In the world of the internet it can be dangerous reading around and trying to research Chronic Pain, everywhere you look there is varying information surrounding how it should or shouldn’t be treated, whether opioids are an effective treatment and the do’s and don’ts. Advertised on the TV through those twilight waking hours that we all have but wish we were able to be asleep or as pop ups on the internet devices you are using promising wonder pills, gels, cures and everything else in between. This is incredibly difficult, complicated and confusing when the primary aim of the Pain Management Clinics that we attend are to help us manage our own pain as best we can. They acknowledge that the pain is not going to go away and in fact in some cases will worsen and that surgery isn’t an option at the current time so what they want to do is to educate you to deal with your own pain. The primary goal I guess is to control your own pain 70% of the time and to have the tools available and action plans in place to deal with the flare ups for 20% of the time. The mathematicians amongst you will notice that only adds up to 90% the other 10% is when nothing you can do helps and you spend all day in bed, unshowered and unable to move. If you get stuck in this 10% it can quickly become the norm and it soon becomes incredibly difficult to break out. It is not a prison as such and having never been any direct comparison would be churlish of me but in some respects a prison is the best word to describe it!
One thing I’ve heard many times over the years now is “I don’t know how you live like it/with it/cope with the pain” The reality is over the years I seem to be able to tolerate pain more, so when you stub your toe or burn yourself it isn’t as painful as it should be and I have found that I have cut myself and not known about it until I notice the blood, at which point I then have to try and locate the injury. Reading around pain as I do I stumbled across some research conducted by the university of Manchester it was only a small study group and an excerpt from a write up on the Pain News Network 23rd October. They asked the question Does chronic pain change brain chemistry and make pain more tolerable?
The answer is yes, according to a small study at the University of Manchester. Researchers there used Positron Emission Tomography imaging (PET scans) to measure the spread of opioid receptors in the brains of 17 arthritis sufferers and nine healthy control subjects
When they applied heat to the skin of study participants to induce pain, researchers found that the more opioid receptors they had, the higher their ability was to withstand pain. The number of opioid receptors was highest in arthritis sufferers, suggesting their brain chemistry had changed in response to chronic pain.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first time that these changes have been associated with increased resilience to pain and shown to be adaptive,” said Dr. Christopher Brown. “Although the mechanisms of these adaptive changes are unknown, if we can understand how we can enhance them, we may find ways of naturally increasing resilience to pain without the side effects associated with many pain killing drugs.”
Once again I live in hope that this small study may lead to breakthroughs in the future. I read around the subject not to put myself through the mill but to see if there are any studies that I can volunteer for. Anything that may help others in the future has to be worth trying as I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone! Importantly I do not get carried away when I read pieces like this and what it could mean – truth is in the 13 years I’ve suffered chronic pain I’ve tried new things, techniques, lazer treatments, injections and all to no avail.
One of the better pieces I have read was about mourning the loss of the life I once had. I am guilty of not completing the mourning process, but it is so difficult for me because it seems that each week I find something that the old me used to be able to do or took for granted but that I no longer can do. I feel as if I am in a perpetual mourning process which is why you will see me refer to old Seachy and new Seachy on here. It isn’t that I haven’t let go, just that there are always new things to let go of. The piece I am referring to was written by pain psychologist and it read along the lines of;
Being diagnosed with a chronic condition is a loss. In fact, it is comprised of many losses. It may be a loss of the person we used to be. It may mean a loss of independence. It may mean a loss of dreams and goals. It may mean a loss of some of the people in our lives who we thought were close. It is the loss of the life we once had.
For many of us with chronic conditions, living with pain or illness means daily medications, injections, surgery, physical therapy, and weekly or monthly doctor appointments. Not to mention living with constant pain. These are things we could never have dreamed of before our diagnosis. We are forced into a life-long journey that is strange, painful and full of new challenges.
We now need to try to figure out how to help our family and friends understand what we are going through, while we ourselves try to decipher what it means for our future. We need to figure out how to balance work, family, kids, taking care of a home, and hobbies – all now with pain, fatigue and frustration. Often times, depression and anxiety step in when we realise that the life we once had is now gone and that our future is filled with the unknown. The mourning process begins. It is important at this point to allow ourselves to experience the mourning process. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to grief and mourning. Cry, scream, and yell if you have to. Talk to a friend or therapist if it would help. Start blogging. Write a letter to your pain and rip it up or burn it. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something! And then, at some point, it is important to try and live a new degree or level of normal. Finding a new normal means weaving our way, however slowly, through the new challenges we face daily. Do some research and find a great doctor who you trust. Research the medications you are being prescribed. Find what works for you, whether it’s hot/cold packs, a heating pad, medications, rest, a support group, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or light exercise, tens machines, try it all.
Plan for the future as best you can: Set new goals and make a plan to reach them. Do what you can each day. Talk with your family and friends about what you need from them and work on being comfortable accepting help.Having a chronic condition, however painful, uncomfortable, horrible, scary and unfair, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy again. But in order to be happy it is important to mourn the loss of who you were and slowly put the pieces of your puzzle back together
As dangerous as reading around an illness on the internet can be, there can also be some that really strike a chord, so I guess with anything in life you have to wade through your fair amount of cr@p to find somethings to write about! With this in mind it is important to remember, YOU are not your illness, YOU are not your past, YOU ARE YOU, and the possibilities are endless!