Different approach leads to patient discontinuing opioids for pain
One brief moment last summer – one minor movement - changed life for Chasity Strawder.
Bending over to put on her shoes, she felt a “pop” in her neck. The pain was immediate and excruciating – and lasted week after week. A former school teacher, she was home schooling her kids but that and housework became difficult. It was hard for her to sit or lie down, let alone sleep.
Day and night, she remained in agony.
Chasity, 44, who lives in Willoughby with her husband and two boys, 9 and 16, had gone to an ER immediately when the pain persisted that first day. She then had appointments with a doctor in her community and was prescribed narcotics, high doses of ibuprofen, and muscle relaxants.
“They did nothing to end the pain,” she says. “They did make me really tired.”
Diagnostic tests, including an MRI, led to a diagnosis of torticollis, which is a severe muscle spasm, and fibromyalgia. She went to physical therapy, but got no relief.
“Horrific is not even a strong enough word to describe the pain I was in,” she says. A slight move might make her scream with pain.
Chasity was desperate and went online to search for help, which is how she came to UH’s website. There she found Kristin Kaelber, MD, PhD, who had recently joined the UH Connor Integrative Health Network. She is board-certified in internal medicine and pediatrics.
By then, Chasity had been suffering for nearly three months. She got an appointment within a few days.
“By the time I saw Dr. Kaelber, I was very emotional - I was crazy from the pain,” says Chasity, something with which anyone who has suffered from it long-term can understand.
“I was afraid, and my anxiety was 10-plus – because other doctors didn’t seem to believe me.”
But Dr. Kaelber did, she says. “She was empathetic and compassionate and she really listened. She said, ‘I want to help you.’”
Dr. Kaelber went over Chasity’s medical history, lifestyle habits, as well as recent lab results. What Chasity was exhibiting and trying to endure was extreme inflammation, manifested as pain and fibromyalgia. For that, Dr. Kaelber prescribed an anti-inflammatory food plan – basically plant-based, one that eliminated sugar, dairy, eggs, refined foods and meat.
“I was already a vegetarian but I also ate a lot of sugar and chips, and cheese,” says Chasity. “I told her, ‘I am willing.’ That same day, I went to the store and bought all the foods Dr. Kaelber recommended – lots of vegetables, beans, legumes and fruit. Fruit is my dessert now.”
Those foods became staples in her diet. Chasity stopped eating any inflammatory food, and decided on her own to cut out gluten, which seemed to trigger aches.
Within a few days of starting a new way of eating, the pain dramatically dissipated. Dr. Kaelber had also recommended Chasity see a chiropractor at Connor to help with her joint mobility. That appointment was 10 days after her first appointment with Dr. Kaelber.
“By then, I was off of every single one of the medications I was on, and the pain was gone,” said Chasity. “The chiropractor couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe it either. The way I was eating shut down the pain.”
It also led to a 40-pound weight loss, and an end to what Chasity calls bad moods and ‘brain fog.’ Now, she walks a few miles every day, joined by her 9-year-old son Joshua.
While pain can be a huge motivator for people to change an unhealthy lifestyle – as can pregnancy, or a diagnosis of diabetes, cancer or heart disease – it isn’t always, says Dr. Kaelber.
“Chasity was really the ideal patient,” she says, so the results came amazingly fast. “But then, she’s amazing. We can all learn from her.”
Chasity puts it another way.
“Dr. Kaelber saved my life.”