My Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Story: Tom Bowen

My Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Story: Tom Bowen

Below is my story and the mind and body approach I take to manage pain. We are all different just like our pain. What works for me may not work for you. I am not preaching or villainizing. I am simply sharing what has worked for me so others might be able to benefit from my experience.

I have been living with chronic pain for over a decade.

The pain started in 2009 with nerve damage after emergency groin surgery. Four years later, I fell and hit my head. That fall led to a constant headache, a whistling sound in my ear, back and hip pain, tingling and numbness in my hands and feet, electrical shocks in my legs, muscle soreness, and random pain and burning sensations throughout my body.

To find out what was causing my pain, I jumped on the pain merry-go-round. I visited all types of health care providers. I went through x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, and all sorts of other tests. I attended lectures. And I spent hours searching the Internet.

When all done, my official diagnoses were fibromyalgia, tinnitus, post-concussion syndrome, neuropathy, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

To try to solve my pain, I stayed on the merry-go-round. I took opioid painkillers, non-opioid painkillers, vitamins, and herbs. I had multiple injections. I even had surgery.

While some of these helped, some did not, and some even made things worse. Meanwhile, they all cost me time and money and delayed my pain rehabilitation.

Changing how I think and act towards pain

I was fortunate to attend one of the few interdisciplinary outpatient pain programs in the United States – the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center.

A team of nurses, doctors, pharmacists, psychologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists helped me understand what was happening with my body and discover what I needed to do to take back my life.

Programming for the three-week program included medication management, pain education, lifestyle changes, psychological therapy, physical therapy/exercise, occupational therapy, relaxation training, and family therapy.

The program gave me hope for the future. My goal changed from ending the pain to living with it. I learned to accept the pain, adjust to it, and manage it.

Accepting the pain

It is often the struggle with chronic pain that is the worse part of having pain, not the pain itself. The struggle makes it easy to become distressed and feel like a victim. I was once stuck there.

To minimize the struggle, I have come to terms with the pain. It is my “new normal” – accepting there is no immediate cure.

Yes, I hurt. But I know my chronic pain does not signal continued damage to my body.

No, I have not given up hope or resigned myself to a life of misery by accepting the pain. I have learned I can lead a fulfilling and functional life despite of it.

Adjusting to the pain

While important to grieve the past, it is also important to move forward and learn to cope with the pain.

Little did I know how much I would lose from chronic pain including time, relationships, work, and opportunity. Then again, little did I know how much I would gain from chronic pain including a new respect for myself, new friendships, a new job to take care of myself and a new purpose in helping others manage their own pain.

I have adjusted to the pain by recognizing my thoughts, feelings and actions are all connected. How I react to the pain is my choice. I could continue to be a pain sufferer, or I could choose to become a pain champion.

I no longer let chronic pain define me. I am defined by who I am and what I do. I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a mentor, a past-coworker and a professional clown.

Managing the pain

There is no magic pill or medical intervention that makes chronic pain disappear. Sadly, some people with chronic pain may never be pain-free again.

Below are some of the tools I use to manage my pain:

  • Non-opioid prescriptions and injections (the Mayo Clinic program helped me taper off “feel good” narcotic pain medicines)
  • Acknowledge the pain then let it go so I am not guarded or worried about it (we know what to expect with chronic pain – it is not like suddenly twisting an ankle or getting stung by a bee)
  • Deep breathing and relaxation exercises to reduce stress
  • Distraction like watching a funny movie or listening to music to focus on something other than the pain
  • Moderate and modify what I do to not worsen my symptoms
  • Stay active and exercise, especially walk

If you’re interested in the approach I follow, check out my Facebook group Chronic Pain Champions – No Whining Allowed for information, resources, suggestions and support.

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Authored by: Tom Bowen

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Ann Sable

Tom, your words are not correct in any form at all. WE ARE NOT allowed to do what is right for us. This has been taken away and replaced with such ludicrous. I’m sorry, but what worked for you simply may not work for most. And as Vicki said, “…don’t attack others”. Best wishes to you…


Could of told you that without a three week course. Yes, you accept the pain, adjust to the pain, and manage it. What the hell else can you do. How we manage it and what we need to manage it is our business. So glad you found a way that was life changing for you. But don’t attack others.

Ann Sable

Truly disheartening to say this, Tom…but, you really have messed this one up…not only for yourself, but as for the Mayo Clinic as well. Just read your other article that was posted this morning and you truly and at most, screwed it up dearly. Although, I really want to thank you for unveiling the truth of our nation and all the eye-closing secrets that WE ALL can now expect. Knowledge is key and you made that quite clear, too! All the best to you and those that will forever allow us to be destroyed. Best wishes…

Hello, I am the author of this article. I appreciate the feedback/comments – that is how we learn from each other. We all have our own pain stories to tell. And we all want to the same thing - better lives.

Several things I want to clarify:
• My pain is very real and very chronic. It is not right to compare pain levels. We are all different. We feel pain differently.
• I am referring to non-cancer or end-of-life pain.
• In no way, did I mean to vilify use of opioids for pain management nor be condescending. I could have chosen better words than “feel good”. I am sorry. I used “feel good” to describe the masking effect of opioids not any euphoric sensation. Opioid medications were designed to mask or block pain as a short-term treatment for short-term acute pain.
• In no way am I preaching or pushing a non-opioid narrative. I am just saying there are there are other safer and more researched therapies to improve pain relief and restore function.
• More research is needed about all sorts of pain treatments. If opioids are determined to be safe and effective long-term for pain, they should be used as such.
• It is not fair to ask chronic pain patients to lower or stop opioids with little or no tapering and no alternative treatments.
• I understand not everyone has access to the Mayo Pain Rehabilitation Center or similar rehabilitation programs due to availability, cost, and insurance coverage. That is a major reason I am sharing my story.
• Pain treatment is a personal decision between doctor and patient. And not all pain treatments work for everyone. You need to do what is right for you.


There is Chronic Pain
program at Courage Kenny in Golden Valley, MN. It is 3 weeks like the Mayo program. It is one size fits all. The pace was intense and all day with few breaks. The goal was to completely get off the opiates. My boyfriend got worse in his degenerative disc pain during the program. His neck dystonia muscle pulling went out of control which could be visibly be seen as much worse. They did not want to change the program pace for him. These programs are not for all chronic pain patients.

Kris Aaron

Someone on Reddit posted in reply to this article. It deserves repeating:
If it was his choice to taper off opioids and rely solely on non-opioids for pain control, I commend him. But he also recommends walking, something many of us simply can’t do at all, or without suffering the agonies of the damned when we try.
“Acknowledge the pain then let it go…” Oh, if only we could. Frankly, the phrase “let it go” sounds condescending.
I’m delighted that the alternatives he listed worked for him. I’m happy that he was able to spend three weeks at the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center — and that he could afford to do so. And I’m sure he learned to live with his pain; to accept it and manage it.
Having read that, I’m left with a bad case of envy and more than a little emotional cringing.
“I have not… resigned myself to a life of misery by accepting the pain. I have learned I can lead a fulfilling and functional life despite it,” he says.
I wish I had that ability.
But this article is a bit like someone with all the advantages of a good education, supportive family and substantial income wondering why others can’t achieve similar goals while failing to realize many bodies are broken beyond the ability of medicine to treat. That exercises like walking are beyond our abilities. That opioids are the lifeline we’d happily give years off our own lives to have. That we don’t have the income or insurance to afford a three-week sojurn at a premier medical center.
Tom, stop assuming everyone is as fortunate as you are! Your insights apply to someone suffering from moderate chronic pain. Get to know those of us who are living with bodies beyond the reach of pain acceptance, exercise, occupational therapy and relaxation techniques. Our doctors, family members and friends will see this article and ask why we can’t do what you’ve done.
And we don’t need more pain like that, thank you very much.

Susan Daley

It is well known that four out of five chronic pain sufferers CAN use only non opioid pain relief measures to control THEIR pain. Yes, we are ALL different, and so no one needs to take offense if 4/5 of America’s 120 million chronic pain sufferers can and do get relief from alternatives to opioids. However, we all need to always remember that everyone is NOT the same. We all do NOT suffer from chronic pain caused by the exact same conditions, and we are all different even if we do. All arthritis sufferers are not the same. We do not even treat all cancer patients with the same treatment plan. This is exactly what is wrong with what has been going on! There ARE 26 million CPP or about 1/5 of the 120 million chronic pain sufferers in America who DO NEED OPIOIDS and do fairly well on them. No one tells anyone that alternative therapies do not work because there are no long term studies demonstrating safety and effectiveness of these therapies, as there are none, and no one complains that alternative therapies do not work because they do not take away all of the pain or cure any of the underlying conditions! Yet this exact rhetoric is always used against opioid treatment because the ONLY real reason that opioids are being demonized is due to fear of addiction and drug abuse. Yet there are tens of millions of CPP, especially those over fifty who can and have taken opioids safely and effectively for over twenty years! Yet no one does the research to document this success! We are way too busy demonizing the use of opioids for chronic pain just because of a misinterpreted coincidence. America’s poly pharmacy drug ABUSE overdose problem began in the 1970s and has been getting worse ever since. After 1996, finally more CPP who could potentially benefit from opioids were finally being treated with opioids and for millions of CPP this was a godsend. But this did not CAUSE any opioid crisis. Proper USE is NOT drug ABUSE! CPP who need opioids are NOT responsible for this!

I’m thrilled that all worked for you. You are lucky.
This past Jan I interviewed at the Mayo Pain Clinic I’m Fl. I found it to be a sales pitch and one that did not convince me at all. I had researched it prior and read how involved it apparently is but… none of that was discussed. I was not impressed with the clinic space either.
Also, after insurance I still would’ve had to put out many thousands of dollars, including 3wks hotel room plus meals each day. I found no personal financial balance with this program whatsoever but rather that it would cause me stress which would cause me pain. I’ve been living with chronic pain since 1990. I’ve tried it all. Opioids along with the other modalities that Ive learned along my journey keep my levels at a 7-9. The permanent spine and nerve damage is done. In my opinion, Mayo would not be able to change that and I’d be in debt for about 10yrs.
As you can read below, we long time CP folks all agree that none of us ‘feel good’ about taking opioids but we need and use that medicine to live a little life in a little less pain. Another thing that concerned me was that I was told that from day one they would possess my medication, including overnight. I need a med once during the night. I was afraid of withdrawal, which they said they do not control. I left there feeling defeated, yet at least I checked it out. It seemed too good to be true to begin with.
I believe it may help those who are not ‘over the edge of no return’ with chronic pain. We need palliative care for the rest of our lives.


I only got this far: “Yes, I hurt. But I know my chronic pain does not signal continued damage to my body.”

MY chronic pain DOES signal continuing damage to my body!!!!!!

James Harrison

Good thing that derisive article was the only one you authored. I don’t think I could stomach another one. Legitimate patients shouldn’t suffer needlessly just to protect junkies from their own stupidity. The addiction rate is and always has been about 2% so the only crisis in health care is stupidity on the part of government and half the medical community. I may call addicts junkies but I have a degree in addictionology and I thoroughly believe that just like we have a human right to relief. The addicts, abusers and responsible recreational users ( yes I’ve known many) also have the right to put whatever drug or plant they see fit in THEIR BODIEs as long as the only person hurt is their self. And many don’t hurt themselves unless they get an unknown amount or substance caused by having to buy from the black market. There is a crisis in the streets where unscrupulous drug dealers sell counterfeit pills and heroin laced with improperly mixed fentanyl. If properly titrated carfentanil vaporizers were available to all patients would get relief and addicts wouldn’t die. Since its nearly impossible to die from smoking opium because you fall asleep before getting fatal respiratory depression vaporizers seem to be the safest option for high dose opioids in at risk individuals.


I just saw a neurologist here in Georgia who tried to tell me the same thing. “You stay with me and I will help get you off everything “ like I love being on all of these meds I am 45 with 5 back surgeries, neuropathy, and so on I have had this for 10 years now and have tried everything I possibly can to help myself these medications are what work what help me get out of bed in the morning and help me get through the day . My first born is getting married in 2 weeks and this medication is what will help me be there and be able to do a mother/son dance with my son they help me participate in my life!!!

Hello, I am the author of this article. I appreciate the feedback/comments – that is how we learn from each other. We all have our own pain stories to tell.

Several things I want to clarify:
• My pain is very real and very chronic. It is not right to compare pain levels. We are all different. We feel pain differently. And not all pain treatments work for everyone.
• In no way, did I mean to vilify use of opioids for pain management nor be condescending. I could have chosen better words than “feel good”. I am sorry. I used “feel good” to describe the masking effect of opioids not any euphoric sensation.
• The Mayo program did not brainwash me to be anti-opioid. It has been a part of their program for years. They provided us with information about all sorts of medicines and alternative treatments.
• Opioid medications were designed to mask pain as a short-term treatment for short-term acute pain. While some patients report improvement with opioids, there are no conclusive long-term studies showing the effectiveness of opioids in relieving long-term pain or restoring function. More research is needed about all sorts of pain treatments.
• It is not fair to ask chronic pain patients to lower or stop opioids with little or no tapering and no alternative treatments.
• I understand not everyone has access to the Mayo Pain Rehabilitation Center or similar rehabilitation programs due to availability, cost and insurance coverage. That is a major reason I started sharing my story via articles like this and the Facebook group Chronic Pain Champions - No Whining Allowed..
• My use of the healthcare system and prescriptions have decreased since attending the Mayo program.
• Pain treatment is a personal decision between doctor and patient. You need to do what is right for you.


In though I could do much the same by making it about being thw best me I could be. No matter how how much pain I was in. After being forced tapered off opoids. I decided that I would continue to function. I actually did more for a time than I did while on opoids. Little did I know hown wrong I was. Itbstartes out fine then graduly I started slowing down. As rhw pain increaaed I came to a stop and haven’t been able to start again I’m glad this workes dor the writer. Wish it was me.

Terry Ott

I represent my late wife, for whom I was the primary caregiver as we dealt with her intransient pain over many years. Tom Bowen’s comments sound like a marketing pitch for Mayo Clinic, pretty much like we encountered when we went to Mayo to see if they could evaluate the nature and cause of Joan’s pain.

The multi-day visit to Mayo also delved into other nagging physiological issues, on which we got some good insights. But the MAIN (overarching) reason for our visit was to determine the underlying cause of my wife’s widespread pain — which we eventually (and separately) concluded was a malfunctioning central nervous system probably arising from neurosurgery years earlier after a terrible accident and the resconstruction of her upper spine.

Regarding our chronic pain concerns, we got no help at Mayo — just advice from several staffers that Joan come back to participate for weeks in the interdisciplinary program Mr. Bowen describes. We did, toward the end of our visit, see a brilliant and noted neurologist (Phd, MD, researcher) who specializes in brain function. He seemed a bit puzzled and even apologetic about why he was assigned as a member of Joan’s Mayo team. He claimed no expertise in the analysis and/or treatment of pain. But he, and a physiatrist (useless) were the two who supposedly were our pain resource persons.

Mayo’s in-house pain “coping” program was not a practical option, but still we kept getting the sales pitch; it was aggravating to spend all that time in Rochester and leave with no analysis of why the pain was chronic and so intense. Joan was a PhD herself, and a genetic researcher, thus wasn’t about to go straight to “treatment” without any meaningful causal analysis.

p.s., Joan DID finally and permanently get relief from her pain in the form death by an aggressive, rare, and virtually untreatable form of breast cancer, “metaplastic”, that spread to her lungs.

Lori Palmer

Wow! I am in shock that National Pain Report would publish something by someone who calls opioids “feel good” medication. I assure you I have never felt anything but pain relief from opioids. I have no idea what an opioid high (or any other type of high) feels like. It is bogus [edit] like this that hurts legitimate pain patients and Nation Pain should not promote such nonsense.

Michael Swift

Great article Tom,
Useful information we can all gain more knowledge and perception as a learning tool and as a possible application for some of us, but certainly not all of us. What i am about to say is only my “opinion”, and certainly not fact. I think you tripped yourself with the “feel-Good” cliche in reference to “Narcotic Pain Medication”. Recreational drug users and abusers consume pain-killers, RX or Illegal; However, probably 90% of most of “us” “Feel-better” after taking a dose to relieve excruciating to moderate pain. Your use of a cliche implying Euphoria in reference to Narcotics may raise some doubt to many regarding your credibility. I, however, do not. Your efforts to improve your life by sharing your experience with us is very noteworthy, and i applaud you for your wonderful progress. I hope that i can personally achieve the same results you have.
Try to remember that less than a decade ago we were taught to manage our pain with long-term potently effective pain medications. Last month, my new PCP perused my Prescription Drug monitoring Report history prior to 2016. He looked up at me and called me “an Abuser”…all for my doing nothing more than following my PM physician’s orders to “take my medications as directed”.
The Societal Pendulum has now swung completely in the opposite direction, this time though, the table beneath the swinging blade is occupied…by “Us” and the steel, sharpened by this new and inhumane paradigm has cut a deep wound.

sharon l schmidt

I have chronic idiopathic pancreatitis and have tried many things in my 16 year journey. Methadone works for me I don’t take it to get high I take it because it helps my quality of life. All I get from this organization is way to deal with pain without pain meds. They work for me so shoot me. I made a mistake thinking I would get help here.


So glad you found the path best for ypu! It is a journey, and as noted in your info, we are all different, as is our pain and the treatmenta that most. Meds are a core tool for me, but there is nothing ‘feel good’ about them… they lessen the excrutiating pain that is mmy constant companion. Each person should have the right to do what works best for them, and the curiosity to llearn about other potentially helpful tools. Take it a moment at a time….

Adam Selene

Interesting phrase, “feel good” opioids. They don’t make me feel good. They do curb enough of my chronic pain that I can get to a balance between bedridden and partly functional when my pain level drops under level 8. If I were to take enough opioids to get down to level 6 pain, I am nauseous, dizzy and mentally foggy. That puts me right back to a non-functional status again and it doesn’t work at all. On bad days where I don’t even get down to an 8, I use mental techniques and reading to find another way to be a happier camper. Like most chronic pain sufferers, I know when I am doing too much and accept that for the next day or two I will not be very functional. The pain in my case is a reminder of damaged nerves and spinal cord stenosis and is an indication I will be doing additional damage to myself.

Louis Ogden

I’m glad this therapy has worked for you. I tried your method with no success. I would also mention, like others, that opioids DO NOT cause me to feel any kind of euphoria - just sweet relief.

Ellen Johnson

You are lucky but it sounds like Mayo Clinic brainwashed you regarding opiate medication for pain UW has same policy so I have heard and read
No one gets “feel good” from opiates for chronic pain other then less pain not zero no euphoria just more tolerable and functional
As mentioned by a reader of how dependence is referred to in the chronic pain survey which is a misconception partly led to this problem I have a wonderfully compassionate pain provider who said we get physically dependent just like prednisone blood pressure meds means you should not stop cold turkey and have no medical supervision He also said dependent on these medications
to be more functional I can not walk without them do things have some semblance of life
Finally no one should have to accept pain that is medical malpractice and inhumane and barbaric Opiates except if combined with Tylenol or an NSAID have no ceiling on dosage but must be closely monitored by a knowledgeable provider especially when doses are increased ; patient should always follow directions and tell provider if pain and function improving or not and if having side effects These medications have been around for years and pendulum has swung too far against opioids and pain doctors are writing more scripts because medical community wants patients seeing them
Problem smaller communities may not have one and patient may be too ill to travel far especially in time trying to find right dosage.
I know someone close to me who
Has terrible menstrual cramps disc
Slipped in back Already one surgery for endometriosis but did laser which often comes back but with the opiate hysteria and Vicodin became schedule 2 without conversation just provider quit filling ( she took like 30 in 5-6 months just on beginning bad couple days) now the around clock nsaid and had Endoscopy
and doctor told her one most severe cases esophagitis
ever seen also gastritis She was told should not take any NSAIDS for longtime maybe year or more


What a crock. It is well known that unfortunately, the Mayo Clinic is utterly opposed to any type of opioid medication for chronic pain patients. I’m happy these methods helped you, but your rhetoric demonizing opioid pain medication only serves to validate the current opioid hysteria happening in America. And for those of us who have found them to be life-saving when everything else has failed, you do us a great disservice.

Linda Olds

I use exercise, distraction, meditation, and various other non-opiate methods to deal with my pain.
I still have pain that stresses my body, exhausts me, and keeps me from doing things I want to do. Opiates are the only things that help the pain and allow me to function and not be in agony.
They do not make me “feel good” or feel “high”.


Thanks, Heather, Rebecca, Thomas & June for your responses that represent my view too. While I don’t think the author means to be as patronizing as he sounds, I do think his word choice is deliberate & condescending. For most pain patients, opiate medication works ONLY on pain. There is no feeling “good,” high or relaxed. None. It’s a false narrative spread by those with an anti-opiate agenda. It seems anyone who feels good or gets high from pain medication is being prescribed more than necessary or doesn’t need it. His choice of words gave me the impression his whole point is more of the same: to demonize opiates & pain patients who need those medications to function in their “new normal” lives.


I notice a derogatory tone In The phrase “feel good narcotics”….thank u for your article, but if you see prescription opioid pain meds as a bad thing, THATS where you need to expand your awareness. Many of us cannot take NSAIDs (which, btw may be harder on the body than prescription opioids). Many of us have had pain for lots of years , from lots of causes, and we’ve tried everything you’ve mentioned. For me, only one thing works and allows me to have some semblance of life with my afflictions. If my prescription pain med is taken away, or cut any further, all bets are off. I probably won’t make it. You , my friend, need to respect those of us who take these life-saving meds, if we are still blessed enough to have them in this time of an anti-opioid crusade, The popular derision of opioid users is present in your article. And that displays your ignorance on this subject. I hope you can rid yourself of this dangerous prejudice. This prejudice has been created and disseminated effectively by our govt. and our media. and now we pain patients have to fight an uphill battle against it. Not easy to go into battle when you are sick, but we are doing it. Pray to God, my friend, that you don’t face cancer or surgery, for opioids are no longer available for these things in many areas.


Good for you! I take it you are one who is against opioids .I am offended but more SMH about the ignorance that you would use your term Feel Good narcotics! Those who are CPP do not refer to our pills as Feel Good Narcotics! When in real pain every day all day that doesn’t go away and those of us who depend on our medication for a little relief do not call them Feel Good Narcotics. They are Medication that helps us get a little quality of life and mybe some simple things done such as shower,cook,etc.Even than they aren’t so simple for some.Also you talk about exercise and especially walking. I get it but please be considerate and remember some CPP have a difficult time just getting from the Bed to the Bathroom.Some are unfortunately confined to wheel Chairs and the list goes on. I’m glad you found your tools to help you but please keep in mind most of us have tryed all you suggested and more before we were given our medications.Unfortunately many have got cut off and now have zero quality of life.My heart goes out to everyone. Last we are not Whining.We are simply saying how we feel.I often wonder if Articals above are doing more harm than good.


Cheers for you! I’m glad you found a combination of approaches that works for you. From your reported decade of experience with pain, I’d guess that you may be in your 40s or 50s. You’re probably relatively affluent and/or had good medical insurance to afford The Mayo Clinic program. Most chronic pain patients cannot afford to pay for such specialized programs, and insurance often doesn’t cover them.

Fast forward 40-50 years when you’re on Medicare and have developed wear-and-tear related conditions-such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and scoliosis-on top of your injury pain. You may also have residual soft tissue and nerve damage from previous surgeries. You are no longer able to do many of the things you once did; sometimes merely accomplishing tasks that must be done daily is a challenge. Your quality of life has deteriorated dramatically, and most of the joy is gone.

The approaches you enumerated are NOT new to most older patients living with ongoing pain. We’ve most likely tried them all. For some a low dose of a mild opiate-based pain med makes all the difference in helping us hang on to what quality of life we still have. It’s not a “feel good narcotic”, just a way to reduce pain to a somewhat manageable level so we can live independently without needing long term care and continue to function-and, yes, walk.

Words matter. IMO, yours make it easier for the medical community and the general public to continue misclassifying compliant patients who use pain medication responsibly, as prescribed, with 20-something drug addicts scoring heroin from the local dealer. Physical dependence and addiction are NOT the same. People in their 70s and 80s with painful medical conditions did not create the “opioid crisis”, but we are definitely collateral damage.

BTW, this isn’t intended as a “whine”-it is what it is. It’s not an easy road-we don’t need words that can make it harder.


Along with all of these other commenters, I, too am offended by the ‘feel good’ statement. I would LOVE to ‘feel good’, what is wrong with that? Unfortunately, after nearly fifty years of chronic pain it is unlikely that I will ever ‘feel good’ again. The best I can hope for is the slight numbing of the chronic pain that is the result of taking opiates, which I have taken responsibly for the last eleven years. I was lucky to get them, after nearly forty years of doctors treating me like a drug seeker, and trying every over-the-counter medication, chiropractics, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, physical therapy, relaxation techniques, ad nauseum. Add to that, chronic pain has caused many of us to give up gainful empolyment, so three weeks at the Mayo clinic sounds like a lovely vacation. Good for you!

Molly K Canfield

Please list for us the steps to “letting it go.” I’ve heard this advice many more times than I care to remember and have yet to convince my brain to”let it go.” It’s not like I haven’t tried this and certainly don’t choose constant, intrusive pain sensations and thoughts. Let go of my: anxiety, sexual assault, emergency surgeries, depression, chronic pain. Sounds good but noone has been able to give me a good method for “letting go.’
I’m sorry, but your position does seem preachy and disparaging (“feel good” meds are the end of the road and the only truly effective tool for millions that allow us some scrap of “normal” functioning.)
I’m truly glad this works for you. To me, the plan you’ve described is pretty much the same exact route we’ve ALL tried before being allowed some relief via “feel good” medicines.

davidkenberg kenberg

I agree with what heather said. Feel good medicine,Really??????

Rosalind Rivera

I am truly happy that this has been the solution for you however having tried all of these several times over, I have to say that I am still and most likely be in chronic and intractable pain for the remainder of my life. Perhaps your sense of relief is not an illusion but life a false memory and therefore it works for you.

Kay Sodowsky

I would certainly like more information about these “feel good” meds you mention. Did you patronize opium dens or buy them on the street? Taking opioid pain meds, per doctor’s instructions, bring down my chronic back and leg pain to a moderate or manageable level so that I’m able to function. I’ve never experienced any sort of euphoria or high by taking prescription medications. I’m certainly not opposed to “feeding good” but I simply don’t know any chronic pain patients who view their legal prescription meds as anything other than tools for survival.


I just re-read the column after reading some posts and so have some additional thoughts.

No CPP expects our pain to end. Once we go thru the initial round of doctors and treatments and all else fails and we end up on opioids to manage our pain, we know that pain is our new normal. The goal isn’t to eliminate it, b/c that’s not possible. It’s to make it low enough that we don’t want to commit suicide and hopefully have some sort of quality of life.

And if a 3 week program did that much for you, then I suspect your pain wasn’t as bad as what most of us suffer — esp if opioids had been making you feel good.

When pain is truly horrid, the meds go to work on the pain; there’s nothing left over to make us happy. Esp after we’ve taken them for any amount of time and our body adjusts.

The one time I was “happy” that I referred to in my first post, I was brand new to heavy meds, and also extremely thin, and probably on an empty stomach that day. And again, it was only that one time, which is why I remember it so vividly.

I always appreciate anyone who shares tips about what works for them.
But please do it in a way that doesnt’ harm the rest of us.


Interesting and informative about the Mayo program and more,


I REALLY don’t like the reference to “feel good” narcotics.
I don’t feel good from my opioids. Ever.
They help with my pain; sometimes more than others.
Sometimes it seems, not at all.

Referring to “feel good” drugs feeds in to the govt war on CPP’s.
That supposedly, we want the drugs to get high instead of to ease our horrific, never-ending pain which is living with torture, every day of our lives.

So, author, I hope you’ll stop doing that. You may have been able to get off opioids, but there are still millions of us who depend on them.

Also,I recall feeling happy exactly once at the very beginning of one of my opioids.
As to the other, I never ever felt high; in fact, I had such extreme nausea from it in the first weeks that I vomited. I never thought I’d develop a tolerance for it. Nothing I could imagine anyone ever desiring to take.


Not EVERYONE has a “Mayo Clinic” or anything as “advanced” we can attend. How about insurance? How about the cost? Tell a Veteran or someone that is in pain so SEVERE that death appears to be the only option. I am glad in fact that you sir, found way to cope with YOUR pain. How about the other 20 to 30 MILLION pain management patients that many now consider death after job loss, family separation, inability to perform the basic activities that MUST be done personally….everyday?


I not real sure but as I read through the lines, this almost sounds like an advertisement for the Mayo Clinic? Or to back up the pain alternatives that the powers that be have been pushing on pain patients as of late, that most of us have already done or still do for many years. It’s very important when speaking to pain patients, mostly mature folks ( meaning adults) for the most part that have been dealing with this horrible pain for years to be a little careful when it comes to this very sensitive issue. I’m not going to go into all the issues I have because I’m tired of having to go there every time I see a doctor feeling like it’s just falling on deaf ears & judgment. With that said I am fortunate I have not been cut off or forced to taper “yet”, but I only get Norco 3 times daily as needed. It’s been that way for quite awhile and that’s about it! If this is actually a real legit post, I think your actually doing more harm than good for the rest of us. based on what I read, NO I won’t join your FB Chronic Pain Champions site, oh yes and no whining allowed. That surely does NOT represent the community and the fact this is a forum for people who can relate to others in the same boat, also to address the hugely important impact that this whole Opioid false negative has had on so many lives. Your not helping the cause your adding to it. If you don’t need Pain meds good for you but many NEED them just to survive a somewhat functional life. I would keep what works for you to your self as this type of narrative sounds like the BS that has been shoveled since this whole so called crises began and you are doing more harm than good for the Chronic Pain advocates who are out there trying to get this whole mess turned around.

Larry F

Would have been better without the condescending reference to ‘feel good’ narcotic pain medicine. The only ‘feel good’ part I’ve ever gotten is the relief from a lowering of my pain level. If I wanted to attack the pain and ‘feel good’ at the same time, I’d be using Buffalo Trace or Jim Beam.

I use mindfulness meditation, and find it helps to keep the pain levels under a certain degree of control, BUT, if the CRPS pain comes on full blast without warning, like waking me up in the middle of the night, forget it. Then it’s just riding out a storm for a couple, several hours.

And I’ve exercised my way over 30 years from a wheelchair through a walker to two canes. The exercise itself does not in any way do a damned thing to ease or stop pain. I just value the independence it grants me over the added fatigue and pain.

Jo Anne W

I too cringed when you wrote “feel good” narcotic pain medication. I’m pretty sure you were quoting other ppl who don’t understand… at least I hope. The only “feel good” I get is that I don’t feel like suicide. If so, maybe revise?


I appreciate the approach but would have been grateful if you would refrain from calling the meds “feel good” narcotics. I use mind body approaches in combination with other treatments. I find that while I am blessed to be able to continue to work, the opioid let’s me sleep without tossing and turning because I have to take pressure off of arthritic hips, ease my aching neck… I sometimes am distracted by the pain at work and can’t communicate thoughtfully or effectively at meetings. The world is not so forgiving and my chronic pain makes me vulnerable at work. I don’t have access to my full toolkit of treatment options at work. The pills do not make me “feel good.” They don’t rid me of pain entirely, nor do they make me feel high as you may be implying. I respect what you’ve written but if you respect how others manage their pain, you could have written the entire article without those two words.

Meditation has been a blessing. I see the link between my reactions, thoughts, emotions and my pain. I try to be proactive about that. I try not to allow myself to “worry” about the pain (catastrophizing is a word that gets weaponized against patients at times). I use treatments other than pills. Everything is a tool… to be used appropriately and intentionally. All together, the treatments help. If I lose access to the opioids, my sleep suffers and my ability to work has been impacted in the past. This is my truth.


Good for you!
By the way, I figured out a long time ago there IS no difference between mind/body, they all work together.
I’ve had crippling pain for 30 years due to genetic mutations. Sooner or later, it wore me right out…along with this dastardly medical system

Rebecca Hollingsworth

I’m so glad that you are a happy camper, free from those awful “feel good” pain medications! That just shows me right there that the “pain” you were experiencing wasn’t chronic or intractable to begin with. The people that do have chronic pain dont “feel good” when we take pain medication. I’m certainly no doctor but it seems to me that your injuries stem mostly from a fall and a brain injury, and not from a disease, such as stenosis, scoliosis, disc degeneration, herniated discs, arthritis, sciatica, or any other chronic illness. Nerve pain is a only a side effect of these conditions, not the cause.
I’m also not “guarded ” by what I do. I know what happens to me when I exert myself in any way, also knowing that when I’m done, there will be a price to pay, but I do it anyway, just to feel “normal ” and because I can. As chronic pain patients we all accept the fact that it won’t get better and we will never be pain free again. It’s a done deal. We know that there is no miracle cure just around the corner. We live our lives the best way we know how and that includes the use of narcotic medication. I’m so glad that the psychosocial approach to care worked for you. All of us in the pain community have jumped through the hoops of injections (of all types), and the non opioid medications are just as harmful as the prescribed ones, causing kidney and liver damage. My chronic pain DOES signal continued damage to my body.
Again, so glad this “treatment ” plan worked for you, but don’t be so condescending to the rest of the pain community and vilify what works for the majority, opioids. The best thing that ever happened to people with chronic pain.
And no one who is in the pain community whines.

Thomas Shutt

So glad you have adjusted to the pain level you describe. I have lived with serious back pain for 40 years ,a bad motorcycle accident exasterbated and added numerous other inflictions ,of broken bones and head trauma even though wearing a full face racing helmut. The pain medication until being force tapered last year was a life sustaining tool in my belt. I was able to complete two college degrees, rehabbed my injuries to the best possible. Although never pain free the meds gave me some quality of life that was as active and fulfilling as possible. I was active to the point that few people outside my close circle of friends and family knew of my conditions. Add a case of mistreated Lyme disease to the pot and you have severe arthritis in areas I never injured, resulting pain nearly body wide but my nemasis has always been my lower (lumbar) pain. Since being tapered to 1/10 of my dosage of routine daily meds I have sought out alternatives as auqa therapy,accupuncture, cycling and walking,and diet to try and ward off inflammation and flare ups. The results are not good, the exercise although good for some aspects of my health leaves me in a throbbing nerve searing mass of hurting. I gave it time to hopefully build up core muscles and learning what not to do to inflame my inflictions , which is pretty much anything other than lying in a preformed manner in a rock hard mattress. The out come belong to the catch 22 syndrome. I know l can’t become complacent with life but as I have aged into senior years and at a point where as my body would benefit from the meds most , responsible pain patients are being treated like delinquent children and forced to suffer in endless agony while the scourge of fentanyl ravishes it’s ugly head in the real problem of the opioid “crisis” , the illeagal drug trade.


Well Tomni first want to say I’m happy for you that you found a way to cope with your chronic pain. But I also want to say i take offense to your statement of “feel good” narcotic pain meds, it is statements like this that have caused so much trouble, so much misunderstanding of the opioid medication taken for chronic pain. It is not a feel good medication. It is a medication that if taken for chronic pain you don’t get a high or “feel good” feeling. You get some partial relief from your chronic pain. You g e t hopefully the ability to have some quality of life. I have been on a fentanyl patch for over 20 years once the doctor & I found the right dosage I have never asked for an increase, never taken other pain meds with it. It has not taken my pain away but has allowed me to do some of the things i enjoy with my family. Recently I was forced to lower the disease it has greatly effected my quality of life but am still at least able to cope. Before the meds I tried everything chiropractor, physical therapy, biofeedback, etc. Nothing worked til I was put on this medication so I will not spout on anymore but please don’t call iPods a feel good medication. Yes my body now is dependant in this med but there’s a big difference between dependent & addicted they are not the same.