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Pain Meds vs. Physical Therapy (My Story)

I was an accomplished athlete in high school, especially in basketball, and as you know when you are young, nothing hurts for long.  Unfortunately, by the age of 16, I was visiting a chiropractor weekly and had had knee surgery, and by my late 20’s I was having some legit neck and back pain.  

Entering my 30’s, I was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease and mild spinal stenosis.  To control the pain, I had steroid shots in my spine, trigger point injections in my muscle, and pain meds.  By the time I turned 40, I was on 240 milligrams of morphine a day and getting over a dozen tripper point injections every 8-12 weeks. 

Then worse got even worse.  Between the age of 39 and 40, my metabolism decided to take a permanent vacation.  The timely was horrible.  My diet consisted of 12 cokes a day, candy, chips, carbs, occasional protein and very few “green” things.   In one year, I gained 42 pounds. Needless to say, my health had deteriorated to the point where I seriously wondered if I would find myself in a wheelchair before I was 50.  

Emotionally, I was short-tempered, angry and irritable.  I had a persistent headache and the side effects of pain meds caused a roller coaster of emotions.  All I could manage to do was work and worry and then worry some more.

Physically, I was in horrible shape and was entering my 15th year of pain management.  I was 42 pounds overweight, my symptoms were not getting any better, and my tolerance level for pain meds just kept going up.

During those 15 years of pain management, not once did any of my physicians suggest I stop using pain meds and begin physical therapy. They just kept increasing the dosage of my painkillers.

Between the stress that permeated my personality and the mood swings caused by pain meds, I was living in constant conflict with everyone with whom I had to deal.  I had become a moody, withdrawn and unlovable person at times who was in constant pain.

The time had come and I knew enough was enough.  I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  My life had to change.

That’s when I decided to take control of my health and my future.  I immediately changed by diet and stopped drinking sodas and eating sugars after 8pm.  I weaned myself off all pain meds over 30 days and worked hard to manage my pain through physical therapy, exercise, stretching, yoga, dry needling, acupuncture, and a chiropractor.  

This strategy was hard but worked.  I was able to manage my pain without the use of pain meds and I felt better physically and emotionally.   Did I hurt at times off pain meds?  Yes.  Did I hurt at times when I was on pain meds? Yes.   However, I was able to avoid the roller coaster of emotions caused by pain meds, as well as avoid any long-term organ damage.

Challenge:  If you can do anything other than pain meds, do it!  At first it’s hard, but in the long run, it’s SO much better.  

Update:  In October 2016, I was unfortunately rear-ended by another driver. The effects of the wreck caused massive nerve damage and muscle atrophy that forced me to have an anterior cervical fusion of my c5- c7 disks.  Thankfully the surgery stopped the nerve pain and as time passes my muscle atrophy is being reversed. 


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