I have within the month turned seventy five. I have lived forty five of those years in chronic pain. Over the years it has been the one constant in my life. Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes it is a warning; but as I have aged it has become ever more debilitating.
As a twelve year old I injured my back helping my father move a table saw. Like most back injuries the pain passed quickly, but the damage was done. There was now a weakness of the muscles in the lower back. Over use, turning a certain way, lifting almost anything had to be planned I.e. stomach muscles tightened, proper alignment with the object, lifting with legs as much as possible etc.
There were daily exercises to keep core muscles strong. Personal weight not to be exceeded. Not a desirable way to live but acceptable.
With age came canal stenosis of the spine. So, when I moved, the spine entrapped nerves in the spine creating pain which overtime became chronic.
Over the years treatment has been virtually unchanged. In the sixties a strong needle was used to inject cortisone at the site as determined by the patients pain level. Basically when the patient screamed they were at the correct nerve and the injected fluid would coat the nerve. Later, X-ray was used to place the injection without pain. Although effective, one could only get a limited number of these injection and then you were back to your pain which you had gotten used to living without. Currently they have injection via implants and killing the troubling nerves. Of course there are all kinds of risks with not only the procedure, but also irreparable damage to the nerves and partial paralysis.
Of course there were medications ranging from muscle relaxer to pain pills. No matter which medication you used there were always side effects to be considered. Also important was the fact that these drugs lasted only a few hours. As most people with chronic pain know, the hardest part of the day is bedtime. Medication that diminishes the pain so you can fall asleep goes away in two to six hours and then the pain awakens you.
Here is how I “live” with my pain:
- Yoga to keep the muscles stretched,
- Exercise to keep the core muscles strong,
- Medications like Tylenol during the day when rest won’t relieve the pain,
- When the muscles are in spasm, I take a relaxer Flexori or an old drug soma compoundl,
- Aspirin or Advil when there is inflammation,
- Advil nighttime allows up to six hours sleep,
- When all else fails, Tramadal with bed rest.
I always take the least medication I can to ward off the pain. If you are on blood thinners like Eliquis or Coumadin your choices of over the counter medications are limited so you will need to check with your doctor to see what you can take.
I did have surgery for the canal stenosis which lasted about ten years. Further surgery is not recommended.
This spring I will be trying acupuncture because what I have been doing is starting to be ineffective. It is a balancing act that requires you to constantly monitor your condition, exercise and weight.
Pain for a day:
Get out of bed, feels like my muscles cannot support my spine as they spasm.
Walk gingerly to the bathroom with each step bringing spasm.
Sit on the island stool for breakfast waiting for back to settle down.
Get up with pain to take coffee to chair in front of tv.
By end of coffee back has settled, down and I stand up and wait for back pain to let up.
Stand by the dresser for support as I fish my underwear and pants on.
Get my socks out of my drawer and squat to pick up my shoes hoping that I don’t twist or squat too far.
With socks and shoes I sit on the bed and try first to fish socks and then shoes on hoping I don’t agravate my back.
Dressed, I go through my day with each step and change from sitting to standing causing various degrees of pain in different parts of my body – feet, legs, knees, hips, back and occasionally upper back.
Bed time I take Tylenol or Nighttime Tylenol to get to sleep.
Why get out of bed? Not exercising makes things worse.
My grandmother told me to offer up my pain for the poor souls in Purgatory so they could get into heaven. At this rate I must have an army of people in heaven from my pain