Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chronic Pain

Those of us who deal with chronic pain in any of its forms know that chronic pain is a bitch.

I think I've mentioned here before that about 4 years ago, I injured my back.  It wasn't anything big or dramatic that caused it either.  I'm sure it was a bunch of small things and not lifting things properly for years, but it all went to hell when I lifted a carton of water to move it from one car to another.  I instantly felt really bad pain and had a hard time sitting.  I'd wake up in the morning screaming from the pain, while I tried to sit on the edge of my bed and stand up.  It gradually subsided over the next few weeks, but returned in the form on really bad leg pain about a month later.

The irony of all this was that I had over the previous 4 years lost almost 100 pounds.  I was working out -walking and running and doing some strength training - almost everyday.

I finally, FINALLY took myself to the doctor, had xrays, and an MRI to confirm what I already knew - this was sciatica.  And it was caused by two herniated discs in my lower back, though I couldn't tell you now specifically which ones.  Dealing with this condition was very nearly hell.  Somedays I would have some relief and others were just agony.  I started physical therapy where my PT did all sorts of crazy things to try and help bring me relief - traction, electrotherapy, stretches.  And during this time, I was in so much pain that I just gave up.  The weight I'd worked so hard to lose came back on - 50 pounds of it.

After about a year, the pain subsided pretty much completely with just an occassional twinge.  I wondered sometimes if the pain really had gone away or if I had just gotten so used to it I no longer noticed it.

I can tell you now that it really had gone away, because I seem to have re-injured myself or injured myself all over again in a new way, because the pain I'm experiencing this past week and a half is UNBEARABLE.

I do not sleep at night for more than an hour and fifteen minutes at a time.  If I lie on my right side, which is the side not affected by sciatica, when it's time to wake up/sit up/go to the bathroom/whatever, sitting up and standing up is akin to something I have no words to describe.  It's the most horrible, excrutiating, screaming pain I've ever experienced.  I hobble across the house to the bathroom like I am 150 years old, taking little shuffling, scooting steps, gasping for breath through the pain.

The good news is it does get gradually better over the course of the night.  I still only sleep for about an hour at time, but I've noticed the past 2 or 3 nights I've started having dreams again, which is a good sign I'm getting deeper rest.  Whenever I do wake up, 99% of the time, I pull myself out of bed to go to the bathroom.  I think this has to do with stress.  I think the stress of the pain at night makes my body have to pee.  lol  TMI, perhaps?

The past couple of nights, I've started keeping a written record of my sleep.  I'll record the time I woke up and the approximate time I last fell asleep.  I'll record my pain level and which side I sleep on (sleeping on my left is virtually impossible - I can't fall asleep that way because of the weight on my sciatic leg).  And I have been averaging just over an hour of sleep at a time, usually going back to sleep within 15-20 minutes.  Not very restful at all.

I bought a body pillow last week and have been using that between my knees instead of a standard pillow - doesn't seem to help much.  I take Ibuprofen at such levels that my liver is sure to go into failure by the time I'm 40.  I also invested in a sleep aid called Legatrin, which is a combination of Acetaminophen and some sort of sleep substance.  It's advertised as helping leg and lower back pain.  It lies.  But it does make me drowsy.  I've also taken some naproxen here and there.  Nothing much seems to help.

I ice my back and heating pad my butt and leg frequently.  I even tried putting icy hot all over my leg last night just to see what would happen.  It burned my flesh so good that it did kinda make me forget about the sciatica for a short while.

I've also resorted to a trick a coworker told me about when I had my first bout of sciatica four years ago.  When sitting in a chair, sit with a book under your sciatica side.  And oddly, I feel like that's what cured me the first time.  And it really does bring some relief, I think because of how it angles your spine to where you are compressing those herniated discs back into place and away from your sciatic nerve.  It doesn't always work and you have to give it a good 10-20 minutes before feeling any relief some of the times when it does work.

I say ALLLLLLLL that to say this - I have zero doubt that losing weight would alleviate a lot of my pain.  I feel so completely paralyzed and helpless when I am in this state.  I have not been eating well and as my mom told me she thought I was doing all those years ago, I've been eating my pain to some extent.  What will happen if I continue to do so is that I will way 400 pounds in the blink of an eye and things will just get worse and worse.

So, I'm trying very hard to make good choices.  I'm going to try my damndest to gently workout along with Leslie Sansonne today and tomorrow I'm calling the doctor and making an appointment for ASAP.  I'm just very concerned about having to have another MRI, because I'm doubting my ability to be able to get up off the bed of that thing after lying there on my back for half an hour.

That's my rant for today.

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