Trigger Point Injections & Strawberry Frappuccinos

Thankfully, yesterday was my weekly Trigger Point Injection appointment at the pain centre, because my body sure did need it! I have been in a fair bit of pain the last few days, and I couldn’t wait to have these needles stabbed in my neck and back (who says that?!)

As you can see from my breakfast yesterday, I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while (and no, the canned fruit is NOT Paleo friendly!) I have been making my eggs (free range) scrambled with coconut oil in the pan, and they are AMAZING!

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So after breakfast and a snack, I headed to my appointment. Here is an example of what these appointments normally look like:

The pain centre is located about a 20-25 minute walk (or 10 min streetcar ride) from our apartment – I normally try to walk it because this helps stretch out my body, and relieve a bit of the pain – sitting or standing on the streetcar just causes more pain, but if my fatigue is bad I will take the streetcar (you have to weigh whether the pain or fatigue is worse, and judge it that way). Yesterday’s appointment was for 2:45 PM, but I normally try to steal her morning appointments to get it over with so I can spend the rest of my day on other things (when I’m working, I go during my lunch hour).

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day in Toronto, and the walk to the office was nice and refreshing. On these appointment days, I give myself a Starbucks treat before being injected with 20-30 needles (I deserve the $5 coffee before that right?), so I stopped in and grabbed a “mini” strawberry cream frappuccino (which I recently discovered during a Starbucks run with my bf and shared with my mom who now loves them too). They no longer had the mini sizes, so I was given a tall for the same price – woo!

Illustration of a strawberry Frappuccino containing cochineal extract. from a Starbucks store in Los Angeles, Calil on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (Marine Gaste, Corsair)

I always get to appointments and meetings early (on time is late in my books) and today was no exception – I was at the office at 2:20 PM. I walked in to an EMPTY (this never happens!) waiting room, said hi to the lovely receptionists and nurses, and sat down to fill out my “pain questionnaire” (every week I rate my pain levels from 0-10, how much the pain medication helped, how much the injections helped and for how long, what types of side effects I’m having from the treatments, and whether I was able to do more mentally or physically that week). Once a month I fill out a disability questionnaire form, where I answer two pages of questions about my life, and this then gives the doctor a score of my current disability. Last month my disability level was fairly high, which means the treatment isn’t working that well, and I am quite disabled both mentally and physically. I’ll let you know what my score is next time I fill it out.

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Normally my doctor is anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes late (which she hates because she’s punctual like me) but I got lucky yesterday! The nurse called me in for my appointment at 2:25 PM, yay! She weighed me (61.7 kilos which I always have to convert into pounds – 10 pounds of weight loss to go until I’m back to where I’d like my weight to be), and brought me into the doctor’s office. Depending on the day, I’ll give a urine sample so they can be sure that I am taking my medications appropriately. I have been going to this clinic for over five years, and my doctor has come to trust me, so she doesn’t do them nearly as often as she used to (once every few months instead of every week). The reason for this is because apparently I’m not a “typical patient” – for years I have been trying to wean off of my pain meds, or get down to a much lower dose, whereas other patients are asking for more and more medication (more than she’d like to prescribe because they are at scary high doses). So needless to say, she seems to like me 😉

The nurse asks me the usual questions: 1. How is your pain level compared to last week? 2. How has your sleep been? 3. How has your mood been? 4. Still taking the same medications and doses? 5. Any other concerns? While she’s asking me these questions, I take my own blood pressure and pulse with the machine (yesterday it was 119 over 78 – very good, and my pulse was 82, which is amazing because I normally have a high heart rate of 90 to 100). The nurses at this office are lovely, so if it’s not too busy we’ll chat for a bit about random things going on in our lives. She then leaves, and I wait for my doctor, which is normally anywhere from 5-30 min (I play some Settler’s of Catan on my phone – we played the board game on the weekend and go our butts kicked by a couple of friends – Beth & John, a re-match is needed in the near future!)

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My doctor walked in right away yesterday (another yay!) and we chatted about how she was early today 🙂 We chatted briefly, I take my shirt off, she cleans my neck, shoulders and mid back (sometimes low back depending on the pain), marks my spine with a pen, and starts the injections. I used to be terrified of needles because of the amount of blood work I had done as a child (and I’m still horrible with that) but I’m fine with these needles (and my B12 injections). The injections hurt, but the pain relief outweighs this. If I’m in a LOT of pain, and my muscles are extra tight, the injections will hurt a lot more, but they are bearable. I get the following injections every week:

  • 2 in the sides of my neck
  • 6-8 at the back of my neck
  • 4 in my shoulders
  • 8 along the middle of my spine
  • 6 in my mid back

While the doctor injects me, we both chat about life or anything medical related. Yesterday we discussed the possibility of doing the nerve ablation in the future, and my upcoming cervical epidural on Thursday morning. She also suggested I discontinue the facet blocks from my other doctor as she stated that the relief (which is minimal) does not outweigh the risks of having them done under x-ray. She is a fantastic doctor, and I found out yesterday she doesn’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon, so luckily I at least can count on her for my pain management for the next little while (good doctors are very hard to come by in Toronto).

Once my injections are done (they take max five minutes) I do my own blood pressure again to make sure it didn’t drop too much from the medication, she writes me a prescription for two weeks worth of pain meds, we chat a bit more as she fills in my chart, and I head out to reception to schedule my appointment for the following week.

The injections provided me with some pain relief right away in my neck and shoulders (and lasts about 3-5 days), and luckily this time didn’t numb my face or ears as well. It’s difficult to lift my arms after the injections, so I’m glad I had no sporting activities that night! I leave the office feeling better and more positive, and start my walk home (this is an abnormal amount of walking for me, and I’m glad I was able to do it!)

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When I got home I prepped a bit of food for dinner, and did a bit of job interview studying (my study buddy / footstool and “Millionaire Matchmaker” on tv lol).

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Unfortunately, these injections don’t do much for my severe mid-back pain, so today I was in a fair bit of pain as per the usual. I just got home from a job interview, which I’ll be chatting about in my next post tomorrow.

Do any of you receive regular trigger point injections for your fibromyalgia or chronic pain? Do you find they help? If so, how much and for how long?

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

xoxo Lex

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8 thoughts on “Trigger Point Injections & Strawberry Frappuccinos

  1. i have had epidural steroid injections in the past, the third of 3 shots worked for about 8 yrs. then at that time, i had some facet injections, and each one helped more until after a year, i finally only have minimum breakthrough pain now, that can be managed by hydrocodone, if i don’t let it go on.

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    • Wow, that’s amazing Kat. I’ve never heard of an epidural lasting that long! Mine has lasted about 6 months in the neck. Do you recommend continuing the facet injections to see if they help more and more after a while? How often do you have to take the hydrocodone? I take hydromorphcontin which is similar.

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      • i take hydrocodone once for a few days per month, more or less. sometimes lots on one day, then none the next month.

        the first 2 epidurals did not work. they told me i could have 3 in a year, and that only about 1/3 of people respond to it at all even with all 3, but those that do respond, respond well. so i guess i was lucky to be in that group. they told me if any of them worked, it would stay better for 5-10yr. it was 8 for me.

        the facet injections were done when i started having serious bad flares after the 8 yrs. but this time the pain was more localized, and was not spreading down my legs, so he thought a facet injection to the sore spots would be best. i did that every 2 months or so for about a year, and now i have very mild flare ups that i used hydrocodone for right away. mostly, i am pain free when it comes to this issue.

        i really don’t know what to recommend to you. i guess if i was at the start of it all again, i would do any/all things possible/available to me. if i learned over time one didn’t help, phase it out. these spinal injections were still kinda rare in 2004, so it was about the only choice i had, and i had to go for 4 years with my pcp giving me pain pills before she thought it was bad enough to even send me to the pain clinic to get them. i even lived with my leg paralyzed from the hip to the toes due to the pinching of the discs in my low back, and chronic inflammation (since you always use your back, even when asleep) so that epidural was finally able to stop the inflammation and pinching for long enough to regain function and have almost no pain most of the time.

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      • I’m so happy to hear you have found some pain relief after all of this. I have been going to this pain clinic for lidocaine and cortisone for the last 5 or so years, have been on narcotics, and had regular massages until I stopped working and lost my health insurance. I had my first epidural about 6 months ago, and it helped my neck pain, but the doctor won’t do my thoracic area (he’ll only do facet blocks there). I see him on Thursday for another epidural in my neck, so I’ll see what he says about my mid back. My doctor really wants him to do the nerve ablation as she thinks that will work on me, but he for some reason doesn’t want to yet. We shall see what he says. I’m going to continue trying everything I can for the pain relief. I can isolate the severe back pain to one area, so you’d think these injections could get me some relief, yet they don’t! I’m amazed that you only need the narcotics a couple times a month – I really want to get to that point as well. When I’m working I Need the pain meds daily, but right now I only find I need them 2-3 times per week because I can pace myself and walk around, rest, etc. I’ll let you know what happens Thursday. I’m really happy to hear you’ve had relief though. It’s been 20 years of this, and some relief would be great!!!

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      • well if i was helpful im glad of it. but i guess not most get as much help as i did. and they have changed things from then, too. but i wish you every bit of luck for everything that is available to you, and hope you find the magic combo.

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