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Posts Tagged ‘Chronic pain’

Life – Pain = Euphoria!

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, Health, life, Medicine, women on March 23, 2012 at 12:07 am
Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Scary no more!! Image via Wikipedia

So many people are telling me how different I look since I had my hip replaced Feb. 6.

Not only that I can now walk standing upright without lurching scarily from side to side.

But I smile more. I look people in the eye. I’m once more able — after two years — to focus on details beyond howgoddamnfarisittogettowhereIhavetogo?

It could have been the agonizing journey the entire length of a grocery store aisle for a forgotten (cursed) gallon of milk. Or the hotel entrance closed on one Manhattan block forcing me to round the corner, sweating and resentful from the additional exertion.

I feel like a new person, someone back in the world.

For the first few weeks, I felt I was rebounding off a trampoline, so high was I flying — emotional energy, physical stamina, intellectual curiosity restored.

(A doctor friend explained this was a neurochemical high as my endorphins were in overdrive for years.They did eventually subside.)

Chronic pain drains your battery, and leaches color from everyday life in so many ways. When every step hurts, you dread…everything: grocery-shopping, visiting a museum, exploring a new city, buying clothes or shoes or anything in a store.

It also drains you mentally — something I hadn’t considered, so automatic had it become — as you constantly calculate how much is this going to hurt before doing even the simplest things.

I chose the anterior method, a less common procedure, which from the day of surgery has made my life better. Since my three days in the hospital, I’ve needed only one dose of major painkiller and a dozen Tylenol.

I’ve gone from being Eeeyore to Tigger, both Winnie the Pooh characters; “Bouncing is what Tiggers do best!”

I’ve even (yayyyyyy!) started to lose weight. I’ve realized, to my chagrin, that my nightly cocktail had become, essentially, liquid painkiller — I’d been self-medicating in a pretty high-calorie way. Add to that the double whammy of a slowed metabolism due to my age and my body’s growing inability to handle truly vigorous cardio workouts…

I fly to San Francisco next week to report a story, which is so fun — being able to travel without dreading every step; exploring one of my favorites cities again for the first time since 1998; seeing three friends out there; having an editor sufficiently confident to send me.

But more than anything, I now have the energy and enthusiasm for all of it.

My husband is a bit overwhelmed, although thrilled, by the new ebullient me.  “You’re happy!” he said the other day.

Why, yes I am.

Our Lady Of Perpetual Orthpedics — Or How I'm Learning to Love My Alphabet Soup: MRIs, Xrays And PT

In Health, Medicine on March 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm
A product technician gives a demonstration ins...

My best friend, the MRI machine...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Latest headcount: four MDs: orthopedic surgeon (hip specialist); GP (acpuncturist); GP and neurologist. Five, if you include the ER doctor who saw my back spasm at midnight. Three Xrays, one MRI. One walker and a cane.

My most recent MRI — I’ve lost track how many I’ve had over the past decade — was the weirdest I’ve had as the machine focused on my lower back.

If you’ve never had one, they are extremely challenging if you are the slightest bit (and who isn’t?) claustrophobic: you lie on an extremely narrow platform that slides into a round machine  — you’re the center of its donut. The smooth gray plastic interior is no more than six or eight inches from your face and I was in it for only 20 minutes — it can be 40 or more. Our MRI usually gives us headphones to listen to music but I could only use earplugs. (There are such things as open MRIs for those who just can’t do one of these.)

The noise alternated between: jackhammer/a hammer tapping on my butt/a knocking noise, staccato/a low, deep buzzing that — reframe! stay calm! — sounded like being inside a not very interesting Philip Glass or Steve Reich composition.

Meds: Flexeril, Prednisone, Advil, codeine, Tramadol. Only Advil and codeine work well in my system; the others produce nasty side effects and I stopped taking two of them right away. About to start Voltaren and Prevacid.

I’ve been to my orthopods — a group practice (now on specialist number four there) — since 2000, when I had my first knee arthroscopy. I know their phone number off by heart and have been next door to the physical therapists, or PTs, who I wrote about, with gratitude, for The New York Times, since then many, many times.

I am not 80!

But, which is deeply, frustratingly painful and annoying, my left hip, when it acts up, behaves like I’m about 106. I have osteoarthritis there — like 2 million other Americans — which means either painful inflammation (which rest and drugs can help) or thinning cartilage (which they cannot.)

As someone who lives to move athletically: softball, jazz dance, walking, biking, hiking — I am losing cartilage — and trying not to panic because my life’s core identity, my social life, my stress relief — are all through sports, activity and motion.

Jane Brody, longtime New York Times health writer, recently wrote about how essential exercise — and its social joys — are to her and her readers:

So many nonhealth benefits keep me exercising every day that I’m sure my life would be greatly diminished without them.

Shortly after 6 the other morning, a stunning full moon hugging the horizon enhanced our walk around our local park, and I remarked, “Look what the stay-a-beds are missing.” Soon after came a picture-postcard scene of two Siberian huskies trotting through the snow-covered woods. The week before, we were treated to glorious snow-laden trees as we trudged through the falling snow.

Note that I said “we.” Two to five of us walk for an hour every morning. We chat about our days, share our thoughts and problems, seek and offer advice, bolster sagging spirits, provide logistical support, alert one another to coming cultural events, discuss the news, books, articles and what-have-you. No matter how awful I may feel when I get up in the morning, I always feel better after that walk. And so I always do it, come rain, shine or blizzard.

The members of this walking group, which I joined (admittedly reluctantly) about 15 years ago, have become more than dear friends. They are a sounding board for any and all problems, providing both emotional and practical support when needed. They have introduced me to wonderful activities — museum and gallery shows, concerts and operas, movies and books — I might have otherwise missed.

I miss my jazz dance class, my softball buddies and the fellow walkers on our reservoir, all off limits until I am pain-free and stronger.

I clicked around four Manhattan blocks with my cane today. It helped me stay erect — and visually warned self-absorbed, fast-walking New Yorkers to not bump into me!

I am am very grateful for: having something that is treatable and not life-threatening; excellent, compassionate doctors and the insurance that allows me to see them; warm spring sunshine so I can rest, as ordered, on a park bench outdoors.

29 Days Of Giving Can Change Your Life, Says Author With MS

In Health, women on December 10, 2009 at 7:41 pm
A Clock - and a Remembrance of Love

Your time is a gift...Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr

Altruism can, quite literally, make you feel better, reports The New York Times. A new book, “29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life” chronicles the decision by 36-year-old Cami Walker, an L.A. woman diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, to focus her energy every day on others. The result? Reduced pain and a slowing in the progression of her disease.

Ms. Walker gave a gift a day for 29 days — things like making supportive phone calls or saving a piece of chocolate cake for her husband. The giving didn’t cure her multiple sclerosis, of course. But it seems to have had a startling effect on her ability to cope with it. She is more mobile and less dependent on pain medication. The flare-ups that routinely sent her to the emergency room have stopped, and scans show that her disease has stopped progressing.

“My first reaction was that I thought it was an insane idea,” Ms. Walker said. “But it has given me a more positive outlook on life. It’s about stepping outside of your own story long enough to make a connection with someone else.”

And science appears to back her up. “There’s no question that it gives life a greater meaning when we make this kind of shift in the direction of others and get away from our own self-preoccupation and problems,” said Stephen G. Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University on Long Island and a co-author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” (Broadway, 2007). “But it also seems to be the case that there is an underlying biology involved in all this.”

An array of studies have documented this effect. In one, a 2002 Boston College study, researchers found that patients with chronic pain fared better when they counseled other pain patients, experiencing less depression, intense pain and disability.

Do you make it a point to give to others every day? Is it a gift of your time, money, attention? How, if at all, has it changed your life?

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