Journey of a Pain Sufferer: Part Three

Since I first saw the pain management specialist, and changed my diet, the mysterious and unexpected jolts of pain have disappeared. So far.

By Steve Kaufman

Those searing pains that come out of nowhere, periodically disabling my shoulders or hands, elbows or knees, legs and feet – those have pretty much disappeared, thanks to Dr. Cassaro of Painless Living.

Pain medicine specialists have a lot of tools at their disposal for treating patients – injections, massages, therapy, manipulations, exercises, braces and other devices, salves and ointments. And some prescribe medicine.

As I’ve written in this space before, Dr. Michael Cassaro Painless Living – who does not and will not prescribe pain medication – takes a more holistic approach.

For me, that approach centered around diet modification.

He did take a series of X-rays and CT scans that showed I have age-old bone and joint issues. Some I was familiar with. Since breaking my right femur when I was 18, I know that the hip above and the knee below are unstable. I know that the shorter leg and stiffer knee that resulted from months in a full cast has thrown my back out of whack and affected the muscles and tendons in my foot.

And some I was completely unfamiliar with. Cassaro showed me evidence of some trauma to my neck, clearly from when I was quite younger. I have absolutely no recollection of anything like that ever happening.

There was not much I could do about that. They happened. They’re there. But I could minimize the effects they’re having on me.

Since seeing Cassaro last fall, I’ve eaten no bread or pasta, tried to eliminate all starchy sweets from my diet (good-bye, my precious doughnuts) and severely limited the hidden sugar found on supermarket shelves. (Actually, it’s not so hidden if you just look at the food labels.)

I think I’ve probably lost a little weight, but this is not a weight-loss program.

It’s always good to keep weight down to avoid overburdening knees and backs, but I don’t think that was my problem. In any case, I’m certainly not a poster boy for a Nutrisystem program. So how has the pain management gone?

Realistically, at my age, the ravages of arthritis do not go away by eliminating ketchup. I still wake up in the morning with a soreness and stiffness that take a little while to ease. Sometimes, aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) still help. (I don’t use ibuprofen – Advil or Aleve – because of their effects on my stomach and kidneys.)

I get some relief from walks, mild exercise, light stretching and hot soaks. A better pillow has helped my neck. So does five minutes a day on an inversion table.

But here is what I’ve noticed. Those searing pains that come out of nowhere, periodically disabling my shoulders or hands, elbows or knees, legs and feet – those have pretty much disappeared. Cassaro once explained to me (which I’ve passed on to you) that sugar, preservatives, starches, et al. are irritants that – to use his words – “light things up” as they move through your system and sting those injured nerves that are already susceptible to pain.

I can handle the familiar pains that are part of everyday life. It’s those unexpected jolts that seem to respond to nothing and last for days or even weeks – those are debilitating. One, because they don’t react to the normal, familiar treatments. Two, because they limit my ability (and frankly my desire) to take a walk, to stretch and exercise, to be active. And three, because they weigh on me, depressing me, squelching my creativity, making me feel the victim. Making me feel older.

You can deal with what you understand, and what is familiar. So, knowing that I’ll wake up every day with a stiff lower back, but that the pain and stiffness will ease and go away in an hour, makes it tolerable. It neither surprises nor disables me.

The unexpected may yet remain . . . unexpected. Just because I haven’t had an elbow suddenly become red and swollen with pain in the last several months doesn’t mean, I guess, that it won’t happen again. But we live our lives with a combination of evidence and faith.

And the evidence – that I haven’t had those kinds of pain in the last six months since seeing Dr. Cassaro – gives me faith that maybe I won’t have them again. That they’re history.

So far, so good. Can’t ask for more.

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