goal will be achieved. The project will top out at approximately 60 hours of linked lectures and will take about two years to complete. Any input from the pain community will be of great assistance.

Sharon T

I had a morphine pump for 13 years along with opiates for breakthrough pain. The pump started to push it’s way out of my body. It was removed and replaced with maintenance meds along with breakthrough pain meds. I eat right, exercise and keep very involved with 12 step programs because, I am a recovering alcoholic. I stopped drinkers in 1996. Therefore I have an addictive personality. I do not abuse my meds but I don’t want to suffer either by quitting. Fear? I’m 67 years old with many medical problems. Some caused by opiates. I seek help for my body, mind and spirit on a regular basis. Now, because of people who don’t suffer want to take that from me. Pain kills! I would not be alive today if I had pain to suffer this pain. You can not function right.

David Cole

I appreciate your article mr. Smith, however if you were only taking 15 milligrams of Oxycontin 3 times a day and you were a walking zombie with gastro problems and not able to breathe, you must have a problem with opiates.
I was taking 100 mg of Oxycontin with 5-10 mg hydrocodones for breakthrough pain for eight years. I was not a walking zombie I had no gastro or breathing problems. You are correct, we should all look for alternative methods to control our pain, I too have tried many of the things you mentioned and many that were not mentioned, I will be looking into the magnet deal.
One thing that’s forgotten in this whole big picture is we’re all individuals, what works for one of us will not work for another one. I guess the only thing I could say to chronic pain patients, is do everything you can to stay away from the opiates, however do what you need to do to reduce your pain to a level that you can have a life, if it’s opiates so be it. Just remember this world is a greedy greedy place, it’s all about the money. There are people out there that will suck you dry, and then throw you in the ditch. You must take the time to educate yourself, you are your best advocate. For those suffering from chronic intractable nerve disorders, I found highly concentrated CBD oil made from the cannabis plant not hemp, has taken enough off my pain levels that I no longer think about suicide every day. The stuff looks and feels and like motor oil, I used 3 drops 3 times a day, I Infuse it in heated olive oil and water. Remember build yourself a tool box, fill it up with every kind of tool you can think of and don’t ever stop looking for more. Thank you mr. Smith for the article, truly words of wisdom.

Dave Minnicks

Controversial? I disagree instead I call this irresponsible especially coming from a chronic pain sufferer. To state that you started on your own, without the assistance of the Pain Management Clinic you saw at the time, of reducing your pain meds and making it sound as if this is an “okay” thing to do for others or to encourage this practice is not only irresponsible it is downright dangerous. Nobody should titrate any of their medications up or down that are commonly used for chronic pain. It doesn’t matter whether meds are being used on or off-label and the only way anyone should do this is with a plan that is overseen by a medical professional. Do I feel that more and more pain management doctors and practices are becoming more about a becoming a profit center well hate to say it, but it sure seems so. Does that mean that all are? NO there are good doctors out there who are doing their best in managing patient care. Now if your doctor is recommending a neurostimulator trial on your first appointment well yeah you are probably at the wrong place since they haven’t tried anything at all to see what can be done to manage your pain. While the patient just wants the pain to stop and will say whatever they can to achieve this there are real consequences in stepping up the strategy used to mitigate pain. You want to use the least invasive or damaging method possible that makes it so that you have a manageable quality of life. Yes, there are alternative therapies that need to be tried, and again you step up and don’t go from diaphragmatic breathing to a neurostimulator overnight and is there a set timeline that this should occur? No, no there really isn’t since everyone is different as well as the cause, condition, disorder or disease that is causing their pain which again will vary by person. I feel that we need to ask questions look into support groups and I caution these can be places of good where you can get information and first-hand experience of others. These can also be dangerous where there are those trolling these groups trying to suck you into using their snake oils or staying on them too much seeing so many discuss pain nonstop and pouring out their problems well this can wear on your mood and cause or worsen depression. Like everything good moderation is the key to success.



There is no cure.

There is better quality of life. And that’s what I’m getting through seeing my doctors.

I’m glad this is working for you. I get this twitch whenever someone claims to have the cure.

I take good care of myself as best as I can outside of the doctors’ office with what I’ve learned helps me. Green tea for muscle relaxation, acupressure mat, hot showers, Biofreeze for spasms/cramping type pain, Arnica for tenderness/bruising-type pain that I get after trigger point injections, Aspercreme for my neck stiffness every night. Lidocaine for my lower back and SI Joint pain. I found a tea that helps me sleep better and I’m doing some breathing exercises for vocal cord dysfunction that I think are also beneficial for reminding me of my shoulder tension. I stretch and walk for exercise. I pace my activities by using a timer or by counting dishes as I do them. I take time to rest between physical tasks. Epsom salts help, too.

But by far, my medication is the most helpful option I have. It is keeping me working.

I will continue to pursue alternative treatments and options. Acupuncture actually increased my symptoms so that was a no go. I do enjoy a massage when I can afford it but the benefits are temporary and the wrong type of massage has caused more harm than good. I ask my doctor about supplements and try to educate myself.

But I will always be skeptical of a “cure.” I’m certainly not going to rush to abandon treatment that allows me to work.

I don’t care if I get called names (I have been called a “pill popper” because I wouldn’t take kratom.) and I don’t care if other people think there’s a hidden secret out there. Everybody should do what works for them.

I’m making the effort to learn about meditation and I hope to get back into t’ai chi. I am actively focusing on stress reduction techniques in hopes that they’ll help me when I face situations that are beyond my control and people who don’t understand. All of this is wonderful and supportive… and I’m glad for that.

Angelica Heavner

Not all pain management doctors or clinics are run the way you say. I can tell you that most are more worried they will lose their licenses than anything else. Why, because than they cant help their patients.
I agree with a comment above, obviously you either were not on the meds long or your pain wasn’t as severe as you are saying. I use to take 2 bendryl and be knocked out for 10 hrs. Since getting CRPS almost 7 yrs ago nothing knocks me out. I would dearly love to be able to sleep for more than 2 hrs straight without waking up in pain. I have tried everything I can think of except acupuncture (a needle caused mine so not doing this one). You say mind over matter, well I can usually blank out alot but since this disorder I have trouble doing it.
Dont tell me we need to all come off meds because for some of us its the only way we can function day in and day out.


ADDENDUM: In my note I left a line out that is crucial. Where I say I cannot believe what is happening I meant that I cannot believe I am having as good of pain relief as I am at 50% the Methadone and 1/3 less Percocet. I am shocked it has worked as it is.
Sorry for edit error!


Very interesting reading! I don’t know if the pain management clinic I go too is unique but a new Doctor at the clinic changed the treatment I had been receiving since 1996. Methadone and Percocet. When I heard what he planned I was convinced it was due to the current black cloud over opioids. He was not under any circumstance saying I was not in severe pain. But, he thought that the medications themselves were causing me to experience more pain. He called it Opioid Induced Hyperalgesia. His goal, to reduce my doses to a safer level and maintain a certain level of relief. I was put on a schedule of weaning. After a couple weeks I was in extreme agony. I could not walk without a cane. My life was ruined. At this point I am taking 50% less Methadone and 1/3 less Percocet. I still can’t quite believe it is happening. And, I have no idea of how long it will last. I consider myself very fortunate that I have not been cutoff like some. And I am glad I am taking less now. I am still in pain but I am functioning. Tomorrow…who knows? I can only hope for Doctors who will listen to me.


Why is it that those who strive for pill-free lives are having pills pushed at them like crazy and those who are in desperate pain are having pills withdrawn w/o empathy?? And those who want alternatives are steered away, and those who ask for pills are left with “mindfulness”?? I don’t discount either side or judge either pathway, but it feels soooo ironic to hear stories from folks who say they are getting pills almost shoved at them, and most of us have to jump huge hurdles, and some can’t get them for any reason. This alone speaks volumes about a broken system. I use every method I can to deal with my chronic pain: chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, opioids, psychology and as much exercise as I can manage. It’s very true that there needs to be a whole-body/spirit approach, and my physical therapist was telling me exciting things about “graded motor imagery”… and yet, back when I asked for a simple xray of my spine, I was told there’s no point because chronic back pain is all in the mind (and when I insisted, the doc was shocked at the degradation shown on the xray.)

I fear most that those in power will continue to push their own beliefs on those of us in pain (whether those beliefs are pills or never-pills) and still not take our input, or believe our reports, leaving us at the mercy of individual points of view and transitory docs. This article (a good one, BTW) makes me very happy that my primary doc is still willing to help me with opioids (and her pregnancy leave makes me anxious about temps) – pain clinics sound like nightmares!

I know they’re doing research, but we need MORE research about how to validate pain, so we aren’t always so afraid to be disbelieved (at least, I am). That fear contributes to stress, which exacerbates pain. I was telling my PT that the 10-min. max visits, (where the practitioners – her and also my primary- are barely glancing at me as they type furiously to get all the checkboxes filled out before the visit ends) actually worsen the situation – why should I trust people who are so obviously distracted by paperwork?? So I don’t believe my doc has looked hard enough for the source of my pain, and I’m not sure the PT is actually watching to see if I’m doing the exercises right… the system needs to change completely, and it needs to be a collaboration, not an assembly line!

And one last point: it’s wonderful to say, “take charge of your pain” but those of us living on tight, tight incomes have to decide between acupuncture and food or phone… that’s not being in charge. We need affordable choices, so we can make them based on their effectiveness. Thanks to all who contribute to this site – it’s a great community for me!


Magnets…..may work well with “some” pain generating conditions, cannabis products “may” work for some painful conditions, “Herbal remedies “may”:work well for some patients. I, as a patient fully realize that I am a life long patient and personally do have….. a good relationship with my provider. The management facility I attend, does in fact fully realize that there are no other remedies for pain management with the exception of what works…..for me. With a two decade plus history with documentation, opioid medication is the last, only, “treatment” that allows me to survive. Survival to be non reliant on anyone else. Reliant to be able to provide, monetarily for my family. I will gladly, sign ANY document that states I am using medication…….at my own “risk”. I take FULL responsibility to use my medication, responsibly, as directed. If and when I am in a state of pain that is no longer within the realm of tolerance, than I will state this… my provider. I would expect, my options to be explained to me. My provider is knowledgeable, educated, and licensed to “know” each, individual patients history, their needs, employment status,or if the patient is just managing inside their homes. Our providers are responsible to know the…..facts. ANY “testimony” from a treatment that helps with life time pain is worth noting but, the same as the CDC mis-guided-line policy, one remedy, one dosage, one medication does NOT fill the needs of every patient. In life, everyday living can be, some what risky but, with being a responsible party, of self, risk can be managed. Irresponsible “driving”, any irresponsible action that will possibly cause harm to self or others is not acceptable. Decades of use of opioid medication, beneficial use without even ONE negative incident is under “fire” because of irresponsibility among “policy makers” that do NOT know what they are shoving down the throats of the people in America or maybe…..they do. Again, I take responsibility for myself, my actions, and have caused no one OR myself any harm with opioid medication. The asininity, the sheer stupidity of one size fits all with anything except maybe certain kinds of clothing is not appropriate.Especially not with patients that realize medication is the last effective treatment for un mangeable, life time pain. I will be irresponsible with my words. I hope that every “author” of a mis-guided policy that reflects the intention to “help” within the life time patients of this country will come to know tyranny, within their personal lives. No harm physically done (even though we suffer physically from 90 mme), just a form of dictatorship that make no sense at all within their individual world. The same hidden agenda that affects so many negatively is thrust upon the authors of “policy” I no longer care if the helpless feeling, the unknown future of the “experts” over others will materialize, in their lives without ANY recourse, any direction. Testimony, documentation, truth, no longer is being evaluated with the mis-guided policy. Harm, IS… Read more »


@Kathleen K. If you knew Kerry and his history/story/experiences you would know that he has been around the NPR a long time and has suffered greatly. He has been on a very long road, like most of us. Given his experiences and what the Gov’t is doing to us…his story has forced him, like many of us today, to begin to start finding other ways to manage pain. His meds have already been cut. He is sharing his most current ways of managing his horrific pain.
I too am on the same journey. The fears and our Pain clinic experiences over many years have overcome a lot of us. Also, opiates certainly do make us sedate like. It builds ip in our bloodstreams and gives us days of feeling crappy. If you’ve ever been off of them for any period of time you will notice the very first day how clear your mind is. The fog lifts! I’ve been on them for 14 yrs and would give anything to be able to live without them, I’ve tried.

Kathy C

The Pain Clinics and the Medical Industry are not set up to “help” anyone. Nealry every day there is another “Alternative” New Age Pain Relief piece of nonses on the Pain Websites, TV, Infomercials, and even the formerly credible Medical and Science Journals. There is virtually no “Research” on how well any of it works, what they do present as “research” is deliberately misleading, Biased or downright Fraud.
A University Pain Clinic Doctor and a Chiropractor are now peddling Anesthesiology tape as a “Cure” for Opiate Addiction, and Pain. The Doctor was presented as runnign a Pain Clinic so her comments about Chiropractors and other quacks methods should be taken with a grain of salt. Of course we have no real research on whether her “Clinic” has helped any one or not. According to this Doctor, all people with pain , no matter how it was caused, are Addicts. So Tape, or Spitting on a Potato on a full moon night are all acceptable methods of dealing with long term Chronic Pain.
We are now Post Scinced people, none of this is sevidence based. they igh Distract people or make the feel better fro a little while, but none are reliable ways of dealing with pain. Nearly everyone that promotes Mindfulness or any of the other Modalities has either a Financial Stake or they believe it due to coincidence or the fact that so many other s claim it “May” work, so they believe it too. This has created a mulit Billion Dollar Industry as they shuffle people around from one Clinic or Physician, to New Age Practioner to [edit] sold on Infomercials and other nonsense.
Start reading this stuff more critically people.

Terry, I truly appreciate that you have found a way to live without painkillers. This should be something that all persons with pain work towards.

I also appreciate your suggestions.

Unfortunately, all your links, while exciting at first glance, are actually links to items for sale. Books, magnets, podcasts that played six months ago… these all cost money, and unfortunately, pain has made me broke and permanently placed me well below the poverty line for the rest of my life.

Walking, yes. Good advice and free.

Meditation, ABSOLUTELY. Through breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and finally a genuine committment to daily meditation, my anxiety disorder (caused by stress in dealing with our health “care” system), is very nearly a thing of the past, and my pain levels have greatly improved. Also free of charge.

But I also get weekly nerve block injections and low level opioids. These, I have finally, after years of judgement and stigmatization, both by others and by myself, forgiven myself for. And for these things I do need my pain specialists.

Some people will find a way through the maze of chronic pain and pain management with a full recovery. Some will find a version of maintenance that allows them a quality of life, however different from before or wished.

And some, sadly, are living with chronic degenerative health conditions which will require pain management for the rest of their life. May it be a long and rewarding one.

Next article, Terry, along with your personal success story and links to books on being pain-free in three days, or cd sales pitches, perhaps you could come up with some real suggestions.

But thanks for the info.


Deborah Fochler

It is truly amazing what meditation can do to reduce my pain. I stumbled onto it by doing research on the internet. I have not reduced my pain meds as much as you but I have reduced them and not had an increase in over five years. On the days when my pain is more than I can handle, meditation is my “go to pill”. I am fortunate in that my pain doctor requires you to explore alternative treatments. He is a firm believer in exercise and meditation.


Kerry Smith, My path is similar to your’s, but not by choice at first. As my doctor retired I was sent to a Spine&Pain Clinic who does procedures and reduced my similar medicines as your’s twice. I have all the records to support my 16 year adventure with pain,medicine and doctors who helped alleviate my pain so I could better function . Also the procedures I had this year were expensive and did’nt work.( Iam still paying for them monthly payments). As I rejected the request from my now pain doctors to have anymore they reduced my meds again. I am almost torn by being thankful this turned out this way with hearing of patients being cut off abruptly from their meds by doctors or insurance.
I have the option to seek another doctor who would prescribe more meds,but I have been fighting with the idea of not going that route . My thought has been lately since I have no advocate from my doctor anymore really( even though I do have all the test, reports, etc to support several chronic pain problems along with 16 year’s of being treated). Since being forced to live with pain and deal with it in different way’s( not wishing it away by any means.) taking my conditions into my own hands is the best result( since I have basically been forced to this since June). I just have to decide do I trust all the times I have been made to feel comfortable by the doctors with their prescriptions,drug testing and restrictions then when they decide to retire they have made money off me. I felt used. Or my insurance company can change my prescription prices over night? Used again. Biggest tip I learned get off all the meds I can live without with my doctor’s knowing ( I tell them).
Sure I still have pain. When haven’t I? I am just not ready to get back on that carousel that has become even worse lately. I don’t trust the doctors anymore.
Thank you for the resources and support. So happy you posted this.
Take care of you.

Steven Smith

As a long time reader of npr I find your article both reckless and dangerous. For the worst of sufferers the article seems to do the opposite of instill HOPE.


First of all, when I started to read your article, you said that the medications you where taking made you feel like a zombie. Back in 2001, I was in a terrible car accident which left me with a chronic pain condition called Central Pain Syndrome, at the hospital they first put me on morphine but I couldn’t stop vomiting, so then like you they put me on the oxycontin and oxcodone, they saved my life for over 13 years. I was so scared of being on them and my doctor explained to me that if I am getting better my pain pills will make me very sleepy and I won’t be going through pain flare ups. He was right as usual, because in my case, every year my pain worsens more than the last. Then the CDC and the State of WA decided to shut down my wonderful Pain Doctor that was fully trained in all types of pain conditions, which left me no other choice than a Pain Management Clinic. I like you feel like cattle be herded into the bathroom to pee, and then have my pills counted and then they tell me they have to lower me or loose their jobs. In my case, I deal with Nurse Practitioners who are not pain doctors, I call them Washington State Pill Despensaries, they have to follow my states rules and have no experience with our chronic pain conditions. That being said that we have to sign a contract with our state, take pee test, have our pills counted and be seen every month and we are treated no better than the person who sees another type of doctor with no pain contract. I was under the understanding that by agreeing to sign the contract, that my pain levels would be addressed, but no, we are all cookie cutters, we are all alike and we need the same low dose of our life saving pain medications. I have tried pretty much everything out there to ease my pain and nothing has worked for me other than my meds. I am open to new treatments, but I won’t find them at my Pain Management Clinic, I am on my own. Did you know that I was told by my pain clinic to try pot? I am so glad that I didn’t since I was told if I am using them I have to stop by the end of September and I was told last week this and also no more anti-anxiety medications or benzos. I take clanzapam at night to help me sleep all night, now I was told last week that I have to be off of them, no more refills in October or I break my contract with them and my state. That is if I still want to be on pain medications, they said one or the other. This is madness, why are we who sign contracts and follow the rules being punished for suffering a… Read more »

Joanna Pinne

Thank you Heather Wolf for your truly profound thoughts, and to Kerry for presenting a self empowering statement which I thought might make me angry, but did not! And thank you for the list of books!

Jeanine Schaefer

I am very happy for the author….and generally feel that a patient cured is a customer lost, BUT as with most things there are exceptions. I have tried mindfulness training, cognitive behavior therapy, magnets, etc.. I am very aware that the brain makes its own pain killers….to a point. I’ve had Drs actually get upset with me that I didn’t seem to feel enough pain when I should, or that I was able to endure so much, once they realized the full extent of what was going on at the time. That does not mean that I don’t feel pain at all. I do have a high pain threshold, but once its reached, it takes a lot to bring my pain back in control. I have never been one to focus on my pain or wallow in it, and I don’t think that just because that you happen to feel pain means that you do. It means that the pain has come to a level that you can no longer easily ignore it or try to take your focus away from it for much time. Mindfulness is a nice way to train yourself to think about something else. (Distraction) This only works up to a point….just like any other distraction or denial method. I use more several methods to try to deal with my pain….it helps, but its still there, even with my high pain threshold. Even though my Dr isn’t there trying to “cure” me (& there isn’t always a cure, I have a progressive genetic disease, but I CAN work to slow it down), my Dr CAN help relieve my pain by prescribing pain medication that helps give me a quality of life back in doing so. This will enable me to do the things I need to in order to help slow down the progression of my genetic disease. The slower it progresses, the longer I can stay on the same level of medication in on now. I’m currently not experiencing any constipation or breathing problems from my meds, but I know from a recent surgery, (my pain meds were temporarily, slightly raised at that time) that if my pain meds were to be raised, I would start to suffer from constipation. So, while I don’t like the way we are treated as as chronic pain patients, and would love to stop the whole circus….my pain simply wins in this case….as I know it does with many, many others. The answer for SOME will be alternative medicine/therapies. For many others it will be pain meds or a combination of alternative medicine/therapies and pain medication. For ALL of us though, we need better treatment and understanding from our Drs., the CDC, the FDA, better research aimed at long term use of opioids, & new & better pain medications to be developed that don’t work on the opioid system. Until they develop new & better pain medication options though, they need to keep opioids legal and accessible….I don’t know… Read more »


I am very interested in exploring other options than medication. I have been on opioids for about 7 years and my dosage has been cut by my insurance company.
My quality of life stinks from all the medication I take and still have pain. I am to the point of checking in somewhere to get off everything. Thank you.

Tim Mason

Their goal is not to reduce your pain to “0”. There is no “cure”. They can only reduce your pain and seeking enough medicine to bring it to “0” is unrealistic. Death is the only thing that will bring your pain to “0”.
What can I do to help myself:
Pass all drug screens
Take no more that prescribed
If relief is not sufficient make an appoint before your next scheduled appointment
Keep on hand all images that add validity to your condition. i.e. MRI CT, X-rays
The items above allow the Pain Management Professional to treat you with the narcotics you need without fear of reprisal from regulatory agencies.
Pain is subjective. Therefore, vague diseases with no diagnostic proof of a pain causing condition are usually handled differently.
Be honest and polite with your doctor.
Patients that ask for a medication by name and dosage usually gets prescription strength OTC medication.

Thank you for writing this. I believe as a chronic illness/chronic pain patient we do need to take more ownership of our wellness. I still take an occasional pain pill because there are just days, but I also know how much walking helps. On my worst day I try to tell myself to go for a short walk and once I get out there I always can manage to make it a longer walk. I’m doing more with Topicals for pain relief. Mindfulness? Yes the word is overused, but it is something that can be effective. I also have learned that no matter how bad the pain is, when I have to perform the serious parts of my job, once I start, the pain goes away while I make a presentation.

I appreciate what you say about the pain management clinic. I’m fortunate enough to not have to have gone to a clinic – I’ve managed my pain pretty much on my own with a little help from the rheumatologist. Perhaps I’m not the best advocate, but I know what you say here has validity. Thanks.

Christel Goetsch

Thanks for this short, but sweet (and insightful) article. As a chronic pain sufferer due to scleroderma, I often feel like I have to justify my need for pain relief as I “look good”!! I am always happy to entertain alternate methods of pain relief and am very interested in the logistics behind the causes.

Have a ‘comfortable’ day!

Christel in MI

Kathleen Kaiser

I think that you are so wrong about pain clinics. Pain clinics are being quiet because the DEA is coming down on them so hard for things that are not infractions of the law. I have heard from my doctor that the DEA is coming down on doctors for prescribing more than the 90 MME as the CDC guidelines are suggesting. Doctors are terrified of prosecution and going to jail that is why they’re being so quiet.

And as far as using mind over manor to control your pain if it works for you that’s awesome. But if you were only taking the amount of pain relief that you were taking and you were having sedating feelings like you describe then it means two things, number one you were not hurting in the same way that some people do and number two if you were still being Sedated by The Medicine then it’s likely you were not on it for very long. Because after a couple of years you don’t feel the sedating effect like you do the first year.

I do think it’s great that you have found a way to control your pain in a non-medicinal way. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need pain clinics. I believe that they serve a very needed purpose. And about these authors of the books you’re buying on how to control your pain without medicine, they’re making money by selling you their ideas and they’re getting your money in the process. You were right in your first paragraph that you would upset many of us who are on pain medicine. Because I’m one upset opioid user and chronic pain patient.

Thank you for your article. The topics you bring forth are very important. I am not certain why there are no interdisciplinary pain management clinics . I ilive just outside manhattan and even in this area we have nothing of the sort unless you embrace Ayurvedic medicine or naturopathic medicine where aromatherapy and yoga and meditation and massage and creative visualization are important aspects of living well with severe pain. I had to write my own book in order to help myself because as you know, pain, despite waking every morning with it has the ability to stun you. I seem to have been stunned with an electric cattle prod with my various pains from CRPS, from spinal cord injury, from the giant neuroma on my dorsal root ganglion. Most pain conditions are accompanied with other nasty sensory delights which seem to trasncend the discomfort of pain by introducing verbodin. The aspects of pain which render a persons whole body unable to recover by robbing a nights sleep. Pain is a whole body mind spirit issue and it ought to be treated as such. Doctors trained in Western medicine are not taught to train human beings on HOW to live in any particular state. They are taught to respond to disease and traumatic events impacting the human body. They do not meddle in the psychological aspects of the mind. They leave that to psychiatric medicine who has done an abysmal job of addressing Pain with cognitive therapy. How Many “pain counselors” are in New York Metro Area? None. That’s right. None. There are hundreds if not thousands of “addiction medicine doctors” but where are the doctors to help us live with severe pain? I went to see the only psychotherapist who had “chronic disease” as his specialty. And even he had no understanding what so ever in chronic pain. So we HAVE to dive inside the mind and the soul and we have to have a conversation- the three of us- Mind, Body. Spirit. And we have to almost transcend the body in order to nurture it, to shush the mind from it’s amplification of pain signaling coming from the body. We have to develop ways to lovingly embrace our painful bodies and coax our minds into saying “be calm my precious brain, you CAN do this. Mind and body are artifacts of spirit. This is how I HAVE to see this existence. My body is riddles with severe problems since breaking my neck and then getting a botches neck surgery where they cut into my spinal cord and dorsal roots ganglion. My sympathetic chain was cut during surgery and so they welcomed CRPS into my life. Rather more appropriately called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. These things irreparably injured my body but not my spirit. This is where I am. This is where the I in ME resides. When i render myself as spirit capable of transcending both body and mind then i can lovingly talk to these entities which make… Read more »

Carole Porter

Thank you, Kerry Smith, for your info and recommendations. I find myself moving in this direction as it seems that we, as pain patients, absolutely must become our best advocate. I wish you luck and will be reading more and moving myself to a position of better health.
Carole Porter