In a previous post, I mentioned a few severe pain conditions that you don’t want to have. One of them was RSD-CRPS, which causes terrible constant pain due to your  nervous system spiraling out of control . Back in 2009, I ran across Maria Mooney’s blog, and was astounded by her vim and vigor in the presence of a totally sucky disease. From 2009-2012, her positive attitude as well as diet and lifestyle experiments have netted substantial benefits for pain control. Let’s find out more, shall we?

Maria, can you tell us what inspired you to start blogging and give us a bit of background about yourself?

My inspiration to begin blogging stemmed from a health crisis. At the age of 23 years old, just as I was accepted into a Master’s program, I was diagnosed with a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (RSD/CRPS), a condition that is characterized by a nervous system that receives normal stimuli as excruciatingly painful experiences. As a former athlete, the threat of disability was and has been particularly menacing, especially when traditional medical professionals suggested I set down my goals and apply for disability.  I flirted with unsuccessful allopathic medical treatments for several years  before I settled into a holistic lifestyle of raw veganism, yoga, meditation, and stress management. With these techniques, I have slowed and even reversed the progression of the disease, finished a Master’s Degree, and now have my sights set on a Ph.D.

What triggered your RSD/CRPS, and how did it affect your school and work life?

The disease was triggered by a running injury to the nerves in my feet when I was running cross-country for the University of Miami. It has made and continues to make school and work life much more difficult, although I continue to excel. It requires a lot more planning and self-care now. Rest is essential to my productivity.

How do you stay so gosh darn positive?

maria1

Could a fuzzy companion help you be more positive? Here’s Maria’s doggie, “Shorter”.

I wish I had a miraculous panacea for the blues. If I told you I possessed supernatural powers to stay positive at all times, I would be deceiving your audience and myself. My ability to stay positive is a daily commitment, and on the truly difficult days, it is a minute to minute commitment. In the past, spending lengthy periods of time in mental health and spiritual counseling gave me the tools necessary to live well with a disabling condition.  When I wake up in the morning, I recommit to seeking balance and inner peace , and when those mornings are particularly trying, I allow myself to sink into my sadness and frustration, attending to the difficult feelings and waiting for them to pass. I have found peace. On occasion, I walk away from it, but I always find my way back.

A lot of PainDatabase readers eat a whole foods diet, although this can vary (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, whatever). What types of eating have you tried, and what differences have you felt?

A few weeks after my diagnosis, I transitioned to raw veganism, which is a  whole food, anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet  focusing on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I juice fruits and vegetables daily and am currently on a juice fast, where I consume nothing but fresh, homemade juices (about a gallon per day) for deep cellular detoxification. I avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and animal products because of their negative effects on the immune system and body’s inflammatory responses.

Are there any medications or supplements that you responded particularly well to or particularly poorly to?

I do take supplements but have worked with a holistic doctor to tailor them to my needs. I really recommend that. I did not respond well to any traditional medications I took, including, but not limited to, opiates, benzodiazepines, and ketamine infusions. They are palliative and not curative. I have been seeking a cure or way to manage the condition naturally. Sometimes, it isn’t possible, but it is the route I am currently taking. I am medication free and plan on staying that way.

Do you ever interact with other patients with severe pain conditions?

I have through my writings and social media but not regularly. I’ve never been to a support group because of my desire to not adopt the “sick role.” I am incredibly lucky to have enough support from my family. Support groups are wonderful resources, I just do not use them.

When someone’s pain is out of control and life is too stressful, what is the one piece of advice you’d give them?

This too shall pass. It will get better. It has to. Just hang on one more day, and if it isn’t better tomorrow, hang on for another day. Center yourself, breathe, seek out support, and ask for guidance. Look for the lesson. Every experience is an opportunity for personal growth.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What did you physically feel like on a typical bad day before, and on a typical good day now? Meaning where did it hurt, what did the hurt feel like, and when did it hurt?

On a bad day, I would have  widespread, burning neurological pain in all four limbs and beyond . I could barely walk and stand, and it was about an 8 on the pain scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst pain you could imagine). On a typical day now, the pain comes and goes depending on many variables, and it can get as low as a 3 or 4 on the pain scale. I can now do yoga and swim/pool run regularly.

Meditation is a subject near and dear to me. I gave up practicing when constant pain set in a few years ago because of the annoyance of sitting alone with pain, but just restarted. Tell me about your meditation practice so that I have a role model for this area.

My meditation practice fluctuates, as well, which is why I like yoga, moving meditation. I don’t have any role models in this area because my circumstances are so rare and individual. I try to just do what leaves me feeling better. In yoga, my role model is Tara Stiles. She suggests you “bend the rules,” which is what I love about her.

Speaking of role models…do you have any others?

My mother and father are my role models. I’ve never met more selfless, genuine, loving, kind, compassionate and empathetic individuals, and I don’t think I ever will. I work for KrisCarr.com, and Kris is also one of my role models. She is resilient, powerful yet soft, kind, vulnerable and loving. She strikes a beautiful balance. Also, any women in a powerful leadership positions traditionally held by men are true role models for me.

Thanks for the interview Maria. Any parting thoughts?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience!

Wrap-up

This interview touched on so many important subjects for pain patients. First and foremost —  it’s really easy to start thinking like a sick person , which makes you feel like it’s acceptable to veg out on the couch all weekend and eat too munch junk food. Second and…(secondmost?)– Everybody adapts to challenges differently. Some people are made to conquer huge obstacles, and some have to try really hard. But sometimes you see an example that just sticks with you, and Maria would make a great example for many pain patients due to the effort she puts forth to live a happy life.

juice

Note to self: make juice drinks of different colors, line them up and ponder their beauty

Finally, let’s talk diet. Although I generally follow a balanced, whole foods diet that includes meat, starches, fruits, and veggies…that doesn’t mean that I am sure it’s the best diet for everyone at all times. In fact, I’ve researched juice fasts similar to the one Maria is doing (which is actually a somewhat common strategy made popular by German physician Max Gerson), and there’s more I need to read. On the one hand, juice fasts conducted improperly can easily lead to malnourished and unhappy campers. On the other hand, juice fasts have a couple reasonably possible mechanisms to address chronic pain.

Number one is avoiding  food toxins and gut irritants present in processed foods, meats, and the solid matter of a plant. Number two is the continued large bolus of nutrients present in plant juices. And number three, and most intriguing, is a  very slight but important change in body pH levels  from avoiding acid-producing wheat, dairy, and meat and glugging alkaline juices instead. I’m not talking woo woo mumbo jumbo stuff here, these are real mechanisms that have not been formally studied much in trials. That being said, don’t go juice fasting for the next month on a whim. There’s a lot to think about, like protein intake, disease/drug interactions, etc. If you’re looking to make an extremely safe change right now, just cut down on foods that come in a box or with a brand-name attached.

Anyway, that’s it for this interview. If you’d like to read more about Maria’s experiences, check out her extensive and informative blog. To borrow/steal a phrase from her…Happy Healing!

7 Comments

  1. Wonderful post, down to earth and yet inspiring. Thanks, Kamal!

    Reply
    • RU a marketing arm or real? I ask because I have full body of CRPS with 4 limb atrophy, seizures & 9 of 10 daily pain. Do u have any experiences with the new concept of this horrible disease with auto immune disorders. Let’s talk if ur sincere;)

      Sincerely,

      Rich
      rich@n2iq.com

      PS. I’m the most positive guy u’ll ever meet yet this crap has my 20 ft under stung by bees while being strung by lightening…every day:(

      Reply
      • I’m a real person :)

        Okay, so first of all I really feel for you. Second of all, I only have research experience , no really experience with patients. That being said…if you have the ability to doctor shop, do it! I’ll probably write another article on CRPS in the next few weeks, and will see if there are any new treatments/theories/whatever. Please do hang in there!

        –Kamal

        Reply
      • Hi Rich,
        I would like to share with you a few things that have helped me in the CRPS battle. I am using a device called the Alpha-Stim 100 (which has more recently been replaced by the Alpha Stim M) and this is helping significantly to control the pain. I highly recommend it. Actually I first used it about 8 years ago when I had a neck injury and since it helped so much then, I thought I would try it on this new condition I have. Thankfully it has helped–not a magic bullet, but it helps.
        The other thing that I am using is a Quantum vibration platform machine (don’t know if this is still being made, but there are others). I read on the internet that some people were fearful of trying this kind of machine thinking that it would increase their pain more than it already is. I thought to myself: I have to try. It also has proven to be a great help. I use it just about 5 minutes at a time a few times a day.
        And now I am learning about diet–what foods cause inflammation and what are the foods to focus on.
        This is definitely a life-changing condition, but I hope to be able to continue to work (some days I wonder) and do as many of the activities I usually do, but often in moderation compared to my former life.
        I hope some of this helps and I wish you better days ahead.

        Reply
  2. Great article. I love Maria, been following her personal blog for years now.

    Reply
  3. This is a great article because it describes the efforts this person has made to “own her stuff” and works through it “minute by minute” of every day. There are medical treatments that are available but not pharmaceutical. Biofeedback micro current technology has been extraordinary in reversing the stress syndrome that is at the base of the pain process. We, at the Academy of Applied Electrophysiology, are targeting CRPS, and other disorders such as Fibromyalgia and even Phantom pain. Of course all pain involves the CNS and is usually self-mediating as things go back to normal in the same way as banging your thumb with a hammer. The pain is brain mediated, the cells that make up your thumb repose at an electrical potential of -24 millivolts – after the hammer incident will climb to approximately -70 millivolts, repair and go back down to -24 millivolts. In CRPS, the voltage is sustained, kept in place by the Vagus Nerve, and of course inflammation becomes part of the process but the system is not allowed to release. Vagus nerve stimulation using biofeedback closed loop neurostimulation has been the secret weapon in getting the vagus nerve to go back to a parasympathetic state – and the brain to assume its normal Alpha state as well. Another way to describe the “Alpha” state is simply “Eat, Sleep, Digest and Assimilate”. You can see a testimonial from a young 12 year old who suffered a similar incident as Maria’s. https://vimeo.com/129605176

    Reply
  4. Great post. :-)

    Reply

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