Becoming Pain-Free: Ron Lev Of Reclaim Labs On How to Alleviate Chronic Pain

An interview with Maria Angelova


Don’t be a passive victim. Be active in taking control over your wellbeing.

So many people suffer from chronic pain. Often people believe that they have tried everything, and that there is no real hope for them to live pain-free. What are some things these individuals can do, to help reduce or even eliminate their pain? In this interview series, called “Becoming Pain-Free: How to Alleviate Chronic Pain” we are talking to medical professionals, pain management specialists and authors who can share their insights and strategies about how to alleviate chronic pain. As a part of this series we had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Lev, founder of Reclaim Labs.

Originally from Israel, Ron moved in 2009 to the US to pursue his MBA at MIT Sloan, and already back then, Ron was passionate about the health & wellness domain. In 2017, Inspired by his own success story of overcoming Rheumatoid Arthritis chronic pain, Ron founded Reclaim Labs with the goal of sharing his success with fellow patients.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

At the age of 17, while still in high school, I was diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) — a severe and debilitating autoimmune condition that inflicts agonizing joint pain, and, if not treated properly, can cause joint deformation and eventually disability.

Often, when one hears the word arthritis, they immediately think of elderly people, but this is not the case with RA. As with other autoimmune conditions (e.g., Crone’s, psoriasis, type I diabetes), the immune system is “overactive” and, for unknown reasons, identifies healthy tissues as foreign bodies that need to be eradicated. In the case of RA, these are healthy tissues within the joints. The result is constant inflammation that comes with tremendous pain.

In my case, it took doctors about 4 years to diagnose me, and although I had clear RA symptoms, however, no one associated arthritis with a young man, and I was kept being told that these were growing pains. When the formal diagnosis came, I got to a point where I could barely step on my feet. I can’t even start explaining what the implications of such a debilitating condition are on an adolescent.

In general, there is no cure for autoimmune conditions, but medicine treats those by manipulating the immune system. Some medications weaken the immune system all across (like low dose chemotherapy), and other, newer medications target specific proteins that are involved with the inflammation-creating process.

While nowadays, there are really good medications, back in the days, they were not as effective. The first years after my diagnosis were living hell, and I have some considerable joint damage, especially in my hands. Among those medications that help weaken the immune system are corticosteroids, known as steroids (Prednisone, Cortisone, etc.), which are given as a complementary medication to a core medication for a limited time. While steroids work like magic on reducing inflammation, and therefore the associated pain, they have detrimental effect on many systems in our bodies (high blood pressure, bone loss, spiking blood sugar levels, etc.) especially when taken long term. When I was diagnosed, I was in such a bad shape that I was put on steroids pretty much from day one.

Days turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into years, 23 years to be precise. For 23 years straight I was on steroids and, no matter what I tried, never succeeded to wean off. Every trial ended up a relapse of inflammation and pain. But six years ago, it all changed.

Around 2017, you could hear the 3-letter combination ‘CBD’ everywhere. There was huge hype around what was perceived as a panacea. Personally, having had my share of experience failing multiple types of alternative medicine and treatments, I was skeptical, but curious as well.

I began extensively researching the topic and was exposed to cannabis, or rather hemp, a plant that is an entire world of cannabinoids and other naturally occurring substances. All these can be combined and work together to interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies and connect with various cell receptors to support a healthy immune system and counter inflammation. So, I reasoned I had nothing to lose and decided to give it a shot.

But I then faced another issue — trust. With such a big hype around CBD, everyone was trying to capitalize on the trend and sell CBD related products, and mostly CBD oils. But with no regulation over the market, and many sellers who sold snake oils, I realized that there’s only one person I trust, and that’s myself. So, I went on a journey to source the highest quality raw materials and create my own blend. And I did — I created a highly potent, pristine, top-quality broad-spectrum CBD-rich hemp oil.

I began using my oil, 1ml twice daily, and within 3 weeks I was off the prednisone after 23 years straight. That was a true WOW moment for me — I reclaimed my well-deserved freedom from steroids and pain. And it then also occurred to me that I have a real opportunity here to share my success and educate fellow patients with autoimmune conditions, arthritis in general, fibromyalgia, and more. And this is how Reclaim Labs was born.

Since its inception, I was fortunate to help numerous individuals and help them reclaim their wellness. There’s nothing that fills me with more pride and satisfaction than receiving thank you notes from customers whom I helped on their path to live healthier lives. And as for me — 5 years later, I feel better than ever, and never looked back; steroids and pain became a thing of the past.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I’ll start with the bottom line — if you see an opportunity, BE BOLD!

A couple years ago, I joined an international digital health startup to lead their B2B growth in the US. At that time, COVID hit and with all that uncertainty, it was extremely challenging to close deals. Numbers weren’t looking good and the investors behind the company were losing their patience and wanted to cut their losses.

In Q1, 2022 COVID was beginning to die down a bit and physical expos and conferences were making a comeback. Attending a few such pharma conferences, I began to see an opportunity that was evolving that I knew could offer a growth engine for the company. I saw real interest and traction.

It happened to be that in one of those conferences I suddenly got an HR meeting request, and already began to hear rumors from colleagues that management decided to shut down the company’s B2B operations globally. It was clear that this HR meeting couldn’t have been a good thing… and indeed, as I feared, the company’s founder and my direct boss broke the news that they decided to pull out of the B2B business altogether.

While I completely understood their view, it was obvious that something was evolving around me as I was on the ground and actually meeting potential customers. So, I was basically let go in that call. However, instead of just accepting the fact, I decided to fight back and present my new business case and conveyed it very passionately. I also told them to let me pitch my case to the investors.

The founder was skeptical that he could convince the investors to agree to my new initiative, but, a few minutes later, called back and said that the investors were willing to hear me out. For the next two weeks I crafted out my specific strategy and projections and ended up being invited to the company’s HQ to pitch my case. I got my lifeline back and not long after, I succeeded in landing two hefty contracts with two of the top players in the industry.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A wise person once said: “I don’t have money to buy cheaply”. Well, he was right. Moreover, in my case, my decision to go the cheaper route cost me 2 precious years.

When I started my current business, I had very little budget for anything. After trying to do everything by myself, mostly all the SEO work, I realized that I don’t know enough to perform a good job and decided to hire an agency. I had two options. The first was an offshore agency and the second was a US-based agency that cost three times as much. Obviously, budget (or the absence of it) was limited and this fact made me go for the cheaper option. It didn’t feel right but I thought that things would be fine.

Well, they were not. My site’s performance and sales were not improving, and I never felt I could trust them. Unfortunately, it took me over a year to let go of them and switch to the other, more expensive, agency. And results soon started coming. With a clear strategy and KPIs in place, my business has been on a clear growth trajectory. Additionally, I’m learning a lot from them and can now confidently develop my own strategies and implementing those.

When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Well, I can split the answer into two. The first — quantitative, the second — qualitative. I’ll begin with the former.

As mentioned above, I aim to help individuals who fall into 3 groups:

  1. Those with autoimmune diseases.
  2. Those with any type of arthritis.
  3. Those who are taking steroids.

Now, let me break these down into the numbers:

  1. Autoimmune diseases — according to the NIH (National Institute of Health), autoimmunity is on the rise in the US. More specifically, on April 8th, 2020, the scientific journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, published by the American College of Rheumatology, issued an article about the rise of autoimmune diseases in the US. According to them, there’s a biomarker called antinuclear antibodies (ANA), which is the most common biomarker of autoimmunity, and it’s been constantly rising. Estimations say that roughly 8%-10% of the population suffers from an autoimmune condition.
  2. Arthritis — According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 types of arthritis. Even more astonishingly, one in every four adults in the US is affected by some form of arthritis (most commonly, osteoarthritis).
  3. People taking steroids — according to ClinCalc in 2020 roughly 20 million prescriptions for steroids were issued. In fact, that makes steroids among the top 20 most prescribed medications in the US.

So quantitatively we are talking about 20% of the population (and that’s conservatively)

But if I look at the qualitative aspect, my goal is to share my success with the populations mentioned above and empower them to actively take control of their well-being. I also see my mission somewhat as market education since many people are not yet aware of the potential of CBD/cannabis in tackling inflammation. Additionally, people have the tendency to expect an overnight miracle, but this is not the case here, especially with systemic conditions. Cannabinoids take time to interact with our bodies, and my goal is to help people be patient and give it a real chance to work for them and succeed.

Let’s jump to , main focus of this series. For the benefit of our readers, can you please tell us why you are an authority on the subject of chronic pain?

As mentioned above, chronic pain is no stranger to me, and throughout my 30+ years relationship with it I’ve gained a lot of experience in managing pain and finding solutions to living with it. We are no friends, but we have mutual respect. Additionally, I am a strong believer in the power of the community in providing support and I find myself supporting fellow-patients and sharing a lot of info and my experience.

As an anecdote, I was even requested by my doctor to take part in a program run by Weill Cornell called LEAP. This program teams up patients with young medicine students and share my patient journey and convey knowledge.

Can you please share with us a few of the most common causes of chronic pain?

That’s a very broad question and there are many possible answers. But if I’d need to point out the main causes for chronic pain I point to:

  1. Aging — degenerative skeletal changes with aging.
  2. Inflammation, including the one that is caused by autoimmune conditions (Rheumatoid Arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.).
  3. Damaged or pinched nerves.
  4. The unknown — that’s the trickiest one since not always the source of pain can be traced and people can end up carrying pain for years and years and just accepting it as a fact of life.

There are many different types of pain that people struggle with. Which specific form of pain would you like to focus on in this interview? Why that one?

For me, obviously, my focus is on joint pain, the one caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many times, people ask me to explain my condition and describe the type of pain one might experience when having RA. And here’s my take on that:

Think about it this way — There’s this regime in our bodies, and if everything works well it’s in full control. But with the case of autoimmune conditions, a rebellious group is constantly trying to overthrow the regime, or at least throw things off balance. This rebellious group, you guessed it, is the immune system.

In a way, the immune system is overactive and targets innocent parties, and this is when the messy stuff starts, namely, inflammation. While pain is reported as what bothers people the most, it’s a mere side effect, or a signal, of something wrong. With RA for instance, the pain is indicative of inflammation, and that inflammation can leave behind distraction in the form of joints deformations. In fact, if not treated, over time, joints can simply disappear and along with that range of movement. You heard right

And what that pain feels like? It’s extreme and won’t let go. That’s 24/7. Every single thing you can think of is painful, even the mere thought about moving a join hurts. Think about it — standing hurts, sitting hurts, laying down hurts, walking hurts, driving hurts, it’s pain pain pain.

Here is the main question of our interview. Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey toward becoming pain-free? Please give an example or story for each.

1 . Don’t be a passive victim. Be active in taking control over your wellbeing.

  • It’s very easy to fall into this bottomless pit of feeling like a victim. And this is a slippery slope. The feeling of being helpless in facing life can soon turn into depression, and who wants to get out of bed when under depression? Let alone go to the gym and being active. This approach will most likely accentuate your pain even further. Easier said than done but trust me — I’ve been there — cursing the moment you wake up in the morning paralyzed by pain. But the secret is to keep on moving and pushing and take control.

2 . Community is your best friend in your journey.

  • When I was diagnosed almost 30 years ago, the internet wasn’t really around, and it was basically just me and my doctor (rheumatologist). It felt so lonely and often helpless. My Dr. was the only soul on earth who could come close to understanding me. Thankfully, today the reality is very different and there are so many people out there who can potentially be your perfect companion in your journey to wellness. Just search around — there are tons of Facebook groups and online forums for pretty much anything you can imagine. You are not that special, and that’s good. There are people out there who can really understand you and share their experience and insights, and, who knows, maybe they hold the key to your recovery.

3 . Be curious.

  • Keep on exploring and learning about all the innovations out there that can help you on your journey. I see my case as a clear example of that. It did take 23 years to find my answer, but along the way, I never stopped learning and exploring for new paths to take that could possibly help me with my goal of being pain free. After all, think about it — I could have just accepted the fact that that pain and steroids are my way of life and that this was my faith. But I did not. This constant exploration along with the fact that I wasn’t willing to accept the status quo, were the main drivers that eventually led me to my success.

4 . Your doctor is not God.

  • People have the tendency to look up to their doctors and take their words as set in stone. Moreover, you should feel 100% comfortable with your doctor. If for some reason you don’t feel that your care provider is empathetic and respectful, switch one. It’s that easy. Remember, most doctors read the same research and go to the same conferences, so usually the protocol treatments they’d issue are similar, so, in a way, your chemistry with a doctor is what can differentiate traumatic doctor visits vs. ones that are comforting and provide support.

5 . And then all the regular stuff that everybody already knows.

  • Get adequate sleep and accept the fact that you probably need more sleep than others. Pain is tiring and often prevents a good night’s sleep.
  • Be active — exercise regularly. Find which exercise you like or can at least live with and get moving. Beginnings are the hardest for everyone. Researches say that it takes around three weeks to form a habit.
  • Manage your levels of stress — it’s been proven that stress can trigger or worsen pain (has to do with cortisol, the stress hormone). So, be it yoga, meditation, or mindfulness, find your preferred way of reducing stress and always be mindful about stress.
  • Be mindful of your nutrition — Eating a healthy diet can also help to manage pain. A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed foods, can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d like to see a global movement that lobbies for people with “transparent” medical conditions. What do I mean by transparent — it’s those diseases that, often, others don’t understand, and are not visible. For example, my condition, RA. For years I was trying to hide my pain, and if I wasn’t limping or dragging a leg, people around me had no idea that I was in constant pain. And when I did share my pain and named my condition, it was not uncommon for me to hear the reaction — “only old people have arthritis. Man up”.

Another example of such an under-the-radar condition is fibromyalgia, or as it was offensively named in the past before it gained formal recognition — the yuppie disease. People with Fibromyalgia are going through hell day in day out. We are talking chronic pain, debilitating fatigue, and many other symptoms that are not always visible.

My movement will form a supportive network for all those people who are treated with disbelief, whether from family, friends, caregivers and basically anyone.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

My blogging:


Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at To schedule a free consultation, click here.



Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.