Hi everyone – so sorry for the delayed post around my next topic of pain management. It has been a hectic few days as you can see from my post last night, and unfortunately, I came down with a sore throat, fever and earache today. I am going to try to write as much as I can for you while dapping my forehead with a cold wash cloth!
Here we go!
Once I was FINALLY getting some type of sleep at night, my body and mind felt a bit of relief. I stopped dreading going to bed (note how I didn’t say sleep) at night, and enjoyed reading my collection of novels until I was drowsy enough to doze off into lala land. Life started to get somewhat more enjoyable as I began to focus better at school, could play soccer without feeling so grossly fatigued, my mood slightly improved, and I was able to spend more quality time with family and friends.
Unfortunately, regardless of how much sleep my body got (and currently gets), my fibromyalgia and scoliosis pain never goes away, ever. The pain levels vary on a pain scale of 1-10, between a 5 and 9. As a side note, pain scales have always driven me nuts because everyone has a different threshold for pain. I find that when I look at the scale here, I can pick the most appropriate option based on the facial expression.
My search to find pain relief has been going on since before I was diagnosed, and it will continue for the rest of my life. It’s a sad reality to be living in, but I have slowly come to accept it having learned that chronic pain can never go away completely, it can only be managed enough to get by day by day.
In future posts, I will discuss non-drug therapies I have tried (and there have been many) that have both helped and failed. For this post, I will focus solely on the pain medication treatment.
My pain has always been worse when I’m either sitting or standing for longer than 10 minutes (the longer I sit or stand, the worse the pain gets and no amount of stretching helps), I am stressed, or I have exercised (even a 30 minute walk). I was able to move around a lot in high school and university, so from the ages of 13-24, I managed to get through the pain with NSAIDS – my doctors suggested taking over the recommended dose (which my mom and I did not agree to, nor do, despite the amount of pain I suffered from). I’m not sure they really helped with the pain all that much anyways – they most likely did more damage to my stomach, than any type of good.
My GP referred me to 3-4 more rheumatologists in High School, University, and after I graduated university, in order to confirm the previous Fibromyalgia diagnosis (which was confirmed by all doctors), and also, to see if I could find some help with the pain (and other symptoms). The rheumatologists prescribed me with two sleep medications I can’t remember, which didn’t help, so I stuck with the flexeril. They also prescribed me with Lyrica and Cymbalta – you may have seen commercials on TV claiming that both of these medications can pretty much cure your fibromyalgia symptoms – this is a complete load of BS (excuse my language). These medications did more harm than good for me. I had the absolute worst side effects from low doses, and had to stop taking them both immediately (on two separate occasions). So to this point, no medication or treatments had helped with the pain what so ever.
At 24, I was one year into my working career, and was managing my pain okay since my job was very flexible – I could work from home whenever I wanted to, and could come into the office and leave at any time, unless I had to be there for a specific meeting, which was quite rare. I took a few days off to have surgery to fix a deviated septum (broken nose) which had happened three times while playing soccer. To manage the pain in and around my nose after surgery, I was prescribed a week’s worth of percocet (narcotic pain reliever). Not only did this medication help the pain in my nose, but I also noticed that my all over body pain from the fibromyalgia, and the severe pain in my back from the scoliosis was rather improved, and much more manageable.
About six months after that surgery, my contract at work expired, and I found a new full-time (contract) job in HR for another top consulting firm in Toronto. Unlike my precious role, this position required me to be in the office every week from Monday to Friday, 830 to 530. As with most office jobs, I was sitting at a computer and phone all day, with little time for stretching and moving around. My pain began to increase 10 fold. As the day went on, regardless of how often I stood up to stretch and move around (which isn’t often enough working in a fast paced, competitive environment), my pain got worse and worse and worse. I could barely make it through Monday, let alone to Friday. It was at this point where I became very worried about my future, and the ability to hold a job, make money, pay my bills, and not to mention, feed my type A personality with the career path I was hoping and planning for.
I was very anxious, upset, frustrated, stressed, angry, every emotion you could imagine. So I made an appointment with my GP to discuss pain management. I mentioned to him that the Percocet I took during my surgery recovery had helped my chronic pain as well, so he prescribed it to me.
I took the Percocet daily, and it basically allowed me to function enough to get through the workday, but not enough to be as amazing as I wanted to be at work. The pain puts a toll on your mind and body, and becomes very draining, regardless of the amount of pain treatment you try.
Over the last seven years, I have been able to manage my pain with strong pain medication (narcotics). Unfortunately, your body becomes tolerant to the medication, so it then stop functioning the way it used to. The way to solve this problem is to either increase the dosage, increase the how often you are taking it, or taking a stronger medication. I have had to do all of these, and am now taking a pain medication stronger than heroin. Although these medications help reduce my pain by about 30-50% for a few hours of the day, this does not come without very bad side effects – stomach issues including constipation, trouble sleeping (not good for those of us who have trouble with that already), feeling dazed and out of it, trouble concentrating, increased appetite and weight gain, and the list goes on. I have been trying to get down to a lower dose of pain meds, and this has been successful so far, mainly because I have much less stress in my life due to being unemployed at the moment.
In addition to the prescription narcotics, I have been going to a Pain Management Clinic for the last five years, and just recently starting seeing a doctor at a second Pain Clinic for different types of treatments – I’ll be chatting about that tomorrow.
Have any of you with chronic pain taken narcotics for your pain management? If so, have you found them helpful? How much pain relief do they provide you with? Aside from narcotics, have other medications you’ve tried helped with the pain?
What does Chronic Pain look like? It looks like the girl seen below:
My older brother Chris and I doing a trip to the Toronto Island
My brothers and I at a cousin’s wedding
Thanks so much for reading!