Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ouch, that hurts.....

Some of you know, though many might not, that I suffer from Chronic Pain. Yes, I am one of those people. In 2006 I hurt my back at work and it really messed me up. I "healed" enough to go back to work though, got pregnant and had my daughter and thought the occasional pain flare ups were part of being older and just a fact of life from getting hurt; a couple days off, an adjustment, and I was back to feeling ok. Then in 2008 I reinjured myself.
Photo Credit:  CCPC Organization

The rest of the year and the first 2/3 of 2009 I was hurt more than I was well with several re-aggravations. It seemed every little bend, even bending over beds raised up high, would aggravate my back and I found myself limping and stumbling more with sensation disappearing from my right leg. Then the straw came which forced my doctor to make that final call, the judgment call that would end a career I not only enjoyed, but loved and felt called to do. It was like a death knell had been rung.  I struggled with what happened for nearly a year and now, over three years later I still struggle with the loss of something I felt was integral to who I was.  I felt called to care for people and honestly felt I made a difference in the field and the job I was in. 

The light at the end of my tunnel for understanding was when I was enrolled in a pain clinic, not a clinic that helped you manage meds (which they did for people that needed that) but a real honest to goodness top to bottom pain clinic.  One that not only helped us with our new physical limits but also mentally recognizing that YES we have pain and yes it hurts and here are some things we can do to COPE.  We learned it will never go away, but we can, through strength training and mental outlooks, find ways to lessen its impact on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.  We were encouraged to do something I call finding a NEW NORMAL.  Maybe weeding takes longer now because we have to rest more and maybe we have to sit to do it, but we can still do it. 

We also learned about Biorhythms.  Are you looking at me cross-eyed yet?  Yes BIORHYTHMS.  It takes the mind off pain, increases oxygen to your muscles, and well, it just relaxes you.  By the time I graduated the four week intense 40 hour a week program I was able to see a lowering of my blood pressure and pulse rates.  During our exercise I was able to actually remove myself from my setting and visualize a different place in my mind.  Afterwards I was able to sleep better and that right there is the whole reason why I thought it was good.  Of course I see other spill overs, when I practice it, I am calmer and able to cope with my wild child better.  Do I still have pain after all this?  Yep, remember, I said it will never go away we just find ways to cope and continue on in an active life.  My goal was to be able to play with my daughter.  Yes I have backslid, we all do and I am attempting to get my strength back up.  I have been asked what my pain is like; Try having a natural birth every day, without the aid of pain killers.  Good days are mild labor; the bad days are full labor pushing the baby out x 2.  I know what labor without aid of pain killers is like, so that is the best way I can describe it.  I guess for a man to understand, it’s like passing a kidney stone.  How do I cope?  Massage and occasional adjustments work wonders to helping me and refocusing my mind.  Mostly I just COPE. What else can someone do?   I don't take pain medication unless it is very bad.  I am not tooting my own horn, but when I take pain medication most of the people reading this would be begging to be put out of their misery.  I have learned other ways to help me cope and resorting to narcotics is a last resort for me. 

Why have I gone into all this?  I have several friends around the country lately that have mentioned pain.  One I am back in contact with after a couple years apart (Thank you Heather).  She was there for me when I first got hurt and talked me through a lot, helping me in ways she may never fully grasp.  I am grateful for her and I guess for the two of us I just want to explain what chronic pain is and is not.  I have went into all this to explain Chronic Pain because, odds are you know someone who has it and understanding it can help you understand your loved one or the coworker that often looks tired and worn. 

Acute pain is what you feel after a surgery or breaking a bone.  It is not something long lasting, though you might feel it for weeks at time.  It might be relieved by medication effectively.  Personally I can attest to chronic pain not being relieved by a variety of medication. 

Chronic pain is something lasting more than 6 months with little to no relief (though some claim 3 months).   With chronic pain the problem is the signals of pain remain active in the nervous system. This causes both a physical and emotional strain on the sufferer and the loved ones, especially the immediate family. This is why I am writing this, to explain to you what it is so you can understand it better.    

Often times people with chronic pain suffer from a variety of depressions, sleep disorders—which accentuate the depression, lack of life enjoyment, hopelessness, distrust, anxiety, and a general deterioration of health over all.  We often get colds more frequently, because we have deprived sleep.  We may suffer more from weather changes because our injuries may end up being affected by barometric changes.  Sometimes we get angry more easily—to which you ask why?  Because we are often in some form of pain, be it mild or intense and our sleep may go for weeks on end being fitful at best.   

So each day is a new day and those of us with CP wake up and go forward.  Someone that recently hurt their back asked me how I can function daily and do what I need to do, and my answer to them is what I answer to you now:  I just do it, it hurts sometimes but I can’t let pain control my life.  By moving, even when its hard, I am kicking it to the curb and telling it that I am in control. 

Please Google Chronic Pain and read more about it. 

Here are a few sites to get you started:

Web MD
Chronic Pain
Understanding Chronic Pain

Thank you gentle readers.  I had written this sometime ago, but haven't had the "courage" to publish this, but I think the time has come.

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