Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trying to win the war on pain

Over the past 15 years I have struggled with pain and it can be very frustrating. When I wake up, the first 15 minutes of my day are the worst. I even bought a new mattress this year to try to help my body so I would not wake up in so much pain. The mattress helps, but it’s not until I get up move around, and do my morning stretches. Only after I take my muscled relaxers and pain medication will I start to feel better. It is just temporary though because I still have to take medication and stretch throughout the day to help with my pain level.

After I left the rehabilitation hospital I was on all sorts of medications, but after a couple of years I took myself off of them. For about 7 years I didn’t take any medications and it was great. Then everything changed and about 8 years ago I started hearing a strange popping sound in my left hip. I thought it was nothing just my body popping like when I crack my knuckles. Well I was wrong. After I had some x-rays taken I found out that my left hip was actually popping in and out of the socket. I have a complete spinal cord injury at the mid-chest level, so I can’t feel the hip, but my body reacts to this pain in other ways. I thought I would be a candidate for surgery, but after going in circles with many doctors around the country, there was no easy solution except to go on muscle relaxers and pain medication.

I have lived with this hip issue for about 8 years now and it continues to get worse. The hip is so bad that I have bone spurs on the top of my femur bone and the hip socket is barely a socket at all. It is just bone rubbing against bone, and the hip after many years is completely dislocated. It has affected how I sit in my wheelchair and my everyday life. If I am in my wheelchair too long I have to get out of it and stretch out a lot. Just recently my right hip has started making the same popping noise that my left hip did when it first started sliding in and out of the socket. It is hard to explain to people sometimes how I can’t feel the actual hip, but it still makes me have pain. My body will send me signals when I am in pain, such as shooting pains up my back, severe muscle tightness in my back, sweating and sometimes major headaches.

Since I have to take pain medication everyday, I have to deal with the side effects, like drowsiness. I work full-time so I load up on caffeine. People tease me because I drink Red Bull, not because I like it, but it does keeps me alert. Even though I am from Seattle, the Starbuck’s capitol, I am not a coffee drinker so Red Bull gives me my wings. My pain doesn’t stop there; I also have pain in my back from the metal rods and screws that are holding my spine together. That pain always radiates to my neck and I use a natural pain relieving cream to help as an alternative. I found a pain relieving cream that has a nice smell and is better then Icy Hot, so now I don’t have to bother my co-workers with that strange smell Icy Hot gives off. The pain relieving cream is really great, and I have been able to use it on my sore muscle spots in my back and neck. This has helped me to reduce my pain medication. I don’t think people understand that being in pain all the time is actually very tiring. Just dealing with the pain is a pain, there’s no other way to describe it. I have accepted that I will probably have pain the rest of my life, but I will also not let it slow me down. I will continue to look into alternatives because I would love to get off all the medications. I hate taking pills. I also have looked into getting surgery to get a pump implanted that will disperse medication directly into the spinal cord. Life goes on and I will continue to do my stretches, take my meds, make sure that I sit in my wheelchair correctly and go get the occasional massage.

Tammy Wilber
~Waiting for a pain free day~

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