Personal Notes About Angler Pain and Fishing

[Editor's note: In the upcoming February issue of In-Fisherman magazine, Field Editor Ned Kehde offers perspectives on dealing with angling-caused pain. Through several case studies, he shares insights on various pain-relief solutions used by many top anglers. Here, Kehde offers a glimpse with an additional case study.]

A rapid perusal of a timeworn edition of John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations reveals that words about pain and panaceas for relieving it have been rolling off the lips of mankind for centuries. In this edition, Bartlett and his succeeding editors pinpointed the literary origins of scores of well-known passages, phrases, and proverbs from ancient times into the first three decades of the 20th century. Besides being enlightened by Shakespeare and Milton, readers can find a multitude of profound insights concerning pain from a host of notable authors.

Even though there are no literary counterparts to Milton and Shakespeare writing nowadays about the vicissitudes of pain that course through the ranks of various angling circles across North America, there is plenty of pain to write about. And recently a significant number of prominent fishermen have revealed their ordeals with this nemesis and the potpourri of remedies they tested, including physical therapy, psychogenics, surgery, and exercise therapy.

Anglers who don't fish tournaments usually find a way to avoid arduous confrontations with the waves and wind. Nevertheless, scores of these anglers struggle with neck, back, and limb pain, and Mitch Looper's miseries make an excellent case study.

Looper is an ardent and talented multispecies angler from Hackett, Arkansas, who possesses a knack for catching big largemouth and smallmouth bass; his biggest largemouth weighed 14 pounds. According to Looper's best calculations, he is afloat 150 times a year, fishing from four to 10 hours an outing.

Across the years, Looper has been burdened with poor posture, aching knees, a torn rotator cuff, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and a sundry of joint aches, as well as several pain-ridden episodes with his neck and back. During one four-year spell, he spent about $40,000 visiting doctors and chiropractors and taking medication, attempting to quell a horrendous and nearly incessant pain in his upper back, but it was to no avail. Ultimately, the pain ended, and Looper contends it ended because he modified his posture and changed many of the ways he moved.

Yet, despite his conscious efforts to improve his posture and maintain his physical fitness with weight-training exercises, pain of vacillating intensities was still a frequent companion. Looper's most acute encounter with pain walloped him at the age of 41. Its intensity put him in bed on several occasions. Its severity hit such an acuteness that he could no longer tolerate it; so, he opted to go to the hospital. But since he was unable to even crawl to his car, much less travel in it, an ambulance had to be called.

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The magnitude of Looper's pain, which crossed his left buttock and down his left leg and even into his testicles, kept him from walking for seven days. Following those seven hellish days, he began to move about with the aid of a walker, and he was reliant upon the walker for several weeks.

Following a battery of X-rays, CT scans and an MRI, Looper's physicians concluded that his problem stemmed from a severely pulled and inflamed back muscle, as well as a slightly bulging disc that adversely affected a nerve. In mid-January of 2004, Looper's neurologist recommended a regimen of stretching exercises. At that time, Looper told the neurologist about a book that he recently purchased titled Pain Free: a Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue. The neurologist told Looper to do the seven exercises that Egoscue prescribes for mitigating musculoskeletal pain in the lower back.

But before Looper could begin Egoscue's lower-back exercises, he became tormented by a severe neck ache. So, he read the chapter in Egoscue's book that explains the source and remedies for neck pain. Then after he read that chapter, he spent 20 minutes executing the five exercises that Egoscue recommends for alleviating neck pain. And to Looper's pleasure and astonishment, the pain in his neck abated by the time he finished the last exercise and rose from the floor.

As recommended by Egoscue, Looper continued with the 20-minute neck routines on a daily basis until his neck was without pain for 48 hours. However, as the pain in Looper's neck vanished, his shoulder began hurting. And to eradicate that woe, he performed a daily regimen of four exercises, which eventually made his shoulders feel better.

In the midst of his bouts with neck and shoulder pain, he finally started working on his lower back, and Egoscue's procedures for curing back pain began to pay dividends, too. Upon completing his fourth week of Egoscue's exercises, Looper wrote: "My whole body feels as if it is working the way it is intended, much more naturally and easily. I intend to keep doing the exercises even after my symptoms are gone, in order to restore proper alignment and muscle function. I am in hopes that very soon I can go to the last chapter in Egoscue's book and do the general conditioning exercises in that chapter as a maintenance program to keep from getting in a bad way again." Looper also noted that Egoscue's treatment provided the quickest and safest relief from pain that he has found during his various bouts with pain across a span of 23 years.

During his recent skirmishes with pain, Looper spent a considerable amount of time pondering the effect of pain on the angling community, and he concluded that it is the greatest health problem facing serious anglers today. Since pain is affecting a significant segment of the angling community, Looper wondered if other anglers had tried Egoscue's treatments for backs, hips, knees, feet, shoulders, elbows, wrist, and hands.

Brian Bradley of San Diego, California, V.P. of Therapy Protocol of the Egoscue Method noted that "Mitch Looper is the typical Egoscue client, discovering the Pain Free book or our in-person therapy after trying everything else on the medical market. As Looper has found, retraining the body is not exceedingly difficult. Merely give the body the correct alignment stimuli and eventually the joints will realign. The result is a pain-free life and better angling."

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