• Ask the Fitness Expert-
    What exercises can I do if I have widespread chronic pain?
  • Recipe of the Month–
    My Nonnie's Chicken Soup

I have chronic pain throughout my body. I have exercised minimally in the past few years, and now have severe muscle atrophy in my arms and legs.

A couple of my pain specialists have told me that working out may help decrease my pain levels. I have begun walking ten minutes a day, but I hurt all the time and am unsure what forms of exercise I should be doing.


Dear Frustrated,

I agree with your doctors. Doing some modified strength training exercises will make you stronger, which in turn will make it easier for you to do everyday tasks around the house. Even short amounts of exercise can increase endorphins and decrease pain levels.

A good start is three sets of ten modified squats, which are accomplished by getting up-and-down out of a chair. If the pain is too severe in your legs, a good arm exercise would be three sets of ten push-ups that you do either against a wall or on your knees on the floor. These simple exercises can build significant amounts of muscle if done consistently, but you must increase your sets and repetitions as the exercises become easier over time.

It is always hard to begin a new routine, and I commend you on taking this step in your recovery. Remember there will be good days and bad days, so do not get discouraged with your progress. I wish you the best.

Please keep me posted and if you have any other questions, send them to Rick at rick @nicole hemmenway.com.. Remember to speak with your doctors before beginning any new exercise routine.

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

Just to make you Laugh

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

As it is nearly time to return to school, I thought “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” would be the perfect comedy to watch!

My Thoughts

As many of you may know, September is National Pain Awareness Month. Throughout the month, various groups will be holding events to create awareness by beginning a new dialogue between patients, doctors and the medical community. Although I believe it is very important to have a month dedicated to pain awareness, I feel thirty days does not do the cause justice. With estimates that seventy-five million Americans live with some type of pain, there is much work to be done to make sure pain awareness is recognized on a national level. I am asking each of you to stand up with me and speak out this month and every month. As a united front, we can create awareness, education and bring about change!

Continue to hold onto hope and believe that anything is possible. Remember that you are never alone on your journey; and even in the midst of pain and suffering, we can find meaning. We are here to help each other by offering support, inspiration, encouragement and love. Thank you all for being my heroes.

Believing in Miracles,

THE NEED FOR INvisible Project

After reading this profound article by Dr. Michele Gargan, I had to pass it on! Please take the time to read … and feel free to send me an email with your thoughts.

Why do we need an INvisible Project to raise awareness of pain? Hasn’t everyone experienced pain at some point in their lives? If you start a conversation about your aches and pains in a social setting, you will most likely unleash a torrent of complaints about headaches, back trouble, arthritis and trick knees, with each person outdoing the other in describing the severity and persistence of his or her pain. So, pain is a universal experience, right? Not so. The type of pain presented in the INvisible Project is invasive, intractable, insistent, and truly impossible to describe to anyone who has not experienced it.

Remarkably, nearly one quarter of the population suffers from severe, chronic, incurable pain. I say remarkably because our awareness of pain as a real illness is in no way proportionate to the extent of the problem. The medical profession has only recently identified chronic pain as an illness, and doctors vary widely in their understanding of how to identify and treat serious and unrelenting pain. The psychological components of debilitating pain are also seriously misunderstood, and too often pain patients are given the message that their experience of pain is imagined or exaggerated. This is why the INvisible Project is so important. We need to raise awareness of and appreciation for the fact that pain is a real, measurable, and treatable illness that affects millions of people. We need to reach people in pain, people not in pain, and anyone who treats a person in pain.

Most of the persons chronicled in the INvisible Project, as well as countless others like them, were not initially the sort to participate in social conversations about aches and pains. In fact, they, like so many who live with unrelenting pain, were more likely to avoid drawing any attention to their situations. Years of treatment disappointments and negative societal judgment often make pain sufferers self-conscious and unwilling to expose themselves to further misunderstanding or criticism. This is how the invisibility of pain is perpetuated. Not only is the pain condition itself unseen, but also the people suffering from pain become invisible as they withdraw from social contact. The brave individuals who have shared their stories in the INvisible Project have learned the importance of helping break the circle of invisibility. They know that what is not obvious is often not acknowledged, and so they are placing their struggles and triumphs in full view in order to draw attention not to themselves but to the multidimensionality of chronic pain conditions.

The people whose stories are shared here are true pain survivors. They identify themselves not merely as pain sufferers but as people for whom pain is only one aspect of a full life. They have learned to make the distinction between pain, which is physical, and suffering, which involves the mental, emotional, and social components of pain. They strive to manage the suffering aspect of their pain through meaningful activity, satisfying relationships, a rich internal life, and a focus on what is healthy in their bodies and minds. They are role models for all of us, and they inspire us to live in generosity and hope.

—Michele Gargan, PsyD

Clinical Psychologist, Connecticut


On May 19, 2010, the Campaign to End Chronic Pain in Women was officially launched at a Capitol Hill briefing, held in coordination with the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues. The Campaign’s groundbreaking report, “Chronic Pain in Women: Neglect, Dismissal and Discrimination,” which was released at the event, offers policy recommendations that could greatly improve the lives of millions of American women, while saving the government billions of dollars in wasted healthcare costs each year.

About The Campaign to End Chronic Pain in Women:

The Campaign to End Chronic Pain in Women is an advocacy campaign fighting to end discrimination and improve care for women suffering from chronic pain. For more information, visit www.www.EndWomensPain.org. Please get involved!

INvisible Project and Heroes of Healing - Update

INvisible Project

INnvisible Project is just around the corner! Remember to visit www.invisibleproject.org to see how you can participate in this year’s event. Please help me spread the word about this inspiring and educational pain awareness fundraiser.

Heroes of Healing

I want to thank our incredible members and friends for posting new discussions and blogs. Continue to look for more updates from me (and others) this month!– www.heroesofhealing.com

Nicoles Recipe of the Month

My Nonnie's Chicken Soup

I know I already posted this meal, but it really is one of my favorites when I am not feeling well … and since I recently underwent an appendectomy (I am doing much better!), I thought it was a perfect time for me to share again!

This dish always makes me feel better. There is nothing more comforting than chicken soup, and my grandmother’s recipe is delicious. Bon appétit!


  • Whole Chicken
  • 4 stalks Celery—cut stalks in half
  • 2 handfuls of peeled Baby Carrots (4 regular carrots cut in thirds)
  • White Onion—peeled and quartered
  • Parsley—handful chopped
  • Tomato Sauce—¼ cup
  • 2 Garlic gloves—chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (Optional—1 tbsp Chicken Stock Base)


Wash and remove the fat from Chicken Fryer. Take off most of the skin and remove the liver. Place the fryer in a large pot and cover with water. Add Garlic, Sea-Salt, White Onion, Celery, Baby Carrots, parsley, and Tomato Sauce (Optional: Chicken Stock Base).

Bring to a boil, and then taste to see if broth needs more salt or chicken stock base. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir before straining vegetables in a strainer over pot. Take chicken skin & bones off. Put chicken and vegetables in a large bowl and serve.

For broth: Let set overnight in refrigerator. Skim off fat, and then warm on stove. Add more salt if necessary.


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


“Courage is reclaiming your life after a devastating event robs you of your confidence and self-esteem. It is facing tomorrow with a firm resolve to reach deep within yourself to find another strength, another talent. ... It is taking yourself to another level of your own existence where you are once again whole, productive, special...” — Catherine Britton