Ep #244: Conquering Your Fibromyalgia with Dr. Michael Lenz
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Hey, hey, hey, and welcome back to the show. I have a guest tonight, and you know how excited I get when I have a guest because I don’t have to do all the talking. So, Dr. Michael Lenz is a specialist in what I love to talk about, and that is relieving or conquering chronic pain and all of these mystery diagnoses, including fibromyalgia. So when he reached out to me, I was super excited. I went binged on his podcast, listened to some success stories, and said, “This is perfect for my audience.” So I just want to ask you a few questions and let you take the lead on this one. I would love to hear at what point in your practice did you start recognizing and hearing the same thing over and over, and then you put this together? Or did you get into the practice because you were seeing these conditions over and over? So I’d like to know from that. But first, give everyone a rundown on who you are, what you’re doing, where you’re located at.
Yeah, some Dr. Michael Lens. I wear a lot of different medical hats. I’ve been a doctor for over 27 years now. I’m a pediatrician and internist as well as a diplomat of the boards of Lifestyle Medicine and Clinical Lipidology. So I get the chance to see everybody from newborns through old age or through retirement and everything in between. And when I decided to become both an internist and pediatrician, I didn’t want to separate which age group, and I also wanted to not pick one organ system of the body. I always had this mindset of kind of a holistic approach, which I think has helped me become better at dealing with a lot of these chronic pain syndromes because they affect many different parts of the body. When I finished my residency in the late ’90s, I would read a little bit about things like fibromyalgia, but they were kind of mysteries. You’d hear about migraines and irritable bowel and these other things, and as time went on in my practice, I’d start taking care of more and more people, and you’d start to connect the dots and how these are all connected. You’d start hearing about family histories. Maybe you had terrible migraines, and your daughter’s coming in with very painful periods and maybe abdominal pain, and I’m like, “Wait, there’s something familial going on.” And these are often very frustrating patients to take care of for many people, but I always, even before I started med school, I never believed that in true hypochondria, I thought there was something going on. So that was my premise and how I approached it.
In 1992, with my first year of med school, we had this problem-based learning, and our small group of four, we had to pick a topic and understand it. Our group picked depression and got a holistic understanding of that. And it was taught by Dr. Chan, who was and still is one of the psychiatric attendings at the Medical College of Wisconsin. And we really got a chance to realize that, hey, depression’s real, and probably by then in the early ’90s, most people did agree that it didn’t just turn your mind positive. This is a real thing. And granted, a lot of encouragement can help, but there also is something to take seriously, and a lot of people will go through that during their lifetime. So I was always interested in that. My mom was a nurse and she always had a lot of compassion and caring for people who were struggling. She wasn’t formally in mental health, but always just had a compassion and caring, so I was always sensitive to that. I knew in med school I didn’t want to be a surgeon. I liked interacting with people. In my own life, I played a lot of sports, so I was always into athletics, but always wanted to be encouraging. So got into coaching when my kids were younger, and it was more about having a positive experience. Sure, everybody wants to win, but recognizing a lot of the kids in middle school weren’t even going to play in high school. So as time went on, I started learning more and more myself, teaching, and learning from experts like Dr. Daniel Claw from the University of Michigan as you start to hear more and more of the chronic pain research and the functional MRI imaging looking at how the brain processes pain differently in those who are in pain. And then continuing on, recognizing all of these dots were connected and a lot of these other coexisting conditions. And then looking at how lifestyle can be helpful. Before we went live, you were talking about how your behavior, your diet, your social connections can positively or negatively influence what’s going on. So I decided to start connecting the dots or putting this together and formulating this. And I thought many years ago, maybe I should write a book, mainly for my patients. It started as a two-page handout, then I went to a 20-page handout. Still wasn’t enough. I’d tell people, “Go see Dr. Claw’s video from the University of Michigan.” And then maybe I should start writing a book, which is a scary thing to do when you’ve never done that before. Then the pandemic hit, and I said, “Well, in Wisconsin, the governor wouldn’t let us go into state parks even. And for a time, I was like, ‘Well, when this is over, the last thing I want to do is be stuck inside reading a book when I can finally get outside.'” Writing a book, I love reading. So that accelerated me to get to that. And then when I finished the book, my wife said, “Great, you’re done, right?” And then six months later, I thought, “Well, I’ve still got more to talk about.” So I started the podcast to see if we can extend this. And by that, I’ve gotten a chance to meet really great people like yourself and bring stories of patients of mine who have done really well, but also just sharing stories of people who are just listeners and at least be validated because it can be really a challenge going through this and wanted to share an evidence-based approach just to help people as a serving others.
I love all of that. The part that got me, whenever I read on the intro, I was like, “Lifestyle medicine. I like that. I want to know more.” Those two words are what caught me, lifestyle medicine. I love energy medicine, right? I love the holistic approach. I love but lifestyle medicine. I don’t know that I’ve dug into that one. Tell me where that came from.
Well, I didn’t invent it. It’s been around for several years now, but it’s gaining wind as we are recognizing in the medical community, where can you go beyond medications to treat patients? And there are limits to the medical model. Personally, I found out in my early 30s that I had a high risk for having a lifetime risk of developing diabetes and heart disease that runs in the family.
I thought, “Hey, I’m fit, I’m healthy,” but through some advanced cholesterol testing, I found out I’m on that path. Inherited lipoprotein A, high LDL particle number, highest sensitivity C-reactive protein, all of the cards were dealt, and I had a small amount of early plaque on a calcium score on a heart scan. So I’m like, “Wow.” Went on a statin, was on a medicine called niacin, or niceman, it’s vitamin. And then around age 40, a couple of things happened. There were two big studies showing niacin didn’t help prevent heart disease like we thought it would. So I stopped, and I read the book called “The China Study,” which is looking at… My wife is a dietitian, and she was doing continuing education, and she said, “You should read this book. I think you’d find it interesting.” And I heard about Dean Ornish and plant-based eating in the past, but never really applied it. That was in the ’90s, and when I’d bring it up, people would say, “It’s too complicated. Nobody can do it. You’ve got to practically have a dietitian. I have one.” But then I started reading, and I read more and more, and then I switched to eating plant-based. And then I… A lot of that, and I… The role of exercise, avoiding risky substances, a lot of that is coaching and counseling into healthy… The role of sleep and the role of healthy social engagements and trying to help bring all of these together as actual therapies. So that I was interested in it, and then they had a certification that you can go through and decided I’m going to learn and dig deeper. So that’s kind of a quick overview of what that is, but it’s using non-medications to help support and help reverse in some cases or slow down so we can help. In many of my patients, been able to reverse diabetes, reverse heart disease, and also reverse high blood pressure. I used to be cynical when people would say, “Well, doc, I’m on these two blood pressure meds. Can I get off these? How long do I have to be on these?” And I’m like, “Well, you don’t understand. You’ll never get off those.” And now I’m like, “Well, we can reverse this and we can get off by eating a whole food plant-based diet or at least reduce the number of medications that you’re on. And then when we talk about pain, there is the role of food and diet and exercise, stress management, sleep. All of those are influenced or affect our experience. But it’s a little more complicated than taking a pill for a urinary tract infection that you’ll get better within two days or treating a simple infection or removing somebody’s appendix and they get better quickly. But it’s also fun because when somebody who has been struggling and you put on a math equation years times level of suffering kind of calculus, whatever, it’s high. And then you can reverse that. The satisfaction and to help somebody who’s been struggling so much get better is enormous and it’s so rewarding for them. A lot of times by the time I see somebody, they’ve been to people for years, been to many different doctors and are almost understood learned helplessness that there’s nothing going to get better. They’ve resigned. But maybe I heard maybe you’re a nice guy, come and see Dr. Lens and not expecting, they don’t, if they haven’t read a book or don’t know anything about me, but just said, come in. And then they often are like, why doesn’t everybody else know this? Why have I been to all these doctors and nobody else shared this? And that’s part of getting a chance to help a lot of people who may be listening or watching. Don’t live near me. They’re not in a driving, they’re a close drive and they want to connect. And hopefully more and more doctors can start to connect the dots and learn more about these things and implement them in their practice because a lot of these conditions often end up in no man’s land where your rheumatologist often may be the one classically making this diagnosis, but they’re not trained in lifestyle medicine. They don’t know all the other organ systems as well. You may go to the GI doctor who says, “Yes, you have IBS, but I don’t know how to integrate lifestyle more than here’s a handout. Try to relax. Try to be calm. Talk to your primary.” The primary sends the patient to the GI because they didn’t know how to handle them. And you end up kind of being bounced around and nobody wants to touch you and they get real nervous being around you. In your life, it was me. That was me and it was so intense and I was so frustrated and so I had all this emotional stuff going on. And I’m like, “I’m a responsible person. I open my gym every morning at 4:30 in the morning. I exercise. I take care of five kids. I run. Why is this happening?” It really was super frustrating and being bounced between that and like even our clients, they don’t know. It’s wrong. They haven’t found which Rome yet. That’s right. Like as soon as I hear, they… I’m like, “Here. Here’s that person, right? Because they’ve been to them and to them and to them and they’ve run the tests. I cannot tell you. I could give you a few pictures, but if I’d have thought back then that that’s… I would be doing what I’m doing now, I would have documented the whole thing, but I really had no idea. But the scans, the tests, like, and I when I left the medical community with all of the surgeries and the medications and I moved into the holistic world, it was almost the same thing, more tests, but supplements instead of prescriptions, and I was almost more frustrated because it was a slower process. It didn’t have all of the data that I needed. Does that make sense? So, it’s like I thought going to that, like, that was going to be it, but it’s… It’s not. It’s… And all of this, it’s the mind part, it’s the body part, it’s the medical part, it’s… It’s the 360. It’s how can we support from all perspectives? Luckily for me, I am super grateful for the rheumatologist. He… He was into yoga, like… He… He was living a holistic lifestyle. That was just my path to end up in his office, and I went back for several years. They finally kicked me out, and they were like, “You don’t have to come back.” I was like, “I know. I’m just so grateful, and I want him to see that. Like, he’s got a client that’s winning, like, someone that listened, and it worked.” And, like, I was trying to encourage this, like, keep saying what you were saying. It was so helpful, and I was like, “I still had a little part of me that was like, I don’t want to get off of the patient list in case it comes back.” And so I kept… Because I knew once
you get out for three years, you’re on this wait list, you know. And so there were so many little things like that going on that I wasn’t onto that I see now. Like, how that business model was set up and, like, oh, let me even right now. Like, I don’t know if I’d be able to get in because it’s been so long since I’ve been to a doctor. You know, that, like, I’m on the bad list. We’re not following the… I’m not following the protocol. So I have a couple of questions for you. First of all, I have clients that, well, coaches that I’ve trained who are, like, in reversing diabetes and, like, mindset, diet. Both of these have lost a hundred pounds and kept it off. Awesome. And are now coaches. And I’m really excited for them to hear it because they’re up against that resistance also. So, just like your patients show up, and it’s like, why isn’t anyone else talking about this? Well, we get that too from our end, you know, as being just the coach, you know, or, you know, whatever it is. So, it’s people in general. How many times do we have to see and hear something in order to really understand it? So, when they’re coming to you for the first time, or they’re coming to us for the first time, or the 10th time, they’re still having some doubt because what’s happening in the environment at home, what’s happening in the family for generations, and like ahead of them. Plus, what’s going on right now, what’s happening in society. All of that, it feels like all of that is against us, you know, because we’ve got a few people saying this, but we’ve got all of this, you know, the marketing, the advertising, and everything about that fun life and all the pretty foods, you know, all this, it’s all glamorized. They’re not seeing much of this. And so when you said, like, it’s kind of frustrating for the physician, you know, to come across those cases, it is just this frustrating for the patient. Oh, 100. To get better and knows better, right? So it’s like it ends up being anyway. Go ahead.
Yeah, no. And my empathy is more with patients who are going through it, obviously. Oh, yeah. You wouldn’t be doing… You would not have taken this approach if not. Like, I realized, sure. And, and honestly, the doctors don’t know what to do. No. And there’s things I don’t know how to… You know, if somebody comes in who ends up having what we think is multiple myeloma, I’m at an academic center. I have a week later. They’re in with that specialist. And obviously, we have a lot of really… We can do so much, you know. My grandfather died of multiple myeloma. Many people are cured now from that, but that’s a different kind of… That’s more of the classic medical model. We do really well with that. You know, this involves coaching, teaching, understanding, hand-holding.
And, like I share in the podcast and in the book, it’s when you… I’ve had patients who’ve read the book who have told me they’ve cried after the first four chapters because they feel validated. Because I weave the combination of patient stories with medical information, and they hopefully, many people can hear bits of their story and that can help them feel, at first, at a minimum, you’re going to feel validated that you’re not the only one going through this. And then sharing hope that when people can implement these, and I recognize at times there are big barriers to get through. Somebody’s social situation may be extreme, and in the moment, maybe hard to overcome. And have compassion where everybody’s at. I had somebody who I talk about in the book who went from extreme chronic pain issues to moderate levels. And we measure that by something called the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire score. They use it in research. And we hit this plateau where he was functional, but in the moderate range. And he was talking with a therapist who said, “Finally, you need to quit your job. The stress of working in the family business was causing this.” He quit his job, worked in a company where he’s doing hands-on delivering, not the exhaustive brain power, and the pain level dropped into the normal range. So it’s just recognizing the therapist recognized that there’s limits. So sometimes people may be in a situation of high stress. It’s all different versions, whether it’s outright abuse in relationship issues that high stress, worrying about life, and the social determinants of health. How secure do you feel and just having a house, homeless, or food and safety, and all of those things. But if they’re recognizing those are barriers, then when we don’t have those, what can we do to help you thrive and connect all of the best? And it’s a lot like, I like watching football. I use the analogy that they score a touchdown. You have to have a lot of plays, typically, to march down the field. But sometimes you get sacked or lose yards. But it’s this continual progress, and it’s a lot of times steps along the way. It’s not usually a home run. It’s like we get with medical management. But if you can understand, and a coach can help teach how all of these pieces are fitting together, and if everybody on the football team does their job, we can do it well. And if all the pieces are in the place when it comes to sleep and exercise and routine and schedule, if there are medications, the appropriate medications, why do I take them? When do I take them? If I need them, how do I take them? And then the social element, if somebody’s close support network, their spouse, family, and friends can understand that even though they don’t struggle with this, there’s the patient do, and don’t call them weird or difficult, support them and help them along the way in supporting their better healthy lifestyle that’s more conducive to that.
I have a couple of questions. I want to, like, I tend to ask my questions in a kind of weird way, and then I have to, like, reframe them because I think from two different ways. So I want to see if I can do this in a clear way. For number one, you just said, I very seldom hear about “he” with fibromyalgia. So that was interesting.
Sure. Is that, like, is it… Yeah, so we used to think that’s a great point. Glad you caught that. Very perceptive. So, you… I’m just curious, what percent of your audience do you think is more women versus men?
I’m way more… Like, I maybe have 1% men.
Okay. We have trained a male coach, and I have… Well, I should turn this around. I have way more private male clients right now. Female, but that’s fairly new. My audience is primarily female.
Sure. So we used to think… And that fibromyalgia was mainly women, majority, probably 90 or more were women. But that was based on old criteria that involved trigger point testing. It turns out… And that’s where we touch on parts of the body and we give about four kilograms of pressure and say, “Does that hurt?” And you’d have to have 11 out of 18 spots that had to be tender. It turns out those aren’t reliable. They’re not very helpful. And men often don’t have those trigger points or tender points. So when we have the new criteria, it’s about 60% are women and about 40% are men. No. Which… And I see a lot of men. I think men may be more stoic in that regard. They don’t… They may not complain, but if you ask these questions… And it’s in general. Sometimes somebody… You got a good question, though. What do you think?
I’m gonna hold it. I’m gonna… I write the whole time, so…
I find this with both men and women. And I think somebody may come to the doctor… We call it the chief complaint. “I have back pain. My stomach hurts. I have a headache problem.” And they… If they
… I think a lot of people, especially if they’ve had this for longer, if they say… And… And here’s a story of a… You think of the classic middle-aged woman who has fibromyalgia, but at a 20-year-old, patient, 19 or so, year-old patient who saw me, who said, “Well, I’m just here for… Because I’m too old for the pediatrician.” You know, so I gotta switch doctors. And, you know, luckily, you’re both just coming to see you for the… Going off to, you know, college transition, going to be in second year of college kind of thing. And the nurse will take an intake and say, “Any concerns or questions?” And then before I walk in, I can kind of… If she said, if she can share any… Make sure she’s really worried about a mole or whatever it is or some question. And she’s like, my nurse is like, “Nope, nope. Just here for a checkup.” And I go, “Oh, so any concerns?” Of course, she says no. Then I started just asking more about what’s going on, and next thing I know, she’s like, “Well, I get bloating. I get gas pain. I get cramping.” And then even before that, actually, what happened was I looked through the problem list, which is things that are listed in the past history that carry over in the electronic medical record. And I said, “Oh, it says dysmenorrhea,” which if you don’t know means painful periods medically, painful, right? And sometimes these are wrong, right? These aren’t even accurate. They might have been in by air. And I’m like, “Oh, is that correct? Is that even an issue still?” And then she started to get tearful, and she’s like, “Yeah, that’s still a problem.” And I said, “Well, from zero not to ten being, uh, excruciating, how painful are your periods?”
And she started to cry, and she said, “They’re so bad. I can’t go to school. I can’t go to work for a couple of days.” And I said, “Hmm.” I said, “Why didn’t you tell me that when I asked if there were any problems?” She said, “I’ve been having this for years.” We started talking more, and I said, “Well, a lot of people have painful periods. They have pain in other places in their body, like neck pain or headaches or back or this.” And she’s like, “I hurt everywhere, Dr. Lens. I’ve had pain since I was a kid, and I went to many different doctors, and they all said, ‘You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just relax.’ So I stopped complaining, and I didn’t want to come as some weird patient to you and tell you that I hurt everywhere, and nothing you’re going to say will change that.”
So then we got to talking more, and I said, and she just kind of randomly had picked me, didn’t know we have this. Now we’re treating some coexisting medical conditions. She has a lot more education, and she’s doing so much better. And she’s, for the first time in her life, has not had a painful period. She just has accepted she was going to have debilitating pain for a couple of days for life, just how it was, and that’s just how it was.
So, so, so, so, younger people can get it. Interestingly, the youngest symptom of a chronic pain syndrome, actually, is colic. It turns out when you look at the connection, and this is kind of bridging this pediatrician part, is, and this is a little bit weird. I’m probably the only pediatrician in the country who maybe does this, is that when I have an infant who’s clearly got colic, I’ll go, “Hey, just so you know, there’s some interesting connections. A large percentage of babies who have colic, one of the parents says restless leg syndrome. I’m just curious.” And then looking at the parents, and a lot of people who, babies who have colic, one of the parents has things like IBS or migraines. And then you start to see this connection, so trying to prevent it, which is down the road if somebody gets at age 55 and they were told like this 20-year-old, “Oh, you’re fine,” and then they have kids and they tell their daughter, “Oh, you’re fine, this is how you just have to learn.” But when they get better and they’re all those signs early, then you can implement coaching before the child can even walk and having this awareness. And then hopefully, and because I do Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, you end up coaching parents and recognizing, “Hey, you need to kind of like the reference point, you need to put on your life jacket before you try to rescue people in the ocean and put on your oxygen.” But if you can get yourself grounded, if you can support your spouse, then they can be a better parent and then you can help support your child along the way. And what are some things you can implement to help them? That’s probably at a different level you’ve never even considered before. Actually, that’s what I call, like, the 360, is to be able to see the whole thing of so much of, like, our beliefs and our habits and our behavior. You know, it’s like we don’t know life without it because we’ve been born into it or indoctrinated by it, right, or just filled with it in the environment. So how would we know that it’s not normal?
Yeah, and my dad constantly complained. Complained about pain my whole entire life. It would just be normal. Like this girl, it would just be no. It was like, it’s just the thing you live with. It’s just the hand you were dealt. And I find, speaking of generations and your dad, if any, you know, you couldn’t have binge-listened to all of them, but I integrate some history. And when we look back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I used to call these pain syndromes neurosthenia. And when the medical model became more prominent and they couldn’t have the clear evidence to support this, they didn’t have functional MRIs that look up different blood flows in the brain to pain centers, for example, that we have now in the early 2000s. They dismissed them. And then you had generations who were struggling. The author of “Gone with the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell, born in 1900, she had when we look at a retrospective historical look at her life, she had fibromyalgia, she had irritable bowel syndrome, and she had found one of the only breaks from her struggles was when she actually was creative and writing her book. But if you read her autobiography, she had a lot of caregiver fatigue. I have an episode talking about caregiver fatigue. And sometimes it’s just the reality of world wars going on, you’re taking care of your ailing parent, this is the support system back then, and that’s what you had to do. On top of that, you have a nervous system that’s different, you maybe have restless leg. She had, by all expert analysis, also had ADHD. And you have this different style nervous system. And then you start to get more and more overwhelmed and getting into the challenges of trying to live an adult life. Had a first marriage that was very trying that led of her, probably with PTSD. A whole interesting story where she kept her a revolver by under the bed stand her whole life until she found out that her ex-husband had died, who lived actually I think moved to Louisiana from Georgia. All the rebels went there 150, 100 years ago. I don’t know. Went out in the deep swamps, I don’t know. But when he died, she could relax. But you could imagine if she’s got a gun all this time, having rocks, but that’s the defense.
And then I’m going to be doing an episode coming up. John F. Kennedy was struggling with chronic pain. He had chronic pelvic pain, chronic back pain. He also had severe IBS and had the best doctors in the world. He went to Mayo Clinic, and you know, 1950s, early ’60s wasn’t able to get up-to-date help. So these are a population that’s been looked at and often frustrating. So looking at your dad, he went to doctors and didn’t get the help because I don’t know where he would have fit in relationship to when he, who guessed he was born.
I barely know when I was born. I don’t know. I was guessing there was a time where the doctors obviously are older than me, was it, they weren’t up, they didn’t have an understanding. They wasn’t likely to meet a rheumatologist who was doing yoga, who told him to help cope and manage this. And likely, you inherited that from him, some of that predisposition. Exactly. And that’s what I’m saying is that in the area that we live in, like I can only speak for here because this is where I’ve been, and I remember going to my friends’ houses in school, and just everyone that was around in my environment, older than me, they just think pain is normal, you know. And so when I started going through this and healing it myself, I couldn’t find the evidence. Does that make sense? That’s why I really clung to Louise Hay and John Sarno and like the mind-body books. Oh, what’s the one, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die,” and “The Secret Language of the Body.” Like, I’ve been into that for like 20-something years. So that was the only evidence I had, but it wasn’t real life, you know. It was trying to kind of like, I want to have a happy family, like, I want to have a great marriage, and so I would look at my clients and like, I would try to figure out how to do that. I didn’t have a mom growing up, and my dad was like trying to take care of us, he wasn’t there a lot, so I was home a lot by myself. So I didn’t have any role models. I didn’t have any evidence. I didn’t have any experience. So I would go from house to house. I’ve kind of been researching and trying to figure this out for a very long time, but I didn’t have the evidence of what I wanted or what I imagined was possible. And that’s what I see with a lot of our clients. How would they know it to be different? My favorite phrase is, “I’m willing to be surprised by what my mind has yet to experience or imagine,” because I realize it’s so limited because it only knows what it has seen. It can only project the memories or the experiences at hand. So how could I have known different, you know? And that’s a part of the compassion and empathy. It’s like, yeah, how would you have known? And just that recognition, they can start to soften, and when that resistance comes down and that awareness comes in, it’s such a magical experience, you know? Like, man, I’m not even hurting right now, and it might be the first moment where they truly felt seen, heard, and safe. Takes, and then that’s the planting the seed. Like, there’s more of that. But until you experience it, and you’re around a lot of negativity, and a lot of limitation, and a lot of, like, it’s just how it is, you know, a lot of that. So it’s like, I, like you, have a lot of empathy and compassion because I’ve been the patient, but I’ve also been the practitioner for, I’ve been in business for 27 years. I’ve been saying this for a long time. I did hair and nails. I opened the gym in 1999, or right around 2000, and I became a health coach not long after that because, uh, it was like, you’re feeling so good, why did you stop coming? I don’t understand, like, like it’s going so well, why did you stop, you know? And so, kind of like, you found coaching early on and realized, like, wait a minute, this is happening. Behavior, yeah, this needs to be addressed differently. Incorporating that, and that’s something you, it isn’t necessarily taught in med school. You learn some of that with sort of motivational interviewing, and then you learn a lot from your patients and trying to learn a lot from reading about these things and understanding how to incorporate. And it does take a long form, right, you know, it’s not a quick, here’s a simple platitude of advice and you’re going to get better. It’s, you know. So it’s an individual kind of thing, as you know. There’s no two clients that you probably work with that are the same, and everybody’s got their unique opportunities, their unique gifts and talents, and also their own unique challenges. And that is probably what makes it exciting for you and helping people, often people who, interestingly, with chronic pain often tend to be on the neurodivergence spectrum, which tends to be either out-of-box thinkers, which can be creative problem-solving. That’s a positive trait of many people who are going through this, but they can’t get it freed up. You mentioned before we went on the air, a lot of how we look at these things is a little bit. I have a Tesla electric car, and the weather is going to change in Wisconsin here in about a week. It’s going to get 30 degrees colder. And two days from now. And, but the range on the car battery drops tremendously when it gets into sub-freezing temperatures. And a lot of that is a little bit like there are things that can deplete our energy and deplete the range and make the range shorter. And having to recharge. So part of that is trying to look at what limits the number of things that are battery-draining and try to make sure we’re fueling up on things that add energy and charge. Great analogy. Two things a lot of people don’t know what are those draining. And part of it, quite honestly, like a lot of times the history is if you were in your late 30s or so, you have multiple children, it might be, “Wow, I have less time to do those things that charge up my life. I am doing the practical things of life that are energy-depleting, and I don’t have that opportunity to do those, or I don’t think I have the opportunity.” And then you can start to spiral down because the less you do, the more you get drained, the more you get drained, the less energy you have, and you can get into this downward cycle. Often, people, before they get diagnosed with these chronic pain syndromes, were managing pretty well many times. And it seems like it gets hit out of the blue. Why did it happen? Well, they were doing a lot of good things. They might have been exercising regularly, getting good sleep, all of these things. And they didn’t know they needed to
maintain those until something bad happens. You know, you can think of a patient who is doing pretty well, think of a patient who actually then was doing pretty well, but their pretty well is having headaches a lot and having kind of painful periods. And then midlife, they have an unexpected stroke, where they and they’re a very active, have an unexpected stroke where drastically by no will of their own, limits that they didn’t know they needed outdoor therapy.
Going for walks, going for hikes, being connected until the rug’s pulled out from under them, and then they have it. And sometimes it’s raising children, and suddenly you didn’t know that you needed to be regularly active every day and going to the gym every day and working out for two hours was what was normal for you. And now, if you can get 30 minutes three times a week, which is a good amount for a lot of people, but thank you, four times while you were doing it, relaxed downward dog, you know, it’s like, and trying to meditate. These are great contests. I love that you’re saying that because it’s like you don’t know when you say you, the rug’s being pulled out. It’s like you didn’t know until you had the contrast, but you didn’t know until you didn’t know, right? Like you kind of, it’s so fascinating. That is what I kept seeing with what was going on in the gym. And of course, like, I’m a new business. Like, this is a new business for me. And whenever they stop coming, I’m like, wait a minute, no, you’ve got to keep, like, we just opened. You have to keep coming. I’ve got to figure this out. I had a couple of questions for you as far as, and you just touched on it, and it’s not necessarily that something happens with them, but it could be the loss of a parent. It could be the, you know, something with the spouse or the kid, or, you know, anything that happens with anyone else that just kind of knocks you out of that routine. And you just aren’t giving the credit or realizing how that routine was keeping you above, but you were barely above, and it just kind of takes you under. So this brings me to the question I had for you from the beginning, which was about, we kind of touched on depression. I wanted to talk, like, unresolved trauma and how do you see that playing into this when they’ve just kind of, like, have this, they just kind of push these things kind of under, and they’re getting by, and then there’s the big thing that happens.
So it’s interesting, and kind of the cause and effect or association causation, all of these. So it turns out that many people who have chronic pain tend to be more on the neurodivergent spectrum, many people. And by no means willing this to happen, not wanting this to happen, but tend to be more targets, if you want to call that, for receiving high-stress behavior. And there may be, for lots of different reasons for that. But the studies confirm that they’re more likely to have had this. And if you all, and part of that can be higher rates of ADHD, higher rates of neurodivergent autism spectrum, and navigating these things. And sometimes they can be trying to navigate and avoid those situations. Sometimes it’s putting yourself into bad situations where you, if you would have had more forethought. But did I do that? Why was I in that situation? I didn’t know that it was a high risk to be going to a party when you’re drinking and somebody might take advantage of you. It might be, I didn’t pick my parents, but my dad has self-medicated his problems with drinking, and they’re taking it out maybe on you, or those kind of things. So nobody wishes that. The thing about people who tend to have more chronic pain, and if you want to think about it this way, soldiers who are randomly assigned to trauma, right? They did not even make bad choices. They didn’t impulsively go to a party where they shouldn’t have and went into a bedroom where they shouldn’t have been taken advantage of. Not that you’re one to, but soldiers who are exposed to trauma randomly, roadside bombs, just randomness of war. Many, most of them don’t come back with persistent symptoms. But those who have more of a sensitive nervous system are more likely to have the on button turned on. I look at anxiety and pain as useful. They’re made by God. They’re for protective purposes. But they can also be interfering in life, right? When you have pain signals when you don’t have pain, when you have anxiety, out of proportions of the current situation. So often what we know is that’s turned in the on position, and often how do we get and resolve these things? It’s recognizing, okay, my brain does work differently. What can I do to help turn down the volume on that?
So I did a recent episode talking about using photography and walking in nature and focusing on other things. And like you say, mindfulness meditation, relaxation, connecting positively with social connection, going for a walk, having a positive connection, recharging your battery, and not allowing your body to dwell too long in the past because that can be depleting. I think I heard somewhere if you dwell in the past, it makes you depressed. If you project too much into the future, that makes you anxious. You have to learn from your lessons but try not to dwell. But at the same time, those experiences tend to be burned in a little bit longer, and it’s harder to get rid of.
Can I ask a follow-up question about this?
Just… I like to talk to the badge, by the way, so I like it to come out of your mouth. So that’s why I kind of want to dial in, because these are things that we talk about. We have calls like three, four calls a week. And so when I’m training coaches or they’re working through some of this with some of their patients, these are the questions that come up, and these are the things that we see. Do you need to pause for a moment?
No, I’m good.
We’re doing this at night, guys, just for you. It’s like after 8 o’clock. So the part about the neurodiversity and the incidents that happen… I won’t necessarily even call them trauma, but… Is there an attraction to it from the center, from the… Is this like the chicken and the egg? Is it because this has happened, you’re more likely to be diagnosed, or is it because you kind of tend to be more creative and out there, and you attract more of the dangerous things because of your actions? If you think somebody who might be on the spectrum, they may not know the social nuances on the playground, and they’re more risky. No, they’re just maybe quirkier, odd, more likely to be picked on because, and unfortunately, kids can be mean, yeah. So maybe more likely to be picked on. It doesn’t have to be risky, but just the idea that they don’t know how to interact as well. And then kids can be mean and say things from just classic bullying on the playground. Right, right from that standpoint. And they don’t understand trying to navigate this. And then some kids will be cruel, probably that small percentage of the bell curve or just want to be mean, pick on that person. When we look at predators, when we think of that in sexual things, as looking for the person who’s struggling and going after that. Not in a nice, loving way, not trying to help support somebody, but actually take advantage of
somebody. So you have some of that, that they didn’t, and because we live in an imperfect world, there are people who are going to be unfortunately seeing that in kind of like a lion going after the weak prey. Right, it’s like the weak gazelle. It’s got the body language, tells the lion, “Oh, this person is in, often, to navigate.” So that’s one. And then if they do have an experience that happens, it’s harder for them to process that as well. They’re much more likely to be hyper-responsive. So it’s, it’s, and so I don’t know if that helps explain your answer. Well, it’s more like, I think this is so fascinating and I’ve like read a lot on it and experienced it too where, like when we’re working with our clients, we’re really trying to change the subconscious dialogue. Like, let’s reframe some of this stuff from that because, like you said, spending too much time dwelling on it. I call it “addiction to healing.” So when we start taking them through this emotional processing or we start taking them through some of the subconscious work, there’s like a dopamine hit and it feels so good and you’re so… And then they want… You know, it’s kind of like that becomes a new thing. And I’m like, “Hold on.” You know, so it’s like we’re always like bouncing between being a hard ass, pardon my French, and then, you know, the compassion and empathy, and it’s like playing in between there. Because some… There comes a point where it’s almost like, “Yeah, well, you know, it was so…” And it was… No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Like, bringing them back up, because when they’re in their… When they’re in their autonomy and power and authority, they are less likely to attract. It will repel. And I think it’s so empowering to know that we can take control of some of that stuff, you know?
Yeah. Life happens. Things happen. We’re not going to stop. Like, the earthquakes and the bombs, and there… There’s some things. But when we’re talking about humans and preying on the weak and some of that stuff, like, we can take responsibility for that. Just like you are taking responsibility for educating the medical community, for educating the patient. Like, this is something that you figured out and you took responsibility for improving your world for yourself and your children, just like I have. I have five kids and 12 grandbabies. I’m not leaving this, the part that I can control, in the way that it is. Like, if I’m here, I’ve got a duty to be here. I’m gonna… I’m gonna do what I can with this time, you know? And it’s like, if… If everyone… And I don’t mean everyone like everyone, but everyone who’s listening to this, who feels compelled, who feels summoned, like I feel summoned to it.
I’m here. I gotta do it. I mean, I don’t want to sit on the beach and drink Margaritas; that’s boring. I want to do something more than that. I just want to create an impact, just like you do. You wouldn’t be where you are, and you wouldn’t have been doing it for this long, and you surely wouldn’t be in a community where there’s resistance and misunderstanding about it if you were not summoned to it, if you were not passionate about it, if it did not mean more to you than a paycheck.
Yeah, it’s trying to share this information with people and encourage them and support them along the way. You’re right, that kind of loving but not, but honest, but sharing, and that’s a hard balance where somebody’s at on the whole walk. It’s, you know, when somebody’s struggling, how much, what percent do you have in being firm and soft? And that’s what you learn over the years, probably with trying to balance. And actually, it turns a lot with listening, and I think a lot of this is engendering trust. If you’re working with clients and they’re working with theirs as well as working with my own patients, and that’s part of why I do the podcast and the book, is they can hear and read those stories and just say, “Well, these are just information, trying to share to help you understand the more you can get these clinical pearls, the more insights that you can get that can help you understand what you’re going through and help you live better.”
Yeah, well, I want to thank you for your time, and guys, I’m just going to say it, we’re going to have to shut this down. But I do want to get a little more information about how someone can work with you. They know how to find you; they’ll have your podcast they can listen to. Do you just see inpatients?
So I’m all outpatient now. I do primary care. If you’re in Wisconsin or in the area, you can come and see me. That’s probably not most people listening. I have some people that travel out of state to see me. But I do primary care, which means I see patients in a clinic. I don’t admit patients anymore to the hospital. I did that earlier in my career. It’s all outpatient, which is working with people who are dealing with chronic pain conditions but also with those who are wanting somebody who can help incorporate the best of lifestyle medicine and medical management to help them live as best as they are. I have had a patient of mine who wanted to see me because he switched his lifestyle to eating more whole food, plant-based. His prior doctor just laughed about it, didn’t know of any support with it, and his family isn’t that supportive. So it was just so refreshing to have somebody who supports this and then can understand that. And then there’s people who are really struggling and want to try to help understand what they’re going through better, and if they want to get help from somebody, I’d be happy to see them in this new system I’m at.
That you can, I have a client in Duluth, is that Minnesota?
Well, it’s right on the border. It’s about six hours north, right across the border from Wisconsin, so technically we have these virtual visits that we can do.
You’re supposed to be in the state of Wisconsin; she can drive across the river and say, “I’m in Wisconsin,” and do those visits that way. Which is kind of nice. We do a fair amount of virtual visits now for things like this where I can’t assess somebody’s asthma really well by not listening to their lungs, but a lot of these are careful listening and trying to help them.
I love to plant ideas. So, I’m just going to throw this out there and ask, do you have any sort of teachings or courses or stuff that you help people in the medical community, like your peers with? Is that on your agenda, something that you want to see more of?
I am connected with the Internal Medicine-Pediatric Residency program. I’ve been a mentor physician in a continuity clinic for the last 13 years, with a transition. I’m not doing it this year, but I’ll probably pick up. I have a medical student who shadows me and has already enjoyed the couple of half-day clinics he’s been to and learned a lot. He’s thinking about going into primary care as well or radiology, which are completely different. That’s part of why I have the book. But I can part of also why being connected with the program, I’m likely to be doing a talk with the Residency program within teaching. Also, that’s why I try to gear the book and the podcast so that it’s an intelligent discussion. If you’re a medical professional, you can say that he didn’t just give six great explanations; he gave an in-depth understanding. Some people have reported that the book is fairly technical. Part of that is because I’m trying to get both. I hope that you can have an intelligent understanding that this isn’t just a superficial pamphlet glossing over details but diving into some really interesting weeds of the science and medical science behind it. One of my biggest chapters is talking about the role of diet and the impact of pain. So, yeah, kind of, yeah, answer.
Because, like when just listening to you talk, it sounded like you are a teacher. That’s…
Oh, yeah, I love teaching, and putting together a course is an interesting thing, quite honestly. All my podcasts are somewhat like courses that are out there for free. You can get that information. I’ve thought of recruiting my high school and college daughters to come on. Let’s do this; put this on your resume, podcast editor-producer. Getting into digital marketing, this is a whole group of people who need this. I can expand and create all of these other information. But creating a catalog of certain things and putting that online. Hopefully, people now can filter. What’s nice about where my podcast is at is it’s very Evergreen. People can scan through. These are things that are going to be relevant 10 years from now. As you know, binge listening, you can do. I do longer interviews like we’re doing here, and I’ll break it into three parts because someone may have 25 minutes on their way to work or for a walk, and then they can listen next week to another episode. If you’re going for a long drive, you can listen to 30 episodes. I listened to mine on the way to Mississippi one day and started at the beginning. It’s like I literally don’t listen. I just let go and send it off to the editor. I was listening to it. I was going to visit my daughter-in-law, and I was laughing so much at some of the stuff that comes out of there. It’s actually binge-worthy. I mean, I say some kind of out-there things. It takes a few times to really understand it, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed hearing it from the other side. But I haven’t done it again since then, but I will tell you this: I was on a class today, and he was talking about how he’s hit so many millions of people with views on this new thing he’s doing. He
said, “You need to feed a hungry audience. You need to find the person who’s hungry and willing to go down the rabbit hole with you.” And there is a hunger for freedom, ease, getting out of the struggle. Giving them success stories that give their brain a dopamine hit, so they want to hear more. It’s like, I really enjoyed listening to the episodes. They’re very well done.
Thank you. It was enough education and enough story. I listened to, I don’t remember her name, but the one who wanted to run a 5K and lose weight and run the 5K.
Oh, yeah, isn’t that awesome?
Yeah, that was really cool. That was like, okay, that’s when I sent you the message to listen to a couple of them.
It was great. I’m going to put your information here.
I don’t think this is going to be the last time we talk. Yeah, you need to reach out, and I have to maybe get your story on our podcast. It’s an interesting story, and if you haven’t told it for a while on yours, it’s probably good to go down those. If you’re looking for podcast ideas because sometimes, a lot of times, people are coming on new who haven’t heard this before. Like you say, for those who are listening, you want to look at the podcast, kind of go through where should you start, and all of these, and what is fibro, how do I know I have it, and all of these, and there’s a lot of those questions answered. I still have a lot of ideas, like talking about Long Haul COVID and POTS and other things that I haven’t had. Got a series that’s coming up on the autism spectrum and all of those kinds of things, and talking about that. So, a lot of interesting things, talking to experts. It’s great. You know when you say I wear the badge, which is kind of a neat framing of things, I was like, then you get the badge, and they have to keep this world. I’ve just got a lot of experience and 100 certifications. I like to get a chance to, without doing the podcast, if I just called you up and said, “Yeah, I think you’re cool, can we just talk on Zoom?” Yeah, yeah. But now it’s like, yeah, I get a chance to talk to you and interact in a fun way and learn from your experience. And when I get a chance to have guests on, I get a chance to learn from experts and also share stories of people who, and when you listen, there are some people in May that I had who are struggling. But you know, I don’t want to come across as, “Oh, I must not be empathetic because you only have success stories when this,” and being empathetic like, “Yes, there are people who are struggling and where they’re at.” And then I can, you know, but we hopefully can understand where you’re at and then how do we move forward. That’s really interesting you said that. I remember, this is so crazy, but you said it, so I’m just going to follow it. I remember when I lost the weight, that was my fear, that they were coming to the gym, and they were like, “Well, you don’t understand because they were overweight.” So it’s exactly that. You know, it was the same thing with money. When I broke through all those money beliefs, which was a big part of my chronic pain, you know where all of what was coming from is there. I just had so many limitations. When I broke through that, then again, the same thing happened, like, “Oh, because I have the money, because I have the resources, I don’t understand.” I’m like, “Boo, I was big, fat, pregnant, homeless, with no baby daddy, sleeping in a car in my dad’s driveway. Not buying it.” You know? And so you’re right. Sometimes we need… I did an interview last week, and I don’t know what happened. Me and this guy were chit-chatting, we were talking about spirituality and success. That was the point of it. It was like Christianity and making money. He asked me one question, I ended up crying, reliving this whole like where I came from. And I was like, “What did you do? You broke me.” I was like, “Coming in here, ready to let’s go make some money.” I mean, I was… I was like soft and mushy all last week because of that because I had forgotten. I forgot about the pain, I forgot about the struggle, I forgot about not wanting to live. I forgot I had just forgotten, you know? And it was when you said it, I… I mean, it was… It was a humbleness and a gratitude that just… I wasn’t crying; it was just releasing. It was like, just… There was just parts of… That went on for two or three days. Every coach called was on it. It was like, “It’s no big deal. I’m really not crying; it’s just leaving my body.” And you’re made… You human. You know, sharing that right now with all the people who maybe didn’t know that about you is that you’re a human. You’re a person who’s going through ups and downs and struggles in this imperfect world, and we’re trying to make the best out of it. Good. Like you, you get there. It’s really good. It’s harder to hold the havingness than it is to be in the problem, like, because it’s unfamiliar, you know? Anyway, that’s enough of that. I do have one credit; I have to ask you this. How far do you think we
are from bringing this holistic approach and bridging these worlds for these people and patients between the medical community and people like me?
Well, I think with the internet and that messaging, you know, we grew up where if you wanted to learn something, you went to the local library and looked up books and whatever might have been in there, whatever the librarian decided to pick. And now you can have this connection. As you probably know, people around the world listen to your podcast and watch people around the country. I’ve gotten a chance to connect with people on opposite sides of the world, from Australia to Europe and places across the country. And so, I think getting the message out and trying to help share this information, I think hopefully more and more people can be encouraged. And I think that’s a chance you probably say on your podcast, if you like this, share this with others, share it on your social because there are many people that are actually suffering in silence that you would not even know. Like you mentioned going to church and you may go, “Oh, how’s it going?” “Oh, good, actually.” “I don’t want to tell you because you’ll think I’m a whiner.” And, “Oh, that’s her.” And then, and yet, well, here’s something, consider listening to this. And sometimes that’s kind of a sideways approach, like ELF. And I will say that I hear this often with a patient who connects the dots. And when I’m able to help connect this holistic understanding, just that a patient yesterday who said, “You know what? There’s a friend of mine who’s really struggling. I’m pretty sure has all of this.” And then I said, “What’s… What should I say? What should I do?” And I said, “Well, say, you know, I’ve really listened to this really neat episode. You might want to consider listening to this, and maybe we can listen to it together and kind of talk about it.” And it’s sort of a sideways approach, right? Instead of smacking, it’s sort of that indirect, and have that as a conversation. So, hopefully, the third-party validation helps when it comes from someone else and it’s not just us throwing it.
When you said that, it reminded me of Steve Ozanich. So he was a patient of Dr. John Sarno’s, and he wrote a book called “The Great Pain Deception.” It’s a huge book. And Steve would just get on conversations with people and just talk, just get on the phone and just talk and let me just leave. It was fast. I’ve had quite a few hours with him because we had this in common. And really, sometimes it is just like what was leaving my body. It just needs a place to leave. And when they can experience that release, there’s no more secondary gain because they’ve been heard. They got the attention. They’ve been acknowledged. Well, it was great talking with you. I’ll put your links below. And maybe we can do a part two another time.
Thanks for listening to this episode of More Than Mindset.