01 October 2008

Two helpful hints about pain

When I was about 35, I experienced an episode horrific pain due to the combination of a herniated disk and an unresponsive HMO.

When I say "horrific pain," I mean the kind of pain where you can't think of anything else. You can't function in any normal way. I did not drive more than a mile for six months. I did not sit down at work for six months (I stood up ALL DAY and lay on the floor to eat lunch). I did not leave my county for a year.

I herniated my disk while tying my shoes, which is pretty stupid, no? If I would have been thinking straight, I would have lied to everyone and said I was snowboarding or windsurfing, because "I was tying my shoes" sounds SO lame.

After six months, the HMO approved surgery, hallelujah, and in a few hours, I was fixed.

So here's my advice for when you are in horrible pain:

Do not close your eyes. Much of your brain power is used up by vision. Shutting your eyes will just give your brain more space to devote to PAIN! I use this when getting blood drawn, getting shots or having IVs inserted...look away, but look at something.

Do not project into the future. Examining my thoughts closely, I found that a lot of my pain came from imagining a future where I couldn't function correctly - "OMG I won't be able to work! I won't be able to walk more than a few feet! What am I going to DOOOOOOO!" Learning to just deal moment by moment and not freaking out over the future was so helpful.


See how I am? One day it is nail polish hints, and the next it is dealing with crushing pain. Count on the Red Stapler for ALL your life advice!


mar said...

oh, i do!

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

This blog has got everything!

g said...

Oh, you are bringing back memories for me!

I have had a very healthy life, except for a sudden and unexpected episode of...well, an embarrassing condition that made it excruciatingly painful to sit down. Those who've given birth know what I mean - funny thing is, it didn't happen when I had my son, it simply came out of the blue 20 years later.

My HMO kept canceling or postponing my appointments. I remember freaking out with each phone call, and actually verbally abusing the receptionist (i'm embarrassed to admit).

the pain made my hands shake. It made me burst into tears in public. It made me have to pull my car over on the way to the doctor. It made me crazy.

But - reading your post - it wasn't really The Pain - it was projecting it into the future. It was the thought "It isn't going to stop." That's what made me crazy.

You have such good insight!

shoesonwrong said...

Very timely, considering my ear is about to explode off my head.

Traceytreasure said...

You SO rock!! Sorry for the bad grammar! You really do rock! I threw my back out bending over on Sunday. I was just bending over.....I should have told everyone that I threw my back out windsurfing or a car accident, but no, I told the truth, just like you!
My manager took a new product off the shelf for us to use at work for pain and it really did work! If you are ever in pain again, try something called Curamin. It rocks almost as much as you do!


J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Thankfully, thus far in my life, the only time I've been in debilitating pain like that was labor. I did not close my eyes. I did not think of the future. I did try to figure out if there was a way I could sneak the hell out of the hospital, misguidedly thinking that maybe if I could just catch a cab and go home, I could forget the whole thing.

As if.

RevAnne said...

My back injury came from standing up--no lie. I was sitting in a folding chair and I stood up, and didn't fully straighten again for weeks. A year and a half later, I still take daily meds. Good advice about pain.

Major Bedhead said...

I threw my back out once just by sneezing.

That Canadian Boy I Married has been having awful back pain. He finally went to a chiropractor for it and has two herniated discs and a screwed up neck, probably from multiple cases of undiagnosed whiplash. I'll pass along your advice (and hunt down Tracy's rec. for pain relief for him).

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but you can count on the pain returning about two years after the surgery. What the scalpel-happy orthopaedic surgeons don't bother to tell you is that arthritis is guaranteed to strike the surgical site after the operation.

I was without pain for about 18 months after my spinal fusion. Now, 20 years later, I'm taking enough narcotics to kill a horse - and all they do is get the pain down to a point where I can deal with it. But the pain is constant. It never goes away. Whenever it rains, I'm borderline suicidal from the severity of the pain. I had to retire from a job I loved five years before I'd planned because I'm just not able to work efficiently at this pain level.

I sincerely hope your surgery works better for you over the long term than mine did for me. But if it happens, don't be surprised.

SUEB0B said...

Anon - it has been 13 years since my surgery. I still have a little back pain and I know I have other discs in danger (I have seen the xrays) but so far so good.

I am so sorry it didn't work out well for you and that you are in such bad pain.

Day Dreamer said...

Wish I would have thought to not close my eyes with my recent tooth pain. YOWSA. That hurt like crazy!

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