My dear friend Hogan Gorman was a patient first. She wrote a one-woman show called Hot Cripple about her journey which then became the book.  Hogan turns a tragedy into an inspiring story with her wonderful sense of humor. It’s a great read.

I had no idea she would write about me when I asked her to write a guest article. I really just wanted to share her story.

Pain is something I know a lot about, but managing pain is something that took me years to learn. In 2004 I was hit by a car going 40 MPH crossing a New York City street. The accident left me with: a head injury, five herniated discs between my neck and lower back, two torn ligaments in my right knee, and a chunk off the back of my knee cap. For over two years I went the western medicine route, and had more doctors than an eighty year old. My medicine cabinet looked like a pharmacy. I was so radiated by countless X-RAYS, CAT scans, and MRI’s that I probably still glow like Chernobyl. I had surgery on my knee, but thankfully I had the wherewithal to refuse the suggested surgeries on my neck and back, instead opting for the epidural steroid injections, that did nothing to alleviate my pain. It became apparent that these doctors couldn’t help me, but I was not willing to live the rest of my life in constant agony, so I began experimenting with alternatives.

These are the things that I found worked for me (in no particular order)… they are not quick fixes and require commitment, but it beats having someone carve on your spine, or taking a fist full of pills just to get through the day. And thanks to these things I am now pain free.

  1. First on the list was going to the gym (yes, that’s that place where you have a membership and only use it when your in the neighborhood and need a bathroom). I made a pact with myself to go to the gym five days a week. Now, I don’t pump iron or take high impact boot camp stuff, I mean, I don’t want to end up in a body bag. I stretch, do light cardio, and then I do core strengthening exercises on a large plastic ball. The exercises make me look like I’m humping the ball… but whatever; they strengthen my stomach which helps support my back.
  2. Pilates – on the reformer. Okay, I’m not gonna, lie the reformer looks like a device of torture, but despite the intimidating design it was created to help strengthen injured people’s core muscles in prison camps during World War 1.
  3. Vipassana meditation- Now if someone would have told me that I would go to a ten day silent meditation retreat pre-accident, I would have thought they were on crack. I can barely shut up for ten minutes, so ten days would be impossible. But guess what? I did shut up for ten days, and I liked it. Vipassana taught me to observe the pain (or as they would call it ‘sensation’) instead of drowning in it. When you quiet the mind you realize that pain is never constant, it exacerbates and remits. There are gaps, and through meditation you can learn to live in the pain free gaps.
  4. After trying acupuncture for a while my acupuncturist suggested that I should go see a non-aggressive chiropractor. Yup, this is where Lisa Kirsch comes in. The woman needs no introduction, since this is after all her blog. The first time I went to Tribeca Chiropractic I have to admit I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. I remember thinking ‘Ummm she’s barely touching me. I got hit by a car, shouldn’t she be hanging me upside down, or cracking me, or something? I’ve got some serious spinal issues.’ Oh Ye Of Little Faith. After a few months of appointments, two times a week, I was walking down the street, and something just wasn’t right, wasn’t normal, and then it hit me ‘wait, I’m not in pain’. After every appointment the pain got less and less, until one day it was gone for good.

I meet so many people that have chronic back pain. They cry to me, and whine to me about what pain they are in, and I listen with empathetic ears. “Nobody can help me. The doctor says I need surgery.” My response is always the same, “Well what are you doing to help yourself?” Usually they are doing nothing. They want to be pain free but they aren’t working at it, which is like saying you want to loose ten pounds and eating at McDonalds everyday… unless you put in the work, it’s not going to happen.

– Hogan Gorman