Kimberly Archie was 9 years old the day she was riding in a camper that was hit by a drunk driver. She flew 30 feet from the vehicle and woke up from a coma later that day without a single broken bone; doctors called it a miracle. But the accident set off a lifetime of pain due to her traumatic brain injury and complications from it. "At the worst of it, my pain was so severe that it interfered with most aspects of life," says Kimberly, now 46. "I couldn't run or wear heels, and my sex life was almost nonexistent." Over the years, she attempted various remedies and saw countless doctors, with no success and much frustration. But in 2004, at the peak of her pain, Kimberly at last got on the path to recovery.

1989–2004
Within a few years of high school graduation, Kimberly developed headaches and sciatic pain. She started gaining weight, sleeping less and eating unhealthily. As she gradually put on 75 pounds, she saw orthopedists, physical therapists, psychiatrists and pain specialists. "I tried hypnosis and psychoanalysis, and was prescribed pharmaceuticals that never worked," she says. "Every treatment was just a Band-Aid."
Pain level: Grew to 8 to 10+

2004
Kimberly read that craniosacral therapy, a form of bodywork intended to improve central nervous system function, helped ease chronic pain. During treatment, her therapist noticed how lopsided her gait was and suggested she see a chiropractor: "There was a lot of cracking and popping!" says Kimberly. Some sessions offered days of relief; other times it lasted only as long as the walk back to her car.
Pain level: Fluctuated from 5 to 10

2008
Kimberly hadn't had a good night's rest in years, so she sought out a pain management doctor. "I'd been prescribed sleep aids before, but always woke up groggy. Yet the thing that ended up working was an over-the-counter medicine. My doctor closely supervised me as I took it, and finally I was able to not only get some sleep, but also wake up rested."
Pain level: 4 to 7

Summer 2011
Kimberly took a hard look at her diet. She cut out sugar and chemicals, replacing them with "clean" foods: fruits and vegetables, meat without antibiotics or hormones. She lost 40 of the extra 75 pounds in about three months. "My headaches stopped, and the pain in my hips and neck went away," she says. "Of course I'd known losing weight would help, but until my pain was under control, I didn't have the energy to stick with a healthy diet. I used to eat just to feel better."
Pain level: 2.5

Fall 2011
Kimberly began exercising. "The first time I tried an elliptical, I could do only seven minutes. The next day, I stayed on for 25." Ultimately, she did 100 miles on the machine in 90 days and lost another 25 pounds. "Looking back, I realize that treatments like physical therapy never could have worked. I was too overweight and unhealthy to reap the benefits. Once I started losing weight, I had the stamina to actually take care of myself."
Pain level: 0

Today
Kimberly exercises regularly, is rarely sick, no longer needs sleep meds and can finally wear heels. She has mild discomfort once every few months—on her worst days, the pain is a level 3. "My message of hope to those who suffer with long-term ailments is never give up," she says. "Don't overlook the role food and sleep might play, and don't feel like you have to choose just one medical philosophy—look for what works for you."

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