If I said to you that you have a tool, deep down in your body and soul, that could help you get off most if not all of your narcotic pain meds, would you try it?
It’s not a get well quick method for pain relief and it takes work and practice, but it has been shown throughout the ages to help manage stress and pain.
I have suffered with chronic pain for 13 years and I’m a little angry. Okay, more than a little, a lot! There is clear cut scientific evidence that supports another way to manage pain and our doctors are not telling us about it.
It’s not a gadget or a pill. It’s not expensive either. It involves no co-pay, no MRI, no filling out of forms, no being herded in and out and treated like a number. It’s free — and that may be why we don’t know about it.
This treatment for pain is found in the writings of Herbert Benson, Scott Brady and Beth Darnall, and their words echo what centuries of people have done to manage pain and stress.
Yet many of us do not know about it. Instead, we are treated as lab rats and insurance fed cash cows, all for the sake of making millionaires out of doctors who possibly care most for their billfold.
My last surgery was a total lumbar reconstruction 16 months ago. It was the 21st surgery or procedure for my spinal issues, neurological problems, or extensive pain. I have had one lumbar reconstruction with 4 levels fused, 2 cervical fusions, 2 carpal tunnel surgeries, 2 lumbar laminectomies, one spinal cord stimulator implanted and removed, 3 electromyography (EMG) tests, nerve blocks, nerves attempted to be deadened, numerous MRI’s, x-rays, CT scans, physical therapy, acupuncture, magnets, and on and on.
The doctors told me to expect at least an 18 to 24 month rehab for my lumbar fusion. My pain was off the charts after the fusion, but I was told to be patient and hopefully it would improve. When the pain persisted, my neurosurgeon reluctantly turned me over to a pain management group that has either written scripts for my pain, given me nerve blocks, or tried to sell me another spinal cord stimulator — even though the one I had failed.
I am herded in and out of the pain doctor’s office, asked to pee in a cup each time, lectured about my cell phone usage, asked to make sure my cubby hole door is closed, weighed, blood pressure taken, my pills counted, answered a questionnaire, filled out an iPad form, gauged my pain, and asked if I was selling my pain pills. Only then am I given new scripts for more pain pills. I am a multimillion dollar science experiment, on disability, and I am PISSED!
I was taking 15 mgs of OxyContin 3 times per day, 10 mgs of Norco twice per day for breakthrough pain, Lyrica or Gabapentin 3 times per day, Cialis, Prozac, and testosterone replacement therapy. Each appointment became a trial for how my system would respond to a different medication.
There was one day, after a trial of a different pain med, that I was hurting beyond reason. I needed to have a prescription adjustment. But I could not get an appointment at my doctor’s office and was told that if I was in that much pain that I should go to the emergency room.
I later discovered that because I expressed my frustration, I was put on the “grumpy list” which was shared with the Mayo Clinic, where I was trying to get into their pain clinic. The appointment didn’t happen and how I had been blacklisted only added to my level of frustration.
I was battling pain, battling prescription issues and battling my pain clinic — and my pain was off the chart! Was there any wonder why?
The climax of my struggle came when my wife and I were going on vacation in Florida. On this trip I took a couple of books recommended by some friends who are teaching on the subject of pain and who were watching as my horror show was playing out. I also took a prescription to be filled because I would run out of meds while I was gone and I believed that a pharmacy would fill it in Florida. I was wrong about that and it only added fuel to my chronic pain fire that was burning out of control.
For the first two days of our trip, I hurt and was extremely depressed. I hurt so badly after the 8 hour drive that I couldn’t walk on the beach and that sent me into a deeper depression. I thought what is the use of living if I could not enjoy the beach with the woman I love?
After a couple of days, I let myself off the hook. No, I couldn’t do things I normally do, but it was early and I could be patient. For Pete’s sake, I was at the beach! So I started to read. And re-read. The titles of the books were “Timeless Healing: The Biology of Belief” by Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Scott Brady’s book, “Pain Free for Life: The 6-Week Cure for Chronic Pain.”
I had nothing else to do, right? So I started digging, digesting and pondering. And soon I began to wonder. Why was I not being told this stuff?
Way too soon, our vacation was over, but throughout the week I did an experiment. I started stretching out my pain meds and slowly reducing my consumption. I began to meditate. The feeling of narcotic withdrawal was not comfortable, but something was happening. I was feeling better. I was more present. I could dream. I wasn’t in a fog.
After returning home, I heard of yet another book and knew I had to have it as well and it was “Less Pain, Fewer Pills” by Dr. Beth Darnall. She too echoed what had been found for pain free living and it was all adding up.
After reading these authors and putting into practice the “Relaxation Response” first described by Dr. Benson and using other helpful tools that are given by the authors, I am now down to 10 mgs of OxyContin 2 times per day and 5 mgs of Norco once per day, along with testosterone replacement therapy.
I meditate. I pray. I go to a different place and imagine. I am breathing differently. I am reducing the stress that has been shown to influence levels of pain. And I have done this on my own, with very little assistance or support from the medical community.
One would think that this would be great news for the pain group that was caring for me. But when I shared this with my doctor she told me, “It’s a good thing more patients are not like you, because you would put me and my husband out of work!”
She also said of the thousands of patients that her network of pain offices see in the southeast, that I was one of only a handful that was working to get totally off pain meds.
We who suffer with chronic pain will continue to be treated as cash cows until we find ways to take control of our pain. The medical profession is tainted with money. They have us. We go to them for help, trusting them to do what is best for us. But are they? How much are they receiving for keeping us on prescriptions and medical devices?
It is my hope and prayer for all of us that we can be empowered to take charge of our own struggle with pain and not have to rely on specialists who may not have our best interests at heart.
Kerry Smith is an artist who lives in Tennessee.
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The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.