By Bill Walton
NCAA, NBA and Sports Broadcasting Legend
As a long-time NCAA and NBA basketball player and athlete at the highest levels, I have certainly had my share of pain and sports injuries. I have had 36 orthopedic surgeries. Both my ankles are fused. My knees, hands and wrists don’t work and now I have a fused spine. Other than that—everything is fine.
It was four and a half years ago that my life literally came to an end as my spine failed and collapsed.
After I broke my spine playing college basketball for UCLA in 1974, I fought the debilitating pain for decades. While chasing my dreams on the road to the promise land for 37 years with 200 nights a year in bad hotel beds, with low ceilings, bad chairs, too small airplanes and all the other nightmares of life on the move, my spine ultimately gave out. I could no longer move or function. I fought it for 2 years. I had no life. I was on the floor in excruciating, debilitating and unrelenting pain. I can only describe it as being submerged in a vat of scalding acid with an electrifying current running through it—and you can never get out—ever. My life was over. It was not worth living. The pain and disability were just too much. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, looking for a way to stop the pain.
In a New York Times interview last spring, I discussed my battle with chronic pain and injuries. When you’ve been where I’ve been—when you go through the stages of thinking you’re going to die, then wanting to die, then being afraid that you’re going to live, you’re never really the same again. The pain was so fierce and intense that it literally destroyed my life. When you are in such constant pain it wrecks everything, physically and emotionally.
But now I’m better. I have been able to get my life back thanks to a life-changing spinal surgery and wellness routine that keeps me going strong. I had no idea what life was like without back pain.
Because of my great fortune in climbing back to the top of the mountain on more time, it is extremely important to me that I share my experiences with others. I know firsthand how difficult it is to try to live in constant pain and with severely limited mobility. I hope that some of my experiences and lessons will help others deal with pain, particularly men who are active or athletic.
Here are some of the wellness strategies that I live by to try to help me feel great every day:
• Don’t ignore the problem – If you are constantly in pain, don’t suffer in silence, get professional help! See a doctor and get the issue properly diagnosed. There are wonderful new medical treatments and technologies that can help you. It’s not about being tough, hard work or a macho attitude, it’s about being smart and getting your full and pain free life back.
• Lean on others for support – Get support from family, friends, or others who are dealing with similar pain issues. Knowing that there are others who care or are going through a similar experience can really be comforting. The Human Touch Wellness Center is a great place to go for expert wellness tips, inspirational and personal stories from other pain sufferers, etc.
• Stay active and keep moving – Even if it’s just taking a brisk walk for 15 minutes each day, or a short workout on the treadmill, staying active is extremely important. It strengthens your muscles, boosts your endorphins and energy levels, and keeps you limber, helping to feel better and reduce pain.
• Minimize the stress – Emotional stress plays a direct and significant role in your physical wellbeing. Reduce the stress through deep breathing, daily activities, and regular relaxation. One great relaxation tool is massage therapy. Using my Human Touch® massage chair just once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes not only helps to alleviate my aches and pains, but also allows me to relax and unwind, allowing me to improve my overall health and quality of life.
• Shoot for the stars – Don’t let pain stop you from living. You can achieve your goal or dream as long as you don’t give up. Take small and realistic steps and remember that anything in life is possible!
Good luck, I’ll see you on the long hard climb back to the top.