How to Develop Your Perfect Pain Plan


Our four-point program will have you feeling better fast.

Elizabeth Brogan’s pain problems started in the spring of 2000, when the horse she was riding stopped short before a jump, throwing her over the top of the animal. Brogan landed on her back, which had slammed into the jump pole. Thankfully, she hadn’t broken any bones, and with the help of anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxers, most of the pain was gone within a few weeks. Everything was fine, or so it seemed.

Five years later, Brogan had another blow to her back when she wrenched it while carrying a concrete block in the backyard of her new house. Then in 2006, she injured it again while lifting a heavy box at work. With each injury, the discomfort worsened; with the final one, it stayed put.

To find relief, Brogan, a legal assistant in Washington, D.C. at the time, saw two orthopedists, a physical therapist, a neurologist, a chiropractor and a psychologist. Yet treatments such as Vicodin and selective endoscopic discectomy, a procedure that removed damaged portions of the discs in her lower back, gave her little respite. After years of frustration and discomfort, she grew depressed, cried almost daily, and slept poorly, never able to find a position in bed that didn’t hurt.

“I was ready to give up,” she says.

But she didn’t. In December of 2007, Brogan complied when her orthopedist suggested she see pain specialist Mehul Desai, M.D., director of the George Washington University Pain Center. The center takes an interdisciplinary treatment approach that includes both traditional and alternative therapies. Brogan showed up with her inch-thick medical file and was shocked when she learned that Desai had actually read it.

“Most new doctors would toss it aside, never even looking at it, or give it just a quick glance,” she says. Even more surprising was Desai’s conclusion after reviewing her case. “He was optimistic that he could help. That was a major turning point,” she says. “I had been told so many times to just deal with it, there was nothing more anyone could do. I walked out of there with hope.”

It wasn’t long before Desai’s treatment plan started giving Brogan real relief. “I’ve improved about 50 percent since I began seeing him,” she said. Before seeing Desai, she had been a steady eight on a pain scale of one to 10. “Now, I live comfortably around the four to five range,” she said. “The pain is still constant, but less.”

Overall, Brogan feels well enough to get on the treadmill and elliptical, and strength train at her gym. Not only that, she can now sit comfortably for longer than 10 minutes to stretch. This increase in sitting tolerance was key for her at work, and also socially. “I could begin to enjoy going out to the movies, going out with friends, and playing poker, which my husband and I enjoy,” she said. “I was always one to not let my pain limit my life, so I would do these things before and just suffer with the pain. But now I can do them and have much less pain.”


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