Pages

Friday, December 14, 2018

I survived chronic pain for 4 years...

This picture was from print photography I did for St. Jospeh's hospital in Texas, but I wanted to show you that this is what pain can look like. I was still in pain here, but for those of us who suffer from chronic pain, we don't normally show it out in public. A really hard day we probably wouldn't be out in public.

Yesterday I had a Facebook memory that came up and reminded me that it's been 1 year and 10 months since I've been pain free. Not everyone knows, but I battled chronic pain for 4 years. To this day there is so much relief in knowing it's behind me. I'm still so incredibly grateful and I feel so happy and excited about life that it's no longer looming over me. When I was in the thick of it, I truly believed that pain was going to be with me for the rest of my life. After 1 year of pain, you really start wondering. After two years of pain you're getting more and more convinced. After 3 years of pain, you're convinced that it's definitely for life. 

In the beginning, when it first started--when I didn't know what it was, when it hurt for the first 3 weeks and nothing was making it better, when I would sit at the table and just cry because it hurt, I would have thoughts of just driving my car into a tree. I didn't want to leave this earth, that's not what this is about, I just didn't want to feel this physical pain. I wanted to knock myself out unconscious just so it wouldn't hurt. If I could just be knocked unconscious quickly there wouldn't be any pain for awhile. Sleep would take too long. I had trouble falling asleep from the pain. 

Through it all, I still had a full time job (at least until I quit to stay home), I started a business, I had 2 more babies, a big move, everyday life. I had to stay busy. If I didn't, I would feel it more, plus I didn't have time to sit around the couch and dwell on myself. Hardly anyone knew or realized what I was really going through. Not even H understood just how much it hurt, because I wouldn't always show it. He would help me how he could though, and he would see me cry and rub my back and try to help me, or deal with my agitated moods from being in a state of pain. I was lucky though that through most of the 4 years there were weeks where it wasn't every day. Maybe like every other day sometimes, and the degree of the pain would vary. I was also getting treatment here and there, but very seldom. My pain wasn't something a pill could just take away or cure. It was deeply rooted in some of my muscles in my upper shoulders and neck. I'm also grateful that during the last two pregnancies, during those 9 months, the pain went sort of dormant. It would flare up a little here and there, but not like when I wasn't pregnant.

Ava as a newborn 2015. Pain was back from the strain of breastfeeding again.

It all started about 4 months after Layla, my second baby was born in 2011. The thing that triggered it all was breastfeeding and not supporting my arms. When you are pregnant, you have this hormone that is called relaxin produced in your body. It relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix. It's helpful but also affects other parts of the body. Because it loosens the joints, you have an increased risk of injury. This hormone lasts in your body up to a year after birth, so I believe it's one of the reasons I hurt myself so easily from breastfeeding. Layla was a slow nurser too, sometimes feeding up to 45 minutes each time. I would lean back against the headboard and let all her weight just fall on my arms with no pillow or boppy underneath. At about 4 months after she was born I started getting pains in my right shoulder and a little bit in my neck. I sought out the help of a chiropractor for the first time. He encouraged me to start coming in twice a week for 4-6 weeks. I did like the massage portion of it, but I was also getting adjusted twice a week on my back and neck. That was a mistake. Later on down the road I learned that getting too many adjustments is not good. I really believe that's why I had neck problems later on after that. So when I was getting treatment I was figuring out that the source of the pain was coming from a big knot on top of my shoulder. You can't see muscle knots, but you can feel them under your skin. I still have it to this day but it's much smaller now. The thing about muscle knots is that they can radiate pain elsewhere. Our muscles are all connected and we have what you call fascia over these muscles--that's all connected. So, you can have a problem area in one part and have referred pain in another because of these connections. When I was in the worst of it--when several other muscle knots developed, sometimes I would even get pain and sensitivity in one of my arms and hands. Sometimes it would hurt up the side of my face and the hairs on my head would be sensitive. Going back to the one big muscle knot I had, when you have a muscle knot, those fibers are not working correctly, so your other muscles surrounding have to overcompensate. Because of that one big muscle knot, I developed about 5 more small ones. I have a few in the back of my neck too along the base of my spine. So not only did I have pain from the one muscle knot, over the year I was developing more which meant the pain continued. I wasn't getting better, I was getting worse, but thankfully the pain stayed about the same. 

This was a CAT scan of my neck in January of 2017 because I had a thyroid nodule that had to be looked at, but you can see just how mangled my right shoulder area looks compared to my left. If you are looking at this picture, it's on your left where all the numbers and words are.

Over the first 3 years I saw several doctors. 1 chiropractor, 2 general practitioners, 1 renowned sports medicine doctor, and 1 physical therapist. The true relief didn't lie with any of these doctors. It was with a specific kind of massage therapy. Unfortunately massage is rarely covered through insurance. I wrote more about this here in 2012 and I also shared what home methods I used. I found another post where I was having a bad day with the pain if you want to read that herehere, and here  I know I've mentioned it several times in my blog but I'm not sure of all the posts they are in.

I'm going to fast forward to November 2016. I was still in pain and I also started to develop a muscle spasm in my right jaw. This came on suddenly and it's like my jaw muscle would spasm for a few minutes and then release. In the first few days it would happen, it hurt, but it was tolerable. I was getting very worried that I had now developed a muscle knot in my jaw. Like how the hell was I supposed to get rid of a muscle knot in my jaw? Muscle knots can go away but only through constant massage (like constant) and not re-aggravating the hurt muscle fibers. They have a memory. I had also developed a cold so I thought maybe it was related and I saw a family doctor. She wasn't much help and just wanted to prescribe muscle relaxers. I don't take those, not even on bad pain days would I take heavy painkillers or muscle relaxers. I would take ibuprofen when I couldn't take it and that was it. It didn't do much anyways but barely touch the pain. So after 2 weeks I finally caved and took the muscle relaxers. Big shocker, not really--it did nothing for the pain. It only made me sleepy. My mom convinced me to get reflexology since they can also work on your shoulders and neck in a different way than massage therapists. That I did get some relief, but only for one day. The spasms were starting to come more frequently and they would last for up to 5-7 minutes 4 times a day. I could be driving to pick up my kids from school, or just anywhere and I could feel it coming and panic. I could hardly talk when I was in the middle of a spasm. The best way to describe it was like my jaw was giving birth to a baby. I literally had to stop what I was doing if I could, and breathe through it. Night time was the worst when it was just my thoughts and the pain. H would be in the living room watching a show and I was usually in the room because Ava was still sleeping in our room, and I would still nurse her every time she woke up. There were a few times where I would just cry and plead to God to please, please deliver me from this pain. It hurt so bad! Far far worse than the muscle knot pain. I then sought the help of my dentist because I thought maybe it was TMJ or TMD. It wasn't that, but he took some x-rays and saw that I had a tooth infection on one of my bottom right molars. He prescribed me a week of amoxicillan. I started the antibiotics the next day. A couple days later I noticed the muscle spasms in my jaw were lessening. By 5 days of antibiotics they were hardly coming. By day 7, they were gone. A few days later my muscle knot pains of 4 years were also starting to go away. Not only did my jaw muscle spasm go away but it shut off the rest of my pain. What?! How? 

So here we are almost 2 years pain free and I still don't have all the answers. After I was essentially cured of my pain I talked to one of my neighbors who was a yoga instructor and a health guru. He thinks that I had too much candida in my body which causes inflammation (hence why my muscle knots radiated so much pain) and the antibiotic wiped out a lot of the overgrowth of candida. We also know that the teeth are connected to our health. One of my thoughts are that could I have had a tooth infection for so long that it was part of the issue as well? However I go to the dentist regularly and it never showed up on the x-ray before. It definitely was the cause of the jaw muscle spasm though. I hadn't been sick enough to visit a doctor for medicine in the past 4 years, so I hadn't had a need for an antibiotic. I do wonder if had I gotten sick enough and taken antibiotics before, could that have helped my pain and not gone through 4 years of it? I don't know. The body really is a mystery. 

A few of the muscle knots still twinge a little here and there, if I've over done it with lifting Ava or too much strain, but it's nothing like it was. There isn't anymore pain. They say we go through things in life sometimes to help us grow as a person, or for one reason or another. I don't know why I had to go through this, I'm not sure what I was supposed to learn, but I guess you can say I'm a stronger person because of it. I'm more understanding of people I know in pain. My faith in God stayed the same. He was always there for me and continues to be there for me. I do believe he heard my cries and delivered me and it wasn't just the antibiotic. I give all the glory to God. God works through us and the people around us. From my understanding, he doesn't just snap his fingers and cure us (though I have heard of people making miraculous recovery before), rather he gives us the tools to help ourselves. A thought, a gentle nudge to seek out the help of someone or something else. People, and things are put in our path sometimes because we need them. I hope my story gives one of you hope today. There is a lot more I learned about muscles and health over my journey that I couldn't put in this post, because it would be a book. If you suffer from chronic pain and have any questions that I could possibly help with, please email me at: itsapinklife@gmail.com. Also know that there are several message forums as well for chronic pain sufferers, this I didn't look into until I was at the tail end of it. Most of all though, don't lose hope. Keep praying, keep hoping, keep doing. You're so much stronger than you think you are.

Happy weekend and God bless.

2 comments:

  1. Oh Francis, I remember you talking about the pain. I'm so sorry you had to endure it for so long!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Just happy that it's behind me--at least I hope it is. Every once in awhile I'll get a tiny bit of discomfort in the same areas, but sometimes it's just from sleeping wrong, and I'm still lifting my 3 year old that's getting pretty heavy now.

      Delete