As a teen, basketball was my jam. I played three years at our private high school, at community college spring training, and multiple times per week at the local rec center.
But I was never able to play without nagging fear after I turned 19, due to repeated injuries to both ankles.
One of my biggest regrets in life is not heeding the doctor’s warning when he put the boot on my foot. Honestly, the whole testing and treatment phase was a blur — it barely registered. So when I took the protective boot off two weeks early and chose to play basketball in the apartment parking lot, I knew I was ignoring advice. But I didn’t grasp how important that advice was.
Fast forward 20 years, and chronic pain is still the hardest part of facing each new day. If it weren’t for my two year old son demanding more water in his bottle every morning, I would avoid stepping out of bed and walking on painful feet, knees, and ankles for as long as humanly possible. As you can imagine, this makes life a challenge, especially considering I live with my wife and three children on a 40 acre homestead with a garden, goats, chickens, guineas, cats, and a dog. There’s lots of work and movement required, which is all part of my dream. But constant, chronic pain stands in my way.
What Do You Mean By Chronic Pain?
The Daniel version of “chronic pain” is constant pain that is more serious than a bruise, but isn’t debilitating in and of itself. If it were, you’d get far more empathy from your friends and family. Not being able to walk or function communicates pretty clearly that you’re dealing with a serious problem.
Chronic pain makes everyday function a painful, undesirable process.That’s the rub. It’s constant, ongoing pain that hasn’t been resolved over weeks and months, possibly years. It changes the way every single day feels. It changes the way you feel about simple tasks and chores. Washing the dishes becomes a slow agony. Getting up to help your kids is an act of love and sacrifice that costs you dearly… every single time.
If you’ve not experienced chronic pain for a long time, you may not identify. And when you encounter someone experiencing chronic pain, you usually don’t know it. Why? Because we are technically able to function and the pain doesn’t stop us from moving, we don’t talk about our pain every day. In fact, we often grow to consider the constant pain “normal”. And that’s where our quality of life changes dramatically for the worse.
Once you’ve tried a dozen different methods to reduce your pain and nothing really works, most people give up trying. And pain becomes the new normal. And once pain is considered normal, Life isn’t such a great and wondrous thing. It’s a pain to endure. It’s agony, slowly killing you.
But just because something happens every day doesn’t mean it should be considered normal
I have seen time and time again that there is more power in choice than we ever really understand. If we choose to not accept the new normal, then possibilities open to us, because we have remained open and eager for new opportunities. That pain in my foot may have been the sum of bad life choices and poor reconstructive surgery, but I don’t have to accept chronic pain as the new normal.
Chronic pain is something to overcome. It’s something to surpass and leave behind.
With that belief in mind, I’ve made some powerful choices to eradicate chronic pain from my life:
- Lose ALL the extra weight. No lie, I started this personal challenge at least 50 pounds overweight. Some might argue 70. Regardless, I’ve undertaken the Bulletproof Coffee approach to intermittent fasting and I lost about five pounds in the first week. I may not lose all that weight, but may instead convert it to muscle via strength and conditioning training similar to CrossFit. Losing the fat and building muscle will reduce the burden on my knees, feet, and ankles, and the level of pain intensity will shrink as a result.
- Ditch inflammatory foods from my diet. Lots of foods can cause inflammation, depending on your blood type and your genetic makeup (MTHFR anyone?). So foods like corn, wheat, processed chips, and Starbucks sweeteners are the first things to go. I may allow myself to eat corn chips once in a while (at the same time I indulge in a little queso), but it’s rare and usually makes me feel terrible for two days after. For sweetener I now use stevia drops or powder 95% of the time.
- Increase the number of anti-inflammatory foods in my diet. I’m eating more fresh blueberries, blackberries, green olives, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and salmon. Reducing the number of new inflammatory incidents is great, but when you’ve got massive chronic inflammation in your body, you gotta take the fight to the enemy. These foods actively reduce inflammation over time.
- Clean teeth and gums extensively at a holistic dentist. Inflammation sets up camp in the body and hangs out in different locations. Despite regular brushing, I’ve had inflammation in my gums for years, but didn’t understand it. My holistic dentist explained to me that if I clean my gums extensively, I will remove things that are causing inflammation. And the more inflammation you can remove from your body, the more your body can transition from fighting to healing.
- Increase my body’s flexibility. I’ve begun stretching twice daily to improve my horrendous inability to touch my toes. It’s much more than that, though. Tight tendons and ligaments have caused inflammation in multiple areas of my body, which leads to additional problems like exacerbating kidney function.
- Exercise regularly. Since I’m starting from a total lack of flexibility and chronic foot pain, I need low impact exercise I can believe in. I found a gym that offers a program similar to cross fit. It’s low impact. The instructor guides me to do less difficult versions of exercises I can’t yet perform. You build core strength and focus on strengthening three basic movements: your hinge, your squat, and your push. Most every exercise revolves around improving strength and endurance in these core movements.
There are more steps to take, of course, but each one of these steps takes me closer to my goal of a life free from chronic pain.
What are YOU doing to eliminate chronic pain from your life? If you want to chat or keep in touch, hit me up on Twitter or in the comment section below.