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Dan Bell - On a journey to learn to manage chronic pain

  • Dan Bell was playing in his volleyball league in March 2013 when he took a dive and fell on the court, his neck whipped in the opposite direction. Though in pain, Bell didn't realize how bad his injury was until the next day at work when a case of vertigo made him fall to his knees. 

    It turned out that Bell had sustained a spinal cord impingement. To help combat the symptoms doctors fused his C5–C7 vertebrae in July 2013. After surgery, Bell completed eight weeks of aquatic therapy and physical therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley. Unfortunately, his pain from fiber neuropathy didn't subside. He describes the pain in his arms and legs as constant. "It feels like your arms and legs fell asleep, but it never goes away," he said.

    It was during a pool therapy session that Bell learned about Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program. After months of little relief from his pain, he decided he'd give it a try.

    The three-week residential program helps people like Bell learn to self-manage pain while maintaining a daily schedule. Bell took part in self-management classes and therapies such as biofeedback and mindfulness techniques as well as pool and fitness center work-outs. The program also includes medical oversight and management, including tapering of opioids and pain medications. 

    Bell learned many tools, such as meditation and yoga, to help him cope and move forward with his life. This was no small feat considering Bell was working as a production manager and had always been an active, hands-on person before his injury. 

    Even Bell's passions for car repair and home renovation became challenges because of his neuropathy. But, this hasn't stopped Bell from continuing pursuing his personal goals. Now, when the pain in his hands flares up, Bell uses tools, like meditation, that he learned to help manage through the pain. Though his pain doesn't go away completely, meditation helps relieve the flare up more quickly and becomes much more manageable. 

    According to Bell, Courage Kenny's Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program helps people learn how to deal with the physical pain but also helps them handle the emotional toll it takes. 

    Being active is one lesson Bell learned from the Chronic Pain Program. Today, he exercises in Courage Kenny's Golden Valley's warm-water pool for two hours four days a week. Staying healthy is Bell's top priority since his accident. 

    "If I don't stay in shape physically, my condition could get a whole lot worse, so my work in the pool is how I prevent that from happening."

    Despite his injury and chronic pain, Bell looks forward to completing his home renovation and spending more time with his kids and grandchildren. For Bell, Courage Kenny has been a constant resource and bright spot in his recovery, "From the front desk to the lifeguards, everyone at Courage Kenny is so friendly and helpful," he said.

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    Dan Bell