All posts by joe

Living With Scoliosis

A short film about my experiences of Scoliosis. This clip shows the first time I wear my brace, getting home and shows my scars after surgery.

In August 1993 I was diagnosed with having Scoliosis. At only 13 years of age I was very scared! I was referred to the local hospital by my GP for X-rays and was told that my curve was 23 degrees. The information about Scoliosis available was very limited, though I was put in contact with the SAUK (the Scoliosis Association of the UK – an independent support group for people suffering from the condition). As if by coincidence, I had previously read a book about a girl suffering with a condition called Scoliosis and this meant that I immediately had some idea of what was being discussed. The book is:

“Deenie” by Judy Blume

available from – or

If you or your daughter are in the same position right now, I strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of this invaluable book. It’s about a young girl who is diagnosed with Scoliosis and in it she explains how she came to terms with the condition and ultimately coped with it. Having read this it helped me to understand what I had to prepare myself for.


No More secrets

Banker hopes to help others get off drugs

Kristi Metzger had it all: a job she loved as a bank vice president, loving family and friends, community activities, a house to shelter her at the end of a productive day.

And a secret.

Metzger was addicted to the prescription pain reliever Vicodin.

After 10 surgeries in 15 years in a fruitless effort to relieve chronic pain caused by endometriosis, Metzger had almost quadrupled the maximum number of Vicodin she was allowed. And to keep her secret, she had turned into a liar.

Now, after two stays in chemical dependency treatment centers, Metzger, 31, has decided to keep that secret no longer. She has begun talking to civic groups about her addiction to painkillers and the resources available.

“My point is, addiction knows no boundaries,” Metzger said. “It doesn’t matter what you do or where you come from or how smart you are. It’s a very real problem, people are struggling with it, and I want to help.”

An estimated 4.7 million Americans used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time in 2002, according to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number who used pain relievers was estimated at 2.5 million.

Studies also suggest that women are more likely than men to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, particularly narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

“More women come to me for prescription drug use than men do, but I think the drug of choice has changed,” said Janell Christenson, a registered nurse and a certified chemical dependency counselor with Avera McKennan Hospital.

“I can remember when it was Demerol that was most abused, then Percodan and Percocet. I don’t know the top one now, probably oxycodone or Vicodin.”

First there’s pain

Most addictions start out innocently, Christenson said. Generally people have an accident, injury, surgery or medical problem that causes pain and requires prescribed medication.

Three things are required for someone to become an addict, said Dr. John Hansen, supervisor of Sioux Valley Hospital’s Pain Clinic. First is a psychological or biologic predisposition; second is a substance that can produce addiction or chemical dependency, such as the painkillers known as opiates, and third is an unrestricted access to the drug.

That is why his clinic provides a highly structured environment in which the patient has no discretion in deciding to increase the dosage of their drug, Hansen said. In addition, the clinic offers a multidisciplinary approach providing physical therapy, psychology and associated physician services.

Professionals can easily recognize the difference between a person with chronic pain who is properly using opiates and one who is abusing them, Hansen said.

“People who have chronic pain who get opiates look better, their mood improves, they function more, and they look better when their pain is controlled. People who are chemically dependent, when they have unrestricted access to the meds they’re dependent on, they look worse, their behavior deteriorates, their mood can deteriorate.”

That happened to Metzger, who cut herself off from family and friends as her dependency worsened.

“My life was just constantly filled with, ‘When am I going to take my next pill?’ It got so incredibly bad (but) I thought I was hiding it well,” she said.

At a high cost

No local physician would have prescribed the number of pills she needed, but Metzger recalled something she had heard the first time she entered a substance-abuse center: Pills could be purchased online, after a quick chat with a physician.

She was amazed at how easy it was to get her Vicodin that way.

How costly was Metzger’s addiction? She has never totaled it up, but it easily cost her thousands of dollars to buy the pills online, she said.

For example, the Web site offers 120 tablets of Vicodin for $145. For Metzger, that was a four-day supply. That’s $1,015 for a four-week supply.

When she was taking eight painkillers a day, she ended up at Keystone Treatment Center. On 30 pills a day, she frantically tried to hide her problem.

But her family, particularly her uncle Ken Ness, president of the bank that employed her, knew something was wrong. He contacted Metzger’s parents and three brothers, and they staged an intervention after Thanksgiving 2005.

“They had planned for me to go to Hazelden in Center City, Minn., and I just started crying as soon as I saw them all sitting at this table, and I knew that everybody knew and I had lied to them,” she said.

After a sleepless night, Metzger’s parents drove their daughter to Hazelden.

Metzger knew what was awaiting her, since she had been through withdrawal once before. This time, with her body’s greater reliance on drugs, it was much worse.

“It was pure torture, the physical agony I went through,” Metzger said. “I was so sick, with flu-like symptoms. I was dry heaving; eventually I threw up the pills I’d taken that hadn’t gone into my system. The anxiety was worse than anything, and they couldn’t give anything until the pills were out of my system.”

Metzger lay in a bed at the clinic, her body convulsed with tremors. Staff changed her sweat-soaked sheets several times. Doctors and nurses closely monitored her that first week.

“I looked like ‘dead girl walking,’ ” Metzger says. “I was pasty white. I didn’t look like I was alive.”

Slowly, helped by a drug that reduced withdrawal symptoms, Metzger began to feel better.

Just before Christmas, she returned home. But the battle wasn’t over.

All in the attitude

Metzger’s pain had started years earlier. As a 15-year-old student at Hills-Beaver Creek High School, she was in a car accident. About the same time, she learned she had endometriosis, a painful condition in which the uterus’ lining invades the abdominal cavity.

The condition worsened during college. Eventually, an ovary and part of her fallopian tubes were removed. As the pain persisted, and it became less likely Metzger would ever be able to become pregnant, depression surfaced.

But she persisted in maintaining a positive front. She became a trust officer and vice president at First National Dakota Bank. She played piano, tennis and golf. She volunteered with Sioux Empire United Way, the Sioux Falls Community Foundation’s investment board and Kiwanis Club.

And she kept swallowing painkillers.

“I took these pills to get up, I took them during the day at work, and I took them to go to sleep, so now my life revolved around these drugs,” Metzger says.

She realized she was addicted in July 2004, after undergoing surgery. She entered the chemical dependency program at Keystone Treatment Center in Canton in October 2004.

But her attitude was wrong.

“I went there very naïve, not knowing anything about addiction, thinking that this is really a fluke that happened to me, I’m not really the addict type, I shouldn’t be here, and when I was with other alcoholics and drug addicts, there was really arrogance on my part,” she said.

That arrogance is gone. Metzger attends two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week, and she volunteers at a halfway house.

Jane Pugh of Yankton serves as Metzger’s AA sponsor.

“She has her ups and downs,” said Pugh, who agreed to let her name be used. “It’s a new lifestyle she’s learning. She’s also discovering who Kristi is.”

To help in that discovery, Metzger has left the bank. She lives with her parents, who now reside in Brandon. She can return to a career when she knows she is healthy, Metzger says. It may be in law or chemical dependency counseling.

Whatever it is, it won’t involve secrets.

“I just don’t want people to worry and be scared that this could be the end for them,” Metzger said. “There are treatment centers, there’s doctors willing to help you, there’s pastors at your church. There’s resources.”

PUBLISHED: October 6, 2006

Nutrition important in the care of patients with chronic pain

Nutrition important in the care of patients with chronic pain, and recommended they take essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) and use olive oil in cooking.

Best avoided, are inflammation-inducing fats such as corn oil and margarine.

Some patients may benefit from switching from coffee to green tea, and avoidance of any food allergens such as wheat, corn, dairy products, and red meat.

Also recommended nonpharmacologic approaches for chronic pain such as cognitive therapy and mind-body approaches — meditation and yoga — as well as exercise and physical therapy.

High-tech distractions

August 2004 issue of Scientific American describes how pain of severe burns may be eased by the ultimate in high-tech distractions, virtual reality game.

Clinical studies are showing how effective virtual reality is at fighting burn pain. In an article in Scientific American, Hoffman described how they used a special virtual reality helmet that would work in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to confirm this. The team studied five regions of the brain that are known to be associated with pain processing. “We found that all five regions showed significant reductions, and the amount of reductions during VR, the amount of reductions in pain-related brain activity, ranged from 50 percent to 97 percent,” says Hoffman. “The incoming pain signal is not even being processed during VR. There’s much less pain being processed by the brain when the person’s in VR.”

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Engadget is pointing us to the news that TV may also be something of a painkiller for kids. Basically, the researchers drew blood from a bunch of kids in various situations — and discovered that those who were watching TV found it less painful. Of course, this may not be all that surprising.

At Sea

Unique Pain, Headache, and Migraine Education Series Setting Sail

Dr. John Claude Krusz, Helen Dearman, and Teri Robert have joined forces to form Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea to provide opportunities for chronic pain, headache, and Migraine patients to learn about their conditions and management techniques. In the setting of an ocean cruise, the goal of Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea is to provide a peaceful, relaxing setting for educational seminars combined with a short vacation.

Dr. John Claude Krusz, Helen Dearman, and Teri Robert have joined forces to form Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea to provide opportunities for chronic pain, headache, and Migraine patients to learn about their conditions and management techniques. In the setting of an ocean cruise, the goal of Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea is to provide a peaceful, relaxing setting for educational seminars combined with a short vacation.

ìBy offering people a chance to learn in a relaxing atmosphere, away from the stresses of everyday life, we will be providing them with tools to go home and do more to take control of their pain issues, whatever they are. For the few days theyíre with us, they wonít have to worry about answering their phone, taking care of their house, going to work, preparing meals, or even making the bed. They can enjoy some quality relaxation time, learn, and have special time to meet and talk with other people who fully understand their situation,î Robert said.

Dearman commented, ìYou donít have to let pain stand in your way. Iíve learned how to ëtameí it and want to tell others they can too.î

The first Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea cruise is scheduled for October 12 through 16, 2006, departing from Galveston, Texas, aboard the Carnival ìFun Shipî Ecstasy. Each of the three days will include three hours of seminars on the treatment of chronic pain, headaches, and Migraine disease; coping skills; building support systems, and more.

Krusz, Dearman, and Robert will each conduct a one-hour seminar each day. Printed materials will accompany the lectures. Topics include:

– Introduction to Headache and Chronic Pain. What are the Numbers?
– Co-morbidities for Headaches, Migraines and Chronic Pain
– Pain Treatments for Different Pain Syndromes

– Pain 101
– Medications and Definitions
– Goal Setting & Monitoring

– Headaches and Migraine Disease 101
– Management and Treatment of Headaches and Migraines
– Empowerment, Disease Awareness

This Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea event is limited to the first 100 people to register to ensure the best experience for all participants. Early registration is suggested. Detailed information is available at the Pain Tamers(TM) At Sea Web site, Reservations may be made through Dianne at Academy Travel by calling 805-781-2630.

About Dr. John Claude Krusz
JOHN CLAUDE KRUSZ, MD, PhD is a prominently recognized expert in the fields of headache and Migraine treatment and pain treatment. In addition to being an outstanding clinician, he is also a researcher and author. Dr. Krusz practices at the Anodyne Headache and PainCare center in Dallas. He also offers his expertise and talents to assist with the ìAsk the Clinicianî column on About.comís Headaches and Migraine site.

About Helen Dearman
HELEN DEAERMAN knows what chronic pain feels like…she has been battling chronic pain for 27 years. Her fight against pain began in 1975 when she fell four stories from a ski lift. She broke her lumbar spine in three places; however, her spinal injury was NOT discovered or treated for 17 years. However, she did not let her pain keep her from doing the activities that she loved to do…and you don’t have to let pain stand in your way either! Helen is the founder of the National Chronic Pain Society (, an advocacy group that helps people to deal with chronic pain. She also hosts a weekly international Internet radio show PainTamers(TM) on

About Teri Robert
TERI ROBERT is a health writer and patient advocate. In 2004, she received the National Headache Foundationís ( ìPatient Partner Award.î The ìGuideî for Headaches and Migraine (, she also serves as the support advisor for MAGNUM, the National Migraine Association (, and serves on the education committee for O.U.C.H., the Organization for Understanding Cluster Headaches ( She is also the author of ìLiving Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches: What Your Doctor Doesnít Tell YouÖ That You Need To Know,î published by HarperCollins.