• Julie Hawkins is our featured Hero of Healing
  • Ask the Fitness Expert-
    What exercises will help chronic back pain?
  • Recipe of the Month–
    Nicole's healthier chocolate chip cookies

I have chronic low-back pain that has left me unable to do many activities. I used to be very active and I am having a hard time adjusting to the limitations my pain has put on my life. My doctor has told me that exercise will ease some of the pain by strengthening my muscles. Is this true and which exercises would be the most effective? Thanks.

Hurting and Upset, USA

Dear Hurting and Upset,

I do agree with your doctor that building muscle mass would be beneficial to your overall health. Without muscle and core strength, everything naturally hurts and it is difficult to function. Since I need more information on the type of back pain ailing you in order to give proper exercise advice, I am going to assume your pain is brought on by a lack of abdominal and core strength.

Simple exercises such as walking, body weight squats, push-ups and plank holds are going to be your best options. If you are unable to do squats, modify the movement by getting up-and-down out of a chair. To do a plank hold, lie on the floor with your stomach touching the ground. Slowly raise your abdomen off the floor by holding your body up using your forearms and toes. Hold this position for 10 – 20 seconds. Rest and repeat three times.

My suggestion is to slowly progress. It is better to do too little than too much and pay for it later. Start with maybe two to five minutes on the rowing machine followed by ten-minute light circuit weight training. Some suggestions would be push-ups, sit ups, squats, and lat pulls; remember, it all depends on where you have pain and how you are feeling for that day.

Again, as I do not have your medical record in front of me, it is always wise to ask your doctor if this type of exercise is okay to do. Good luck! Please keep me posted on your success and if you have any other questions, send them to Rick at nicole hemmenway @nicole hemmenway.com.

—Rick Dyer, MS, CSCS, CPT (FIT, Los Altos, CA)

Just to make you Laugh

"Tommy Boy"

Laughter is so important to me. Even during the darkest times, I wanted to laugh. I just needed a moment in my day when I could forget about the pain and feel normal. For some reason, “Tommy Boy” does that for me. This movie is silly and humorous, but it naturally cheers me up!

What a Journey

It is mid-April and I have no idea where the time has gone! So far, this has been a very busy and exciting month for me. Besides the national release of my memoir, No, It Is NOT In My Head: The Journey of a Chronic Pain Survivor from Wheelchair to Marathon on April 6, April 20 marks seven years without morphine or other pain medications. I still cannot believe how far I have come since those dark, horrific, bedridden days. After all the hell, torment and fear, it is amazing to think I am alive and well. Every day is a blessing, and I have much to be grateful for.

I hope this newsletter finds all of you in good spirits and better health. Even though we each face different obstacles on our path to wellness, we are still connected by a common bond—to find pain relief. Because of my own experiences, I know how important it is to hold onto hope. Since the future is unknown to us, we must continue to believe in the unimaginable. We have to remember that each day we are another step closer to finding our cure. I truly believe we all have the power to make a difference. By coming together as a united team, the chronic pain community, will create awareness and grow. Together we are going to find our answers and heal.

Believing in Miracles,

Helpful Resources

Part of my goal with creating awareness and providing hope is to share helpful resources with all of you. As I went through my own ordeal, I remember searching for validation and understanding. I just wanted to know that I was not alone, and that others cared about my pain. The fantastic groups and organizations listed below definitely care about you. In fact, each of them are dedicated in their own way to making a difference in the pain community. During the next few months, I will share much more about these incredible organizations with you. Until then, please visit their sites and let me know your thoughts.

CT Pain Foundation
Empowered Patient Coalition
PainPathways Magazine
Taking Charge of Pain
Triumph Over Pain
365 pain-free days - a feel good blog for people living with chronic pain
Power of Pain
Living with RSD on Blog Talk Radio

Heroes of Healing

Heroes of Healing http://heroesofhealing.com is a free online website for caregivers and those in pain to come together to share personal stories of struggle, perseverance, triumph, despair and hope. It is a safe place to connect with others enduring the same obstacles and challenges. Although each of us is on our own journey, we believe that by uniting as a family, we can help each other grow and heal. Our mission is to support, inspire and encourage one another through the recovery process. It is our intention that the helpful pain resources and connections obtained through the Heroes of Healing community empower us to see that we can make a difference. I invite you all to join, and to tell friends and family.

While we have new discussions posted every week, this month we will be focusing on how we each make sure pain does not define us. Please join in on the discussion, as we would love to hear from you!

Nicoles Recipe of the Month

My Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

As this time of year reminds me of pies and candy, I thought I would share with you one on my family’s favorite recipes: my homemade chocolate chip cookies. Although I have changed my diet, I still enjoy baking. I find it fun to experiment with different ingredients in order to see if I can make a delicious treat that do not exacerbate my pain or stomach issues. Even though this recipes contains sugar and flour (two things I avoid in my diet), I do love them on special occasions. I hope you enjoy!


  • 1 bag of chocolate chips
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I also sometimes use spelt flour.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3-4 tbsp unsalted butter (½ stick)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract (I always make sure vanilla is the first or second ingredient in my extract; I found many companies use alcohol as the main ingredient.)
  • 2 eggs (You can just use the egg whites, if you wish.)


Preheat oven to 375. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly beat flour mixture in to the wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips before forming cookies on baking sheets. Bake 9 – 11 minutes.


facts on pain
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
-2006 National Institute of Health Statistic

Chronic pain is often defined as pain that lasts six months or longer.

More than 50 million Americans experience chronic pain that interferes with daily activities, according to the American Pain Foundation.

The American Pain Foundation describes pain as the fifth vital sign after blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine states that the annual cost of chronic pain in the United States, including healthcare.

Helpful Links to Pain Resources

Motivational Song Lyrics

This song has always uplifted my spirits. Whenever I hear it on the radio, I begin to think of family and friends who stood by me during the roughest days. It also reminds me that as a pain community, we are all here for each other … we must remember that it is okay to ‘lean on’ one another. Hugs and Healing—

Lean On Me
Lyrics by: Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me…