Since 2004, I have been writing about my quest and the quests of other anglers to be pain free.
Across these years, we have noticed that the life expectancy in the United States is increasing. In 2004, it was 77.34 years, increasing to 78.4 years in 2012 , and as Americans have aged, more and more of them are afflicted with chronic pain. In fact, "The Journal of Pain," which is published by the American Pain Society, reported in December of 2014 that 39 million Americans have persistent pain. A 2010 study estimated 60 percent of adults reported having lower back pain and 42 percent of them described their pain as frequent or daily and lasting more than three months. Besides lower back pain, there are millions of Americans who are cursed with neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle, and foot pain. Moreover, persistent pain causes high rates of work disability, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and an array of risks that can arise from long-term exposure to and dependency on pain medications. In addition to using painkillers, some pain-riddled folks allow a surgeon to whittle on their backs, hips, knees, shoulders, necks, and other joints. In 2012, Darrell Gaskin and Patrick Richard, who are health economists at Johns Hopkins University, estimated that Americans spend $635 billion each year on the direct and indirect costs associated with chronic pain, which is more than the annual costs associated with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Gaskin and Richard noted that individuals with moderate pain had health-care expenditures $4,516 higher than someone with no pain, and individuals with severe pain had costs $3,210 higher than those with moderate pain.
In February of 2005, In-Fisherman magazine published one of our pain-free stories, which is entitled "When Fishing Hurts." In this story, we mentioned that several professional bass anglers, such as Dion Hibdon of Versailles, Missouri, Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Alabama, and Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Arkansas, had endured shoulder surgery. Denny Brauer of Del Rio, Texas, had back surgeries. Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Arkansas, underwent surgery on his right wrist and thumb. We noted that these five anglers were not the only professional bass anglers who had undergone surgery for pain relief. And there were many others who were pondering a date with a surgeon to relieve the pain that mars their days afloat.
That 2005 story also focused on Bernie Schultz, who is a veteran professional bass angler from Gainesville, Florida. Shultz opted not to have surgery in 2003 when he became bedeviled with neck pain, which was also accompanied by some problems with his peripheral vision. An in-depth medical examination, including magnetic resonance imaging, revealed that several discs in Schultz's spine were severely herniated and calcium deposits had accumulated around them, which affected the nerves and provoked the pain. One of his doctors said that neck surgery was inevitable, but after much deliberation and consultation, Schultz came to the conclusion that neck surgery was too invasive. Therefore, he opted for physical therapy, and he began working with Marty Huegel, who is the head therapist at the ReQuest Physical Therapy Center in Gainesville, Florida. Huegel works with all the sports programs at the University of Florida.
Huegel and his staff focused on stretching and strengthening the muscles associated with Schlutz's neck and back. Schultz followed their instructions and worked in the gym nearly every day of the week for several months. Eventually, he regained nearly all of his flexibility, and most of the pain waned. To this day, Schultz says he tries to continue the regimen that Huegel and his staff created. Thus, when he can, Schultz is the gym as much as possible. But if the pain flairs up when he is on the road and competing in a tournament, he takes some ibuprofen, which tames it until he can get back into the gym.
On Jan. 7, 2013, Schultz wrote a blog entitled "Fish and feel it!" for Bassmaster's website. In this blog, he focused on the trials and tribulations that he endured and conquered. He admitted, however, that his recovery was not one hundred percent, and he has had some vexing tournament season. Nevertheless, he said that he felt good and his work ethic was robust, and "people tell me I look good for my age."
When we emailed Schultz on May 29 and asked him about his pain. He responded on May 30, and said: "I essentially deal with the pain and try not to think about it." He also mentioned that he is not the only angler in the tournament world who is battling spinal issues.
It is interesting to note that Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, posted a note on Jan. 7, 2003, in the comment section below Schultz's blog. He wrote, "Checkout out my website www.felixfishing.com. I specialize in fisherman and chronic pain." Perret, who is the proprietor of Exercise Therapy of Kansas City, has worked with my wife, Patty, and me since Feb. 14, 2006, and he has helped me become a pain-free angler and Patty a pain-free tennis player. I am 75 years old, and Patty is 74, and we spend 20 to 40 minutes every day doing a series of exercises that Perret formulates to keep our bodies properly aligned, flexible, strong, and pain-free. If a pain occasionally erupts, he provides us with a new series of exercises that will conquer that pain. In years past, we have written many words about how he has helped us.
We have also written about Perret's work with professional bass anglers, such as Kevin Hawk of Guntersville, Alabama, and Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kansas, and how he helped them to conquer the pains that plagued them and confounded their fishing abilities.
One of Perret's mantras is "proper body alignment and muscle balance counteracts the negative effect of fishing's many repetitive motions. By doing 15 to 20 minutes of the proper exercises before and after fishing, many of the pains that plague anglers could be prevented." Not only will Perret's insights help fishing guides and professional tournament anglers prolong their careers, it will help recreational anglers spend more hours afloat and catch more fish. What's more, it is different than the physical therapy routines that Bernie Schutz has been doing since 2003.
We recently met with Chatt Martin of Lawrence, Kansas, who fishes about 120 days each year as a crappie guide on the windblown waterways of Kansas. Martin is 65 years old, and until he crossed paths with Perret, pain had plagued him for years on end. On the morning of May 30, Martin spent two glee-filled hours telling me how he has worked with Perret since Dec 11, 2014, to get his body properly aligned, flexible, strong, and pain-free. And he joyfully exclaimed it has been an extremely rewarding undertaking.
Before he began working with Perret, Martin had worked for more than 20 years with chiropractors to try to alleviate the pain that incessantly erupted in his lower back, and as his lower-back pain became more severe during the last 10 years, he was in a chiropractor's office as often as five times a month. He had some acupuncture, too, and a heating pad was his constant companion. The heating pad, acupuncturists and chiropractors helped reduce the pain, but it wasn't a long-lasting cure. Eventually, the pain became so insufferable that Martin's primary-care physician and two other physicians worked with him, and their solution to his woes was a pharmaceutical one. They prescribed Hydrocod-Apap 5-325, and for two years and until Perret began his treatments, Martin was consuming two of these potent and dangerous pain-killers a day. Martin said it affected his concentration and ability to drive. In short, it is a narcotic, and he hated it. The side effectives rendered by Hydrocod-Apap 5-325 are what provoked Martin to seek Perret's help.
In addition to the pains in his lower back, Martin periodically suffered with shoulder and elbow pains, as well as a touch of hip pain.
When Perret examined Martin on Dec. 14, he showed Martin how the alignment of various parts of his body was askew. He also told him that point of the pain is not the source or cause of the pain. In short, it was his posture that was causing his woes. After that, Perret devised a series of 10 gentle exercises and stretches that addressed his posture problems. They are called E-cises, which focus on the body's proper alignment, function and balance. These exercises were created by Pete Egoscue and his staff, who perfected the concept of fixing pain by improving posture and muscle balance. And 20 years ago, Egocuse and his staff trained Perret.
During their Dec. 14 session, Perret taught Martin how to properly execute each of these exercises, noting that it was important to do them correctly and in the correct order, but if an exercise caused pain, Martin was told to skip it and proceed to the next one. He was instructed to do them every day. Perret said that the best time to do them is in the morning before the standard routines of the day unfold.
The initial 10 exercises took Martin about 21 minutes to complete. And unlike the exercises that Bernie Schultz has been doing since 2003, Martin doesn't have to go to a gym or a physical therapist's office to do them. Martin does them in his home, and he also does them in his motel room when his guiding and fishing endeavors take him long distances from his home. What's more, Perret has developed a series of exercises that Martin and other anglers can do immediate before they climb into their boats and after they get out of their boats. He also has a couple they can do while they are afloat.
Since Martin's initial meeting with Perret on Dec.11, they have had eight more hourly meetings. The first six were spaced two weeks apart, and after the sixth one, they were six weeks apart. The spacing between each visit depends on the severity of pain that a patient is enduring. At each meeting, Perret reexamined Martin's alignment and created a new series of exercises, which he taught Martin how to execute.
When Martin and I talked about his battles with pain and several of his other significant health woes, he said he woke up one morning during the last week of January and he could tell that Perret's series of exercises were working and his pain was beginning to abate. Then by his twenty-fourth week of working with Perret, he said he had become relatively pain-free, and he had developed a new sense of how to walk erectly and sit erectly in a chair. Until recently, he had been plagued with pain for so many years that he said, "I did not know what no-pain was." Moreover, he is now drug-free and his days with the heating pad are long gone. Yet during this 24-week trial, some days haven't been totally devoid of pain. One occurred when he was moving an extension ladder, and it cause pain in his hip to erupt, but Perret's exercises tamed that eruption. Another important element about Perret's method that Martin has noticed is the recovery period is quick, and it is long lasting. After a long day of fishing, the muscles in back and shoulders are tight, but not riddled with pain, and by executing a series of exercises, that tightness diminishes. But the pain in his lower back, shoulder, and elbow, which used to adversely affect his fishing, has disappeared.
Two of Martin's fishing friends, who have been battling pain for years on end, have witnessed his ascension into the world of pain-free angling, and they are now working with Perret.
Martin says the only drawback to the Travis' method is that it takes 20 or more minutes out of every morning, but in his mind, the chore of completing those exercises is better than enduring the uncertainty and trauma of surgery or worrying about the side effects of drug therapy. Another hitch is that they are not covered by medical insurance.
Concerning the cost Perret's therapy, he says it is specific to each individual. Therefore, it can vary from $125 a session to as much as $900 for individuals who need extra help, but those $900 cases are extremely rare. He provides a free evaluation to determine what is needed to help each person to attain proper body alignment, flexibility, strength, and not to be plague with pain. He also has online service for clients who cannot travel to see him. Through his online service, he has helped clients Korea, San Diego, Pennsylvania and Canada. Depending on the issues and the time involved in working with each client, the cost can range from $75 to $750.
(1) Here are 11 links to more information about pain-free fishing and Travis Perret:
(2) In addition to working with Perret to prevent chronic pain from afflicting our joints, Patty and I eat the high-nutrient diet prescribed in Dr. Joel Fuhrman's "3 Steps to Incredible Health." His diet has allowed us to become healthier as we have aged. His diet also helps to stem joint inflammation that will cause pain. For more information about Fuhrman's observations about the food we should and should not eat, see his website at this link: http://www.drfuhrman.com/ .
(3) Here is the link to Bernie Schultz's 2013 blog: http://www.bassmaster.com/blog/fish-and-feel-fit.