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My Health Journey: April 2022

By Christopher Blakeslee

This is a post from My Health Journey, an ongoing series where I document my health progress. Follow along to see, month after month,  how I implement my recovery protocol, handle stressful situations, eliminate food sensitivities, incrementally train my nervous system to handle more stress, and ultimately, how my method continues to allow me greater and greater freedom, happiness, and health!

In a continued marvelous run for my chronic neuropathic pain, April was again the best month of my recovery to date. I also found an exciting treatment for chronic pain and other chronic illnesses, which I’ll discuss below. Let’s dive in!

Objective Signs of Improvement

Resting Heart Rate Christopher Blakeslee May 2022

Even as I’ve progressed past my fifth year of recovery, thus far, I have still had very welcome and notable improvements in my health each month.

In April, my pain-free time increased again! 73.3% of my days had time without pain. I was at 64.5% last month. One glorious day mid-month was my best in over 26 years. I experienced 14 hours straight where I didn’t feel nerve pain! Usually, I get around 1-5 hours in a span without pain, so this was a big change.

A second pleasing development is that I slept all night without going to the bathroom for the last 18 days despite drinking 12-16 cups of water per day. During the past couple of years of my recovery, I used to wake up once per night to go. At my worst, I would urinate over 40 times per day, including around 4-5 at night. This is another victory over the interstitial cystitis that used to plague me!

Another sign of my continued health progress is that my resting heart rate dropped considerably in April. I averaged a rate of 62 for the month and had multiple days below 60! Along with it, there’s an increased sense of calm in my body, but without any tiredness.

I suspect this change is due to two things. First, my cardiovascular conditioning has improved from running almost daily 5ks. Second, I think it is indicative that my pain is regularly lower, and my nervous system is more at rest. I think the lesser pain is an important factor. If the 5ks were the only contributor, I would’ve expected this precipitous heart rate drop in one of the first three months of the year when I began regular 5ks early in January.

I didn’t make any significant changes to my routine this month, so I think my improvements came from simply maintaining everything that is working for me. Additionally, it is even more impressive to me that I felt this great during my busiest month of work yet that featured several new challenges and responsibilities. I look forward to sharing these new developments!

There was some new stress to deal with, but I have cultivated potent self-care practices to keep added stressors at bay. My go-to’s are doing deep breathing every day, multiple thought-based approaches, and ensuring that I get at least 7.5 hours of sleep.

Continuing to Tease my Nervous System

There was another triumph for me in the realm of diet.

I had not been able to tolerate coffee well for my first 40 years. However, I’ve wanted to include it in my diet for the neurological and health benefits that come from consumption. So I began trying to introduce it last year and deemed the process a success since I wasn’t jittery from a cup. But it wasn’t without some symptoms. On occasion, it could give me a bit of urinary urgency from one cup, and it usually would from two cups. So I devised a plan to get up to that second cup symptom-free.

With my knowledge of how the nervous system works, I aimed for a steady increase over a few months. So I devised a plan to fast from coffee on the weekends and slowly work up to two cups per day.

I know that the nervous system likes minor tweaks, as I discuss here regarding teasing pain. I have seen many symptoms alleviate when approaching them in a personalized and gradually increasing manner that keeps the body properly balanced.

To implement this approach, I set my first goal to minimize my symptoms with one cup of coffee. I began by sipping water every time I drank any coffee so that I wasn’t getting a straight caffeine high. After two weeks, I reduced the water intake by about half, and I generally still did well. Eventually, I transitioned to straight coffee drinking with the first cup.

I didn’t rigidly adhere to the process every day. For example, if I had more nerve pain than usual (feeling a 3 out of 10 instead of a 1-2), I would slow my consumption rate across as much as 90 minutes since that extra pain made me less able to handle the caffeine.

When I had no symptoms from the first cup of coffee for five days, I added a second cup and started the process over. Only this time, I would only drink water with the second cup instead of both cups.

The results were better than I expected! This month, I didn’t have any negative symptoms from drinking a couple of cups within two hours. I won’t try and add a third cup–I think two is a healthy maximum. And as I mentioned above, my bladder symptoms improved during this period!

The whole process took about three careful months. Yet again, my patience has been rewarded with progress.

Bouldering and Lifting

As is the norm for the last six months of my health updates, I saw more physical progress with bouldering and weightlifting.

I didn’t push myself nearly as much as in the past few months during my one bouldering session in April. I limbed far fewer higher-difficulty walls than I usually do. My reasoning for this was I sprained my left pinky while climbing last month as I mentioned in my last health update and wanted to make sure I didn’t reinjure it.

For the first time, I tried a black difficulty wall, which is in the V4-6 difficulty range. Unfortunately, I could only make it about 1/3rd the way up. I think I need greater lower back and leg strength to succeed on a wall of that difficulty. On top of that, some of the motions were new to me. It’ll take more training for me to get acclimated to those movements and complete a wall like that one.

That said, I still succeeded at three difficult orange V3-5 walls that tested me in new and different ways. To the side is a relatively short wall I’m particularly proud of that required a heel hook and, shortly after, standing on that same leg.

I continued my steady progression with weightlifting, a trend that’s been going on since just after Thanksgiving when I changed up some of my recovery methods. I added another 2.5-15 pounds to all of my ten exercises! Deadlift was where I saw the most significant gain.

My body weight dropped to 147.6 pounds, and I think I’m looking noticeably leaner. I’ll do another DEXA scan this summer to verify my progress.

In all, I’m pleased with my physical progress for the month.

Neubie: A Promising Option for Pain Treatment

Last of all, while doing some client work and book research, I came across a promising new modality for helping pain and bringing calm and balance to the nervous system. It is an electrical stimulation device called the Neubie from Neufit The Neubie produces tremendous results for injury rehabilitation, chronic pain, and chronic illness recovery. You can see their increasing amount of case studies here and how it has even helped one client regain the ability to move her legs after becoming paralyzed from a horseback riding accident!

The Neubie works differently than other electrical stimulation, such as TENS units. That’s because it uses DC current rather than AC current. The DC current can achieve more input stimulation to the entire nervous system than AC currents. This advantage makes it more useful and efficient for rehab and training. In addition, the DC current can activate muscles deprived of nerve supply, which AC currents cannot. The impulses from the Neubie communicate with sensory and motor neurons to activate contractile and sensory muscle fibers, resulting in the stimulation of muscle, tissue, and nerve activation. This modality also increases blood flow. All this adds up to the astounding benefits the Neubie has with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, chronic pain from neuropathy and injuries, and other autoimmune diseases.

I am no stranger to electrical stimulation. During the early parts of my disability yearsf, I used a TENS unit to no avail. I also had an Interstim unit implanted in my spine back in 2008, and unfortunately, it only made my pelvic and nerve pain worse. I had the Interstim removed after a couple of years of trying all kinds of frequency adjustments that never helped. However, I had a clfient who had a very positive experience with an Insterstim, so I think that it can be helpful in specific contexts, which led to some of my curiosity and hope about the Neubie. And as regular consumers of my content know, I’m always interested in anything from the realm of neuroscience!

I had to see the Neubie in action for myself. So I reached out to Neufit and set up a tour of the main facility in Austin, Texas, and a trial of the machine.

The Neubie Experience

The day of my visit to the Neufit clinic in Austin was an appropriate one. I was having a relatively high pain day for me after dealing with some stress and a short night of sleep. I rated it a 4 out of 10. This made an excellent opportunity to see if the Neubie could make a difference in my remaining neuropathic pain and tingling sensations.

At the clinic, the representative I worked with, Clay, took me into their rehabilitation gym for treatment. This is because they get far better results with active motion during treatment rather than lying idly. Clay explained some of the Neubie’s workings to me, including the mapping and treatment frequencies. He also shared about the successes they’ve had with treating orthopedic recovery patients, which he described as “a layup” for ease of success with Neubie. I told him that my worst nerve pain is in my shoulders and lower legs, so we targeted both areas with the Neubie.

Clay had me take my shirt off so that he could attach round, sticky electrodes to my skin. He then turned the Neubie on to map my nervous system reactions. A healthy reaction is to feel a prickly tapping sensation. Abnormal reactions are pain or feeling nothing–if you feel either of those, you could benefit from Neubie treatment. I had about eight painful spots on my torso and arms. But unfortunately, I had many areas on my back and arms where I couldn’t feel anything. This result indicates damage to the myelin sheaths surrounding my nerves. The revelation is no surprise, given the severe amount of pain I lived with for 15 years. Clay tried switching to a glove with sensors attached to get more responsiveness from me, which helped some of the unresponsive areas, but there were still many areas on my arms where I felt nothing.

Next, Clay established a baseline for sensation by slowly turning up the intensity on the Neubie to get the tapping feeling started. At the lowest setting, I couldn’t feel anything anywhere, which is normal. The Neubie has hundreds of settings to tune to your particular nervous system context. At higher levels, I felt tingling sensations throughout much of my body and involuntary muscle contractions. Some of my affected muscles started hopping and flexing. When it was at what I deemed a five out of ten, we used that as the baseline for treatment.

What Treatment Was Like

Treatment entails turning up the stimulation to a sensation of seven out of ten and doing some active movement. At first, Clay told me to point my arms out to the sides with one hand pointed palm up and the other palm down. Then I was to rotate my arms for several minutes. This motion helps to retrain the nervous system while it is getting stimulated. I suspect this helps the brain get outside of a pain neurotag, described in my article here, speeding the process of disconnecting the associations with the tag due to the intense stimulation.

After that, Clay told me to do a bear hug motion, contracting and relaxing for the next few minutes. This motion was very difficult since I was getting some pain sensations, and my muscles were actively tensing against me due to the electrical stimulation.

Then the upper body session was over. Clay turned the stimulation off. My shoulders felt a bit quieter than before and perhaps with lower pain. After such intense stimulation, it was challenging to get a precise idea of how much had changed with how different the entire area felt. The answer came later.

Next, it was time to move on to my feet. For context, the intense neuropathic burning I used to feel in my feet during my worst years and the first few years of my recovery are long gone. Thank goodness for that! It’s wonderful to wear a pair of jeans on a warm day and not get burning pain. Now all I ever get from the calves down is a tingling, tapping sensation. On this particular day, it was rather intense.

The lower extremity treatment entailed attaching leads to my feet and submerging them in water. Again, Clay activated the Neubie and brought the stimulation up until I graded it a 7 out of 10. Next, Clay had me raise my big toes while pressing the other four on each foot down and alternating the motion for several minutes. I was amazed by how I felt afterward.

It Worked!

At the end of this cycle, the changes were profound. My results with the Neubie were the complete opposite of those with the Interstim or a TENS unit. My lower legs were completely quieted down from the tapping sensations I felt before the session. The pains in my shoulders were also down to 2 out of 10, and the relief in all areas lasted the rest of the day.

I think the Neubie is a promising neuroscience treatment tool as part of a comprehensive health approach. The device fits well with my 4 Pillars method that I write about in my book and use in my health consulting and coaching of using lifestyle changes, mindset work, neuroscience techniques, and Functional Medicine to achieve the best outcomes with chronic health problems. Using the Neubie in conjunction with all the other core categories of health can achieve fantastic results.

In fact, I was told that without the other interventions for chronic illnesses that I mentioned above, the root causes of dysfunction don’t get addressed, and the healing process can’t progress even with the Neubie’s help. After all, there’s no way to put out inflammatory fires if you keep pouring gasoline on them.

You can buy a Neubie machine for home use, but it is a whopping $15,000. Neufit has installment payment options. I suggest trying to find a practitioner nearby via the site here due to the cost and since most ailments need at least 10 sessions (some need as many as 50 or more). Pricing per session depends on the provider.

I am very excited to have found this new treatment, particularly for autoimmune diseases and injuries that my clients suffer from, and perhaps for myself. If my pain doesn’t resolve with what I’m doing, I’ll pursue more Neubie sessions. I’m on a pretty great trend right now with my current protocol. It’s always wonderful to find a new way to help individuals suffering from chronic health problems!

Have a Great May!

That’s a wrap on another health update for a fine month. Thanks for reading! I hope you gained more fuel for your journey. I’ll see you all on June 1st. Hopefully, we’ll all be healthier then!

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About the author

Christopher Blakeslee is an ADAPT and national board certified health coach who recovered from a lifetime of autoimmune disease and crippling neuropathy after developing a unique, evidence-based approach to healing. Learn more about Christopher here!