Chronic pain doesn’t have to end in addiction to to pain pills, or even dependency. In fact, safer approaches have been around for years that don’t involve drugs at all. But the health care system has been slow to make them widely available.
So all too often, we’re on our own. That means doing our own research. And trying different approaches. Until, hopefully, we hit on what works.
When I found myself living with chronic pain, that’s exactly what I did.
My approach was finding the cause, and eliminating it. In my case, chronic inflammation. Once I solved that, I was free of living with chronic pain. All without drugs or surgery! A few non-invasive treatments helped along the way.
So here’s my story. If you’re living with chronic pain, due to chronic inflammation, I hope sharing my story helps.
If there’s any chance you can stop living with chronic pain, without drugs or surgery, I hope you give it a try. You’ll be all the healthier for it.
Living with chronic pain— not a necessary part of aging
In my late 20’s someone told me, “We all hit a wall with our health, about this age”.
She was one of my customers, in mid-life. And now living with chronic pain.
It struck me— I knew too many mid-lifers living with chronic pain. And most were blaming it purely on aging. Which I didn’t believe. Not for a minute.
In my mid-twenties I caught the health bug. For me, that meant adopting a plant-based whole food diet. Then becoming a runner. And meditating.
So, what could possibly happen?
Back pain and sciatica— then CRPS
As it turns out, I didn’t have all the answers. And in mid-life, found myself living with chronic pain. Not one conditon, but two, both caused by chronic inflammation.
First came chronic low back pain and sciatica. And if that wasn’t enough, along came Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a chronic pain condition that feels like burning pins and needles.
Fortunately, both conditions didn’t happen at once. Well, not usually.
How I solved both!
As you’ll see, eliminating chronic inflammation was key in solving both conditions. Without drugs or surgery.
First I’ll tell you how I problem-solved my chronic back pain and sciatica. Because it’s so common. Then my CRPS.
What worked for my chronic back pain and sciatica
This duo was easier to figure out, and remedy, than CRPS. In retrospect, that is.
After plenty of trial and error, I was finally free of chronic back pain and sciatica. Without drugs or surgery. And still am! As long as I practice the following. Which I almost always do. 🙂
- Acupuncture treatments. This helped relieve my acute, severe pain without resorting to drugs or surgery. But for my subsequent chronic pain, the following worked.
- Sitting for less time on my “days off”, writing about cleaning. By the way, I’d operated my own cleaning service an entire decade before my pain started. But no amount of cleaning ever bothered my back. No. it was the long hours of sitting. Terrible for anyone’s back. After addressing the causes, I was back to cleaning— pain free.
- Strengthening my core. Simple crunches and stretches work for me. Sure, I attended a Pilates class. But that was more intense and time-consuming than I was up to. So I never returned. Still, I’ve enormous respect for the Pilates approach.
- Learning better body mechanics. And practicing constantly. The Alexander Technique helped. Years later, I attended Feldenkrais classes taught by Kathy Flock, one of my long-time customers. Feldenkrais was an even bigger help. By the way, Feldenkrais stemmed from The Alexander Technique. I still integrate both into my every-day movements.
- Weight training supports my back, and all my joints. Helps my sciatica, too. Just today, I worked on my upper body. Tomorrow I’ll work on my lower. Twice a week, for each half, is the ticket.
- Meditating. Practicing healing visualizations, along with mindfulness, helps too.
- Years later, I switched to anti-inflammatory foods. In my mid-twenties, I’d already switched to whole foods, integral to an anti-inflammatory diet. So when CRPS hit, I only needed to swap out certain foods. Changing my diet, I believe, is the single biggest factor in keeping me pain-free to this day.
My next challenge: CRPS
First, a bit about this uncommon condition.
According to the Mayo Clinic,“Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg…”
My symptoms— like burning-hot pins and needles— started after a severe ankle sprain I got while running. The pain started in my ankle. Then spread to both feet, up to my knees. And to both hands.
The exact causes of CRPS “are not clearly understood”. But the Mayo Clinic says it “typically develops after an injury… and may involve “inappropriate inflammatory responses”.
And it wasn’t going away. So once again, I found myself living with chronic pain.
How I beat CRPS
My doctor never prescribed pain pills, or other medical treatments. She knew I’d first research and try non-invasive, self-help options. On my own.
She did, however, “prescribe” two teaspoons of turmeric daily, for its anti-inflammatory effects. There’s a special place in heaven for that doctor— she cared enough to research non-invasive approaches. <3
And hey, the turmeric helped! That is, combined with other approaches I’ll sum up below.
About six years later, I was virtually free of CRPS symptoms. And still am, years later.
A few of the same approaches that helped my back pain helped my CRPS. Here they are again, followed by a few other approaches that helped.
- Getting acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture reduced my initial symptoms, gaining me time to research more self-help approaches.
- Switching to anti-inflammatory foods. As with my chronic back pain and sciatica, changing my diet was the single biggest factor in clearing up my CRPS.
- Learning the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. Feldenkrais helps improve movement. In turn, improved movement helps everything. And I mean everything! The Alexander Technique continues to help, too.
- Meditation, visualizations and mindfulness.
Kneipp-based hydrotherapy helped, too. Namely, wet and dry wrappings. I applied my own wrappings at home, with special instructions from my P.T.
Other approaches helped too, that I may write about someday. But there you have the basics.
My journey continues
At 60ish, I’ve long ceased living with chronic pain. Without drugs or surgery.
That said, my symptoms start in again occasionally. But every time, I’m able to trace my symptoms to something I did or didn’t do. For example, occasionally sneaking inflammatory fats like sunflower or safflower oil. Or sitting too long at the keyboard.
But once I eliminate the culprit, my pain’s gone. Fast! Every. Single. Time.
I can’t know what the future holds. But now I have more tools in my toolbox. So if I find myself living with chronic pain again, I’ll know what to try, to minimize my pain. Sooner!
What it’s really about— lifestyle changes
If you’re living with chronic pain, the same approaches that gradually helped me, may gradually help you. Not necessarily cure. But help.
It’s really about making lifestyle changes. And that takes take time and effort. But medical appointments take time, too. I don’t miss all the medical appointments I once had!
So try least one small change every month. It all adds up!
And of course, get expert help if you need it.
Are you living with chronic pain? What’s helping, and what’s not? Sharing your experience just might help others.