My Story: What Doctors Don’t Tell Us

My Story: What Doctors Don’t Tell Us

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.

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith

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.

image(3)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.

12_7.jpgKerry 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.

Authored by: Kerry Smith

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Thank you for your comments to my article. They are valuable to our ongoing discussion of managing chronic pain. For those of us who suffer, my hope is that this year will be a year of discovery and empowerment in order to live life as it is meant to be lived!

John Quintner, Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine

Following good science brings its own reward. Those who practice acupuncture and chiropractic medicine (whatever that may be!) are not exempt from providing scientific evidence to support their respective treatment modalities.The “dry needling” brigade are of course included in this exercise.

I accept that Dr Rodrigues has raised some broader issues that reflect badly on the health care systems in his own country. And Mr Smith’s experience (as well as that of far too many others) bears this out.

So, the question remains an open one – what is to be done to rectify this situation? In his final paragraph, Mr Smith suggests a solution, one with which I totally agree.

Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD

Your mission to disrespect a person’s right to chose what works best for their own personal pain situation will be defeated.

You never wondered why spine, knee, hip, shoulder or brain surgery fail to restore a wounded soul to a state of complete wellbeing?
You never wondered what is of value in ancient history that can teach us today about treating pain?
You ever listened to a patient complain that no one believes that they have pain and that pain is invisible to the human eye?
Have you ever use a logical equation to disprove or prove a biological truth? Like, “doctor the surgeon said that I can not be having pain in the knee because he replaced it?” You ever wonder, “what in the hell is a knee then!!!” Have you researched referred pain?

In your world of academic untested medicine, you never wondered why an injured worker needs almost NO high tech scans, corrective or invasive surgery costing astronomical amounts and why some workers requiring extended periods of time off from work? When in reality nature heals all injuries with just a little caring and support without heroic human intervention?
From my seat, my view is that most injured workers, motor vehicle accident victims, wounded soldiers, older americans are being misused and abused for profits.

You ever wonder why you are so hell bend on disparaging Acupuncture and Chiropractic medicine?
This guy is earning his reward with distraction, misinformation, flawed logic, narrow views, bias and groupthink — comes to my mind.

John Quintner, Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine

In my opinion, Kerry’s story is an indictment of contemporary pain management based on biomedical reductionism, which insists that there has always to be a direct causal link between the complain of pain and the existence of tissue damage. Fortunately he eventually took matters into his own hands and made worthwhile progress.

Unfortunately, Dr Rodrigues has fallen into the same trap when he insists, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that: “The 2 most potent long-term pain therapies are hands-on as in massage and chiropractic medicine. Then all the varied therapies that use needles.”

At best these modalities of treatment have been well described as “theatrical placebos”. At worst, they are also parasitic upon our health care systems.

We would do well to remember that the “art” of Medicine is dependent upon the “science” of Medicine.

Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD

What a journey! Apologies for your pain and the plight you’re in. Your authors are great providers and educators who are helping millions of folks.

There are a few key reasons that are hidden away out of site from many physicians, advocates and patients. Also unfortunately the ones who know, still do not know of the profound benefits of these key concepts. The profiteers have invaded the alternative medicine schools to watered down the curriculums to make them less effective. Thus guiding and funneling people into the operating rooms for disassembly, repairs or amputations that do not restore or heal.

Misconceptions, misrepresentations and tactics:
Providers are told not to believe (you) and what they can not see. You can not see this type of pain, it is invisible to technology. It is like trying to find an itch on someone’s back with an X-ray, impossible. You are the only person in the whole world who you can feel this pain and guide the team to the locations. But you have not a part of the team you are just the “car.”

Providers believe they can fix your pain by fixing what they see on the X Ray. NO. What is seen on the X Ray is a secondary event or not even related. But it is legal for them to try and fail with impunity. They will keep trying and failing all the way to the bank off of your soul.

Providers have been told that the answers are in the future so they are distracted by the science fiction of new medications and sophisticated robots which have no better outcomes than what doctors used 50 yrs ago.

Cloaking devices over reality:
While in reality most of the discoveries that help humans to be comfortable in our world have already been discovered. These benefits have been marked as, “defunct, obsolete, departed out-dated and untested.” Some have even been brain-washed by an old AMA tactic of calling them Quarkery. Yet they all have been tested my humanity for a long, long time.

The 2 most potent long-term pain therapies are hands-on as in massage and chiropractic medicine. Then all the varied therapies that use needles. These old options have been taken off the table by a concerted effort for profits by turning providers into obedient mercenaries and people into unwitting commodities.

One final point. The profiteers have put the fear of retribution in providers to follow the conventional standard protocols or risk losing their license and credibility. These providers will do as they are too fearful of and will stay within the boundaries set. The majority will not venture out to far or they will see that the world is round and leave the cult.

Yall are in a catch 22 for your lives. Educate explore for change, and call your legislators.

Polly Ramos

Hello Mr. Smith,

I also suffer with chronic pain and I stopped all pharmaceuticals, including methadone, over 100 days ago. I just wanted to say that I agree with what you wrote!


We do better on low doses of pain meds. This has been proven. We may have to make adjustments, but nothing is perfect. Personally, I believe that those who are on high doses and have difficulty getting treatment and their meds would have more success if they were on lower doses, but that’s just my opinion. Drs and pharmacist seem to be more careful with the higher doses, which makes sense.

We live in an instant society. We want what we want when we want it. We don’t want to make changes. We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to take the time. We pay a price either way. But, by making changes, accepting that a certain amount of pain is part of our life and not expecting to be pain free we will do much better in the long run.