Chronic Pain - Walking Through My Healing

Written by Joseph Christiano ND

I have always been a physically active guy, even back in the day since my childhood. If there was a grassy field to play a game of baseball, or kick ball going on in the streets, or an opportunity to join the football team in high school, it was there you would find me.

As a 13 year old, I bought my first barbell set. I would read all the muscle magazines I could get my hands on that taught me how to exercise properly and learn about eating healthy and taking vitamins. At home, I faithfully started to workout every day throughout my Junior and High school days—even after sports practice (in fact, I still do today!). Exercise, building muscles, feeling good on the inside and out became a lifelong relationship of mine—sort of a bonding kind of thing between weights and my muscles.

After playing sports in high school, attending college, time in the military and even trying out for semi-pro and professional football, I could not shake my love for personal fitness and exercise. It was becoming a huge part of my life. As I was pursuing my career, I initially planned to work in the field of special education where I began studying child psychology, etc., but for some innate reason I chose to forgo that field and pursue my all time love—health and fitness. Why not make a career of what I loved? I had many years of experience and above all, it was my passion. 

Throughout my young adult life into my 30’s, I was an avid power lifter and competitive body builder. I had taken my love of working out to a national level of competition, but in spite of my physical attributes and accomplishments there was a common thread I had dealt with since early in my life and that was chronic lower back pain. I learned how to manage it the best I could but as I got older (40’s) I required emergency back surgery. The surgery was a success and I was able to return to doing 99% of what I was doing previously, i.e. golfing, staying physically fit, snow skiing, etc. For the next 20 years everything from a physical standpoint was very good with the exception of that constant lower back pain demon.

It wasn’t until 20+ years after that initial emergency back surgery that my body started breaking down to the point that my daily life was being terribly disrupted. The constant battle with chronic pain not only affected my physical life, but also my attitude regarding my personal and professional relationships. It became a consuming fire. Living with chronic pain is absolutely the most incapacitating reality I (anyone) had to live with, especially being one who was always on top of his game, physically active, self-motivated, etc.

As with most surgical procedures, they can only do so much in the realm of relieving pain because of complications from surgery. And now for me, I was facing a 2nd lower back surgery. Trying to live with the horrific burning and searing pain on a daily basis had gotten nearly impossible to handle. Even natural remedies and treatments and pain medications did not bring pain relief. As I struggled to maintain my professional career, be a loving husband and just function in the day to day activities, the writing on the wall became more obvious to me. Being the eternal optimist, this time I researched and tested everything possible in the natural realm as far as alternative medical treatments so to avoid a second back surgical procedure. My quest to learn as much as I could about cutting edge technologies for my back, neck and hips, took me as far as, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was bound and determined to find any and all natural alternative treatments to replace surgeries. Fortunately, I had adult stem cell treatments which made a huge difference in my pain levels and brought a glimpse of hope for me to hang on. But as my condition worsened and other complications came to be a part of the chronic condition I was forced to have surgery.

I responded very well to the surgery and was released from the hospital the next day to go home and rehabilitate myself. After several months of stretching, strengthening and rejuvenating my body, I was back on my feet doing very well . . . until a major setback.

As I was feeling better and becoming more active, I decided one early morning to go out in my yard to spread some grass seed. As I was pushing the spreader, I slipped off a high bank with both legs straight out in front of me and landed on my tailbone 5 feet below. Needless to say I just laid there hoping I didn’t undo all the rehabilitation or cause damage to the area of my back that just had been operated on—or worse—need emergency surgery again. But one thing was for sure, I knew what was about to happen as an aftershock from the fall down the road. Unbeknownst to me until much later, it turned out I had fractured my Ileum crest (pelvis bones) and lower left SI joint which are necessary for body stability and function.

As part of recovering and strengthening my back and body from the fall my wife and I would take long walks along the ocean at Daytona Beach every evening. This went on throughout the summer months until I could not walk from our car to the water without excruciating pain. As I mentioned, I knew what was going to happen after that fall and in months it did. After the physical trauma (the fall), my entire pelvic girdle was damaged and walking became an unbearable experience. After the back surgery and successful rehabilitation, I thought I was out of pain and would regain all that I lost and finally start living a pain-free, energetic life again.

As my condition worsened, so did my level of pain. I could not sleep more than an hour or two at night because of tossing and turning due to pain. Without good sleep it is nearly impossible to heal properly as well as get the pain under control. My focus on work, family and life in general was slowly fading and I found myself dealing with negative thoughts about my future, my health, my life. If that wasn’t enough, the medications were taking their toll as I was starting to experience shortness of breath, increased anxiety, severe bouts of constipation which I never experienced before but my body was breaking down from toxicity levels from the medications. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually drained and to top it off, I felt like dying.

I made a conscious decision during these painful and overwhelming years that I would never give up. I kept telling myself that my life was not over but I had to walk through my healing even though I wasn’t healed yet or had found the treatment or procedure at the time. I believed with all my heart that one day I would be dancing with my wife on a cruise ship again and I have. I believed I would be back in the gym strengthening my body once again and I am. I believed I would wean myself off all medications and detoxify my liver and kidneys from the toxicity build up from the medications, and I did.

And finally, I believed if I applied the things I knew and learned anew through this horrible painful season of my life that I would enter a brand new season for restoration and rejuvenation of my body and mind back to good health – and I am!

This journey has taught me to never give up and to keep believing!

Joseph Christiano, is a naturopathic doctor, certified nutritional counselor, bestselling author, motivational speaker and health and fitness coach to the stars. He has spent the last forty years developing individualized diet and exercise programs for Hollywood celebrities and major media personalities alike. Having devoted his entire life to promoting health and fitness to millions he wants others to experience the results he’s enjoyed. As President and CEO of Body Redesigning and developer/marketer of Body Genetics nutritional products, his books and products are available worldwide.