Med-free quest: Those with chronic pain want to live without medication

By From page C1 | May 18, 2014

chronic pain 5_8_14

Linda Banks has had chronic pain in her lower back and left leg since a fall in 1992. Banks uses water therapy exercises to help mitigate the pain. "It definitely keeps me moving", she said. "This is how I'm able to get up every day and keep moving." (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Michael McBride’s came in 2000, the result of a car accident.

Linda Banks fell at work in 1992, making her way into the group of the estimated 100 million Americans who live with chronic pain. McBride is a fellow member.

Their lives have dramatically changed as a result of living with chronic pain.

“It has disabled me,” said McBride, a Fairfield resident. “I can stand up for maybe an hour. Then, I lose complete feeling in one leg.”

On a recent trip to Reno, a three-hour drive, he had to stop five times due to the pain. He refused to give in and continued the trek.

McBride, 58, doesn’t want to use a cane or crutch.

Life goes on, even when it throws you a curveball, he said.

“I won’t let this stop me from being a human,” he said.

Vacaville resident Banks, 75, pictured traveling in her golden years. That’s out of the question.

“I enjoyed dancing,” she said. “That was cut off way too early. Now, I don’t go out. I go to the movies once and awhile. I sit in the aisle seat. If I sit too long, I have to be able to stand up.”

Arthritis has also set in, which makes it worse, Banks said.

She’s had four surgeries, the last one about 15 years ago. Her back is totally fused, she said.

McBride has permanent pins in both feet, having eight surgeries on them. He’s also had a “multitude of injections” in his back area for his compressed discs.

McBride and Banks also seek pain relief with water exercises.

Both use pain medication for relief. They dream of living a vibrant life without pharmaceutical intervention. Toward that goal, Banks and McBride work with Dr. Eric Grigsby and his staff at the Napa Pain Institute.

One in 5 Americans will deal with pain in their lifetime, Grigsby said. One in 3 of them will have it affect their quality of life. Ten percent will live with a severe variant of pain, such as Banks and McBride.

Doctors have yet to pinpoint why 1 in 10 people with pain will require a lot of medical attention, Grigsby said. A number of factors such as obesity, chemicals in food, and a lack of physical activity may be involved, he said.

“It’s a big public health dilemma that requires a lot of resources,” Grigsby said of chronic pain management.

The Napa Pain Institute is participating in an investigational study of a spinal cord stimulation system, called the Axium Neurostimulator System, that targets the dorsal root ganglion.

That branch of the spinal cord that is believed to play a critical role in the development and maintenance of chronic pain as it processes pain signals as they travel to the brain. Stimulating the dorsal root ganglion interrupts pain signals before they get to the brain.

With more than 20,000 patients a year coming through his doors, Grigsby wanted alternatives to pain medicine. About five years ago, he came in contact with spinal modulation products, which are in an early stage of development, he said.

McBride and Banks did not qualify for the study.

Banks does have a spinal cord stimulator that Grigsby implanted. The difference between the two systems is that the Axium’s leads can be placed closer to the target, treating pain in areas that have been hard to reach, such as the lower leg and foot.

Grigsby said he thinks neurostimulation is one of the answers to chronic pain management.

“We have done a great job as a field for chronic pain,” he said.

It’s what happens to those medications that makes the difference. Some go from the medicine cabinet into recreational use.

“We can’t go back to where people in need can’t get good relief,” he said. “Sometimes people feel hopeless. This is a real opportunity to help.”

Banks and McBride said it’s easy to get behind pain relief that doesn’t require prescription medications.

“I only take it because I have to,” Banks said. “Sometimes I just deal with the pain. One day I would love not to be taking it.”

She relies on her faith in God to carry her through the toughest times, she said.

“Pain medicines can only do so much,” McBride said. “I want to get rid of the narcotics and get back to a normal life.”

To see if you qualify for the study being done at the Napa Pain Institute, visit www.accuratestudy.com.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

Discussion | 7 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Please read our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy before commenting.

  • CD BrooksMay 18, 2014 - 6:26 am

    Thank your local government for denying marijuana, an inexpensive yet effective remedy. A sensible medication that doesn't prevent you from living a comfortable lifestyle.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Larry williamsMay 18, 2014 - 9:11 am

    CD. You did not get the reason for this story. They do not want to go through live stoned. Sometimes drugs are not the answer. Larry

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 18, 2014 - 10:03 am

    Larry, you may be correct. I thought they wanted a relatively pain-free existence without the nauseating and crippling effects of barbiturates and other high powered pain meds. My bad.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Chronic pain patient.May 18, 2014 - 10:56 am

    So then you trade your liver and kidneys for lungs? We don't want to use any drugs and as someone who has tried everything it's disturbing that rather than use the ready available resources like acupuncture, chiropractic care, water exercise, hydration, yoga, core work and cleaner eating along with natural anti-inflammatories like ginger and blue berries, etc doctors are busy using people as human guinea pigs or screwing up their bodies with cortisone shots that ultimately tear down tissue in the long run and They know it. There is B12 injections and various other ways to cause the body's healing response to kick in. How about massages, biopulsers, walnuts to help induce sleep because truly the biggest downfall to chronic pain is lack of good sleep and without it the body doesn't heal (this I uses medical marijuana for Only at bedtime and my recovery was day and night but I like my lungs). If I sleep I don't need narcotics that these legal drug dealers are peddling. I didn't go to Napa but at NorthBay I had Dr Pena trying to force an injection that didn't work on me in the past and it was like pulling teeth to get referrals to the very tools that would help me manage pain without narcotics. So I fired them all and am now using chiropractic care (ABC and biopulser) and making huge progress. I'm not anti-doctors without them I would have died and pain meds have their place but doctors have no handouts for foods that help with pain, easy yoga programs, acupuncture and dear God massage therapy should be a part of every physical therapy rehab. Sorry to go on but there are so many other ways besides invasive procedures and damaging drugs to help patients but healthy patients don't rack up major costs. I wish patients well but no way in hell's name I'd be a medical science guinea pig. Laughter and exercise and sex all release endorphins the bodies natural pain medication, music and meditation can help take your mind off of the pain, etc...,, etc... - Don't be lazy people do the work, yes it's hard but it's better than relying on doctors that are with your body maybe 20 mins and you're with it 24/7. Oh and I was hit by a semi-truck a few years back and am at a healthy weight still, and just walked my dogs 3 mile, do it a couple times a week and can't remember the last time I took heavy narcotics including marijuana but marijuana is the one I'd choose at night to sleep if I chose any. Thanks for letting me vent Oh yeah I also had a doctor at NORTHBAY, pain management DO ask me on their questionnaire if I was attracted to men or women or both, so I didn't use them. Don't be afraid to change doctors either.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Chronic Pain PatientMay 18, 2014 - 11:06 am

    Let me clarify I was on a motorcycle and an 18 wheeler cut me off causing a near fatal collision, so I do know how hard it is to manage pain but it's worth it. I also use lavender oil in an Epsom salt bath a couple days a week. But truly it's the lack of sleep that's causing the issue. It's a tough cycle. If its real tough I'd sing praise songs, now I sing them just because.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MMSMay 18, 2014 - 1:10 pm

    A FREE resource in Solano County is the free Healthier Living workshop that offers useful information for chronic disease self management. It includes chronic pain, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Certified peer leaders teach these practical, self-help classes. It's open to any adult with a chronic disease, their family members and caregivers at no cost. Call 707-643-1797. (The workshop was created and proven effective by Stanford University.)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalMay 18, 2014 - 1:06 pm

    Anyone that has to deal with chronic pain or the ravages of disease, should be able to choose the course of action that they believe is best for him or her. It's really about personal choice without governmental over reach.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Special Publications »

    Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service (updated 4/30/2015) and Privacy Policy (updated 4/7/2015).
    Copyright (c) 2016 McNaughton Newspapers, Inc., a family-owned local media company that proudly publishes the Daily Republic, Mountain Democrat, Davis Enterprise, Village Life and other community-driven publications.