How I Ended Decades of Chronic Pain
Without meds, my back and hip are, to my surprise and delight, nearly pain-free
Low back pain has dogged me since my mid-20s, moderate and annoying most days with the occasional must-lie-down-now episode that made me grumpy and ornery but got me out of yard work for a few days.
In my late 40s, a dull ache emerged in my right hip, gradually growing worse and sharper, until it became impossible to sleep on my right side, which made snuggling with my wife problematic (our sides of the bed were long ago set in stone, and I’m indisputably on the left).
I got used to starting each day stiff and sore, accustomed to carrying a certain level of background misery around most of the day. No amount of pillows made the couch comfortable. A long car trip required hourly stops to stretch and shake out the hurt.
But in the last few months, everything has changed.
Both sources of pain have shrunk to the point that on most days I barely notice them, and on a “bad” day they generate a little discomfort that reminds me to deploy my new secret weapon against chronic pain (I’ll reveal it below, but there’s a story to tell here!).
Here’s how great I feel: On my 60th birthday recently, I mountain biked 60 miles, my longest ride ever. The next morning I woke with all the expected good soreness and tightness in my legs and arms, but no pain in my back or hip. This change has been surprising, remarkable, and joyous. Just ask my wife — I’ve been annoyingly ecstatic about it. And it came without painkillers, no drugs of any kind, and no surgeries.
Scientists who study chronic pain would not be at all surprised.
The problem with pain medications
I’ve been popping ibuprofen on and off for decades. It never did much if anything to curb my aches, other than maybe, maybe take the edge off the worst bouts.
Turns out there’s no solid evidence that anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin do anything to alleviate chronic pain. They can be useful for acute pain, like a sprain or a cut, but “whether they do anything for chronic pain is highly questionable,” says Vania Apkarian, PhD, who runs…