Excerpt - Aches and Gains: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Your Pain by Paul Christo, MD

Written by: Claire Cameron on September 5, 2017

Below is a free excerpt from the preface of Aches and Gains: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Your Pain by Paul Christo, MD.

The book is available as of today! You can find it at all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local indie bookstore

You can also buy from us and get a 20% discount and free shipping on the first 1-2 copies. 

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Excerpt from the preface: Aches and Gains: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Your Pain by Paul Christo, MD

Why I Wrote This Book

Although I knew I wanted to go into medicine from a young age, my journey took some interesting detours along the way. I grew up in Moraga, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Soon after entering high school, I organized a squad of Boy Scouts to feed the hungry at a soup kitchen in Oakland. Organizing this event was the last step in meeting all of the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout. I felt confident in my ability to pull it off until I learned that the shelter was expecting 300 people that day!

With a lot of organizing and delegating, I was able to purchase, prepare, and distribute food to all of those people and earn the rank of Eagle Scout. It was a tremendously moving experience for many reasons, but my heart was particularly affected by meeting the many homeless people who walked with a limp or had visible wounds on their bodies. Some had dried blood on their faces or limbs. Others winced as they sat down. Most were middle-aged and alone, but some brought their family members—young children or parents—all of whom suffered from the pain of hunger. This was more than a day of service for me. It was a window into a world of suffering that I never knew existed. 

I often wonder whether that one day as a young Scout led me to choose a life of easing pain—pain resulting from visible wounds as well as unseen sources. During the promotion ceremony, my scoutmaster said something that has stuck with me since, “Scouting is far more than fun in the outdoors. Scouting is a way of life. Scouting is growing into responsible manhood, learning to be of service to others.” My scoutmaster modeled this service as a leader and a professional. He was a cardiologist and the example he set strengthened my own personal desire to become a physician. I wanted to continue serving others, but I wanted to be able to o er those in need more than just a ladle of soup.

My college years gave me the chance to volunteer on the suicide prevention hotline for the city of South Bend, Indiana, and later serve as a summer intern-scholar on two adolescent mental health units in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Though I had set my sights on medical school, I elected to spend one year working as a chemist for a medical diagnostics company called Microgenics Corporation. The company was filled with ambitious college graduates eagerly pursuing careers in science. This time greatly enhanced my teamwork, negotiation, and organizational skills, which have served me very well as a doctor and especially as a pain specialist.

Medical school offered me the opportunity to work as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, D. C. While working in the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, I helped develop a novel approach for analyzing the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain images of schizophrenic twins. I was poised to become a neuropsychiatrist, like my mentor at the NIH. But like all medical students, I was required to rotate through various medical specialties, and my time with anesthesiologists during my fourth year of medical school changed the course of my career forever.

I was intrigued with the procedures I saw used in the operating room, such as nerve blocks, spinals, epidurals, applied physiology and pharmacology. I was amazed by the powerful pain-relieving effects of morphine given to patients intravenously during surgery. I could watch patients’ heart rates and blood pressure drop and their breathing become slower and deeper as they drifted peacefully into a state of calm. By the end of my rotation in the operating room, my focus had shifted to anesthesiology and analgesia.

My interest in pain medicine intensified during my internship. I treated many patients in the clinic for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and hypertension with reasonable success. However, I often felt helpless when treating patients suffering from chronic back pain, arthritic pain, or neuropathic pain. Few of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), that I recommended during this period were able to bring true relief to these painful conditions. I knew opioids would alleviate the pain more effectively, but I never felt comfortable prescribing them, even short-acting ones such as oxycodone (Percocet) or hydrocodone (Vicodin). Like doctors today, many physicians back then wanted to avoid opioids but really didn’t know what else to use when the usual drugs failed.

As a physician, nothing is more frustrating than watching your patients suffer and feeling like you can’t do anything about it. As I gained more clinical experience, some patients would tell me how opioids were “life-saving,” while others wanted nothing to do with them and feared addiction. Pain was everywhere and on everyone’s mind. Yet, as a new doctor, I received no formal education on pain care. Furthermore, I had no knowledge of pain-relieving injection treatments, implantable devices, neuropathic medications, cognitive behavioral therapies, or the physical restoration methods that can be so critical to alleviating chronic pain.

Even after I became a doctor, I felt ill-prepared to care for people in pain. Unfortunately, I have found that this is the norm and not the exception among healthcare professionals. Very few doctors understand the basics of pain diagnosis and treatment any better than I did as an intern. This lack of knowledge and experience on the part of physicians results in unnecessary and prolonged suffering for many patients.

Today, I treat patients who are experiencing all kinds of pain, and I educate healthcare professionals and pain sufferers all over the country about the vast array of methods available for pain control. While raising awareness about the under-treatment of pain, I have had the opportunity to lead many educational programs during regional and national pain conferences, to speak at national and international medical meetings, and to be an investigator in research projects published in peer-reviewed journals. I’ve also served on advisory committees for national pain organizations; chaired annual pain medicine conferences for pain specialists and primary care physicians; consulted for the development and expansion of a pain center in the Middle East; and mentored students interested in pain medicine and research. I’ve even served as the pain expert for the Web Chat Series on Pain Management for the Tribune newspapers and made guest appearances on various radio and television programs. 

In short, I’ve not only been able to help my own patients conquer their pain, I’ve been able to reach out to other healthcare professionals and the general public.

Educating the Healers 

My life’s work is focused on improving the lives of people in pain through clinical care, education, and clinical investigation. The education component is multifaceted, and it begins with the physician population. Despite considerable gains in diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to pain, for many people, that chronic pain alarm system just keeps blaring day and night. Until our doctors are better educated about these new advancements, countless patients will continue to suffer from treatable pain across the country and throughout the world. We always need to do more research, but we also need to make sure that clinicians can easily access the results of the research we’ve already conducted. We must continually improve clinicians’ overall knowledge of pain diagnosis and treatment to alleviate unnecessary suffering. A critical step toward this goal is empowering physicians to partner with patients along the way, to listen to them and advocate for them.

Although there is still tremendous work to do, I have seen many encouraging developments over the past several years. My position as a speaker and educator has enabled me to train physicians from a variety of medical backgrounds—such as physiatry (rehabilitation physicians), anesthesiology, neurology and rheumatology—in state-of-the-art and evidence-based diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to managing pain. Many of my trainees have expanded pain pro- grams in other academic settings or private practice settings, and some have even created new pain centers.

Medical residents who rotate through our pain treatment center are empowered to make informed decisions for pain patients in the operating room, hospital setting, or in outpatient clinics. As greater numbers of trainees complete our program, more physicians will have the skills to improve treatment for patients with pain and serve as compassionate advocates for pain education.

Educating the Public 

As gratifying as it is to educate fellow doctors and healthcare workers in cutting-edge pain management techniques, I have also learned that there is a tremendous need to educate the public. Patients who learn about the options available to them can work much more effectively with their healthcare providers to control and eliminate pain. Both policymakers and the public need to be aware that chronic pain is a legitimate medical condition. The recognition of this fact fosters greater access to pain care, reduces the stigma associated with chronic pain, and promotes effective research. When pain is treated as a legitimate concern, chronic pain patients are better able to become active participants in their own care, chronicle the effects of pain-relieving medications and procedures, and participate in multidisciplinary treatment options such as mind-body therapies and various methods of physical restoration.

The more I began to share information about pain relief and management with general audiences, the more I learned how crucial it is to dispel some extremely popular myths surrounding pain and its treatment. 

These include:


◆  Myth: Pain is not a valid medical condition.

◆  Myth: Pain medications like morphine always lead to addiction.

◆  Myth: Pain builds character and is simply a “part of life.”

◆  Myth: Healthcare professionals can easily identify and quantify a patient’s pain experience.

In addition to multiple media and public speaking appearances, I began a weekly radio talk show in 2011 that is now nationally syndicated on Sirius XM Radio. The program, called Aches and Gains, highlights compelling stories of people who have found relief, shares information about cutting-edge treatments from contributing experts, and suggests ways that people in pain can improve their daily lives. 

Several celebrities with pain, including Joe Montana, Naomi Judd, Montel Williams, the late Maya Angelou, and Jennifer Grey, have brought their own stories of success to the show. Their stories make us realize that nobody is immune to pain, but together we can overcome it.

I wrote this book as an extension of my work to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to learn about the newest and best methods for diagnosing and relieving pain. My goal is to make all the relevant medical information comprehensible for the general public so that you can understand what is going on in your body and what to do about it.

If you or a loved one suffers from poorly controlled pain, this book is about learning to live either pain free or with effective, practical pain management. This book is for anyone who currently suffers from pain and it is also for anyone who is concerned about developing pain in the future. Since pain can strike us at any stage of life, I cover ways to treat pain from infancy to old age.

While no book can properly diagnose your condition or replace your primary care doctor or local pain specialist, I have done my best to address the pain you’re feeling, explain it, and offer possibilities for relief, so that you can live the life you were meant to live.

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Want to keep reading? 

Aches and Gains: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Your Pain by Paul Christo, MD is at all major retailers, including AmazonBarnes and Noble, or your local indie bookstore

You can also buy from us and get a 20% discount and free shipping on the first 1-2 copies. 

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