I have talked to a friend from college who has gone through similar myofascial pain in the past. She gave me some great advice and a list of resources to try out. Another friend told me about a clinic in her town specializing in curing chronic pain using more natural treatments and offered me a free place to stay if I decided to check it out. Yet another friend told me about how she had major abdominal pain after abdominal surgery and how breaking up abdominal adhesions (and keeping them at bay with some internal netting) completely cured her of her pain. She wondered if a similar procedure could help me.
Long ago friends are contacting me because they care about me getting out of pain. Some of these lovely friends and I haven't spoken to each other since we graduated from college 12 years ago. (Not because we are mad at each other or anything. We have just lived in different cities.) Yet they cared enough to contact me now.
Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
So the last you heard about me, I was in a downward spiral. How am I doing now? I'm doing better. Not cured, but better. There are still good days and bad days. I can't say that the good days outnumber the bad ones yet, but I can say that there are more good days than there used to be.
I have some great resources that have been helping me. First of all, after a year of changing meds and tinkering with doses, I think the doctor and I have found the right mix of muscle relaxers, nerve medicine and pain medicine to keep me functioning well through most days. My pain level is around a 2 on most days. It used to be at least a 6, so this is a big improvement.
Secondly, I have found the greatest resource ever (thank you, Pamela!) - my pain machine. No, it doesn't cause pain. This isn't the Princess Bride. It relieves pain. OK, it's really called a TENS machine. There are 4 little electrodes attached to it. The electrodes are sticky and you put them all around the spot that hurts. Then the machine delivers little electrical impulses to the electrodes. The electricity helps control pain. When my pain level goes up, the TENS machine goes on.
One of the things I love about that little machine is that if I can anticipate when I'm going to be in pain, I can stick the electrodes on beforehand. Then I just hook the machine up during the activity and it keeps my pain in check. For instance, I know that sitting for a long time makes me hurt, so before church starts, I put the electrodes on. I can stand up and sing, etc at the beginning and no one can see that they are on. When it's time for the service, I hook just hook up the electrodes and sit there all happy and pain-free during the sermon.
What else has helped?
- Water, lots of water. I've increased my water intake to 1.5 - 2 liters a day.
- Walking. The days when I can get in a short walk around the neighborhood, I feel so much better. (Walking too much does increase pain, so it's a fine line there on how much to walk.)
- Fascial stretches. Thanks again to Pamela, I have been, very slowly, working on some fascial stretches from the Permanent Pain Cure book. In the book he recommends doing the stretches once a day. I tried that and my pain greatly increased. So, at the moment I am doing them every other day without a significant increase in pain. They do seem to help keep me stretched out.
- Biofreeze. One of my new best friends. Similar to BenGay or IcyHot, Biofreeze is something you can put on sore muscles. However, I put it on to keep my muscles from getting sore. I use it on my rotator cuff muscles every morning. While my shoulder is tons better than it was, my bra straps can still rub and irritate that muscle. So it feels better when I put on Biofreeze before I put on my clothes.
- Lumbar support. My physical therapist had suggested getting some lumbar support to use in chairs at home. I tried a regular lumbar pillow but it was too big for me. It wasn't comfortable at all. So she suggested I use a travel pillow. Perfect! I have behind me on the couch every night.
I'm sure there are things I am leaving out that have helped me. Some of these things have become such second nature to me, that I don't even notice I am doing them. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments; those on the blog, on Facebook and in person. I'm still looking for that elusive first pain-free day but I am definitely better than I was 6 months ago.