accident, attitude, back pain, car accident, chronic illness, chronic pain, disability, doctors, healing, health, inflammation, injury, medical device, medication, medicine, pain, pain management, pain relief, pills, spine
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Breakthrough Pain or Getting Worse?

Chronic pain patients have good days and bad days. On bad days, our lives can be an amalgamation of garbage and sewer water held in place with duct tape. We are rickety. Our bodies are temperamental. A change in routine can hurt us, the weather can devastate us, and procedures can set us back. A “bad day” can be more like a “bad month” once all is said and done.

My cervical fusion went as well as could be expected, though recovery was set back by a series of T12-L1 bilateral spinal injections. Like, seriously set back. Those injections were March 21. It is now more than a month later, and I still have to wear Lidocaine patches on that area because it got so irritated by the procedure. It wasn’t long before the pain in my mid-back radiated up to the relative injuries in my neck and low-back.

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You are VERY problematic, spine. Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via VisualHunt / No known copyright restrictions

After injections, I generally give it about a week before I make any hard calls. You have to. Sometimes it’s three days before the initial pain of the injections themselves is gone; sometimes it’s longer. So I waited a very long, very bad week. And kept feeling worse. I had a positive attitude because I know that sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. This area hadn’t been touched in years, so any change — even a change for the worse — has to mean something, right? I mean, we’d been hoping for a positive change, but what the hell. You take what you can get.

So I colored positive phrases, did my range of motion exercises prescribed by the PT, tried to keep up walking every day, and made sure I did my daily stretches. I started wearing my Jawbone again so it would remind me to get up and move around every 15 minutes. I wore the Quell every day. I took my meds on the dot every time they were due. And then, all of a sudden (a phrase my high school English teacher told me to use very rarely, because as a general rule most things don’t happen “suddenly”), everything in my arsenal stopped working. Yes, Mr. C., I do mean “suddenly.”

After two and a half weeks, I wasn’t able to sleep longer than fitful naps without pain waking me up. My Tramadol stopped working, even at twice the normal dosage (not without the permission of my surgeon, of course). Tylenol on top of that? Stopped working. Cymbalta for pain relief and situational depression? Nope. It was like I wasn’t even taking anything. PT was suspended. Nobody could explain the spike in pain.

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WHAT USE ARE YOU IF YOU DON’T WORK? (Then you try not taking them, and you remember.) Photo credit: frankieleon via Visual hunt / CC BY

Even getting my surgeon to listen was a challenge. I understand he’s very busy and that I look composed (pat on the head to myself.) Fusion looks good? Check. Incision looks good? Check. See you at the next follow-up appointment! I had to drag him back into the room to say, “Hey, so I’m losing weight really fast and not sleeping?” His suggestions: Gabapentin (made me pass out at work into my previous boss’s arms, not fun) and a TENS unit (which I already have). That and seeing both my pain specialist and a GI specialist as soon as possible. The second X-Ray showed the same bulge of scar tissue blocking my esophagus. I’m still eating baby food two months after the initial surgery. I’ve lost upward of twenty-five pounds. At first that was rad; now the fact I can’t eat normal food without serious preparation is definitely more than an irritation.

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Just so you remember what the problem looks like. This photo belongs to J. W. Kain.

So I got emergency appointments for both the GI and the pain specialist. My pain doctor was not able to explain why the mid-back procedure went so badly, and instead he said, “Why don’t we do low-back and C2-C3 injections because we know those work?” That was not comforting. I felt as if we were throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it’d stick. It’s like the mid-back is a writhing ball of snakes that got poked by needles and have been biting and snarling for the past month in response.

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Pictured: my mid-back issues. Photo credit: Oregon State University via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

So is this breakthrough pain — pain that temporarily “breaks through” the barrier of pain medication — or am I getting worse? Is the hardware in my throat shifting? Are my shoulders on fire again just because of all the stress? Is my mid-back ever going to calm down? I realize it has only been two months since the surgery, but still.

The GI doctor had me do a barium swallow. The result, besides drinking disgusting liquid with the consistency of bird poop and standing on a tilt table in front of a live X-Ray? The hardware is pressing against my esophagus from one side and the scar tissue is pressing from the other, creating the narrowest esophagus situation. Food and liquid hit that point and go down, hit that point and go down — and then come back up. The nausea has been intense. I had to reschedule a follow-up with my primary just to deal with that part alone. Now I have an upper endoscopy on Monday and shots on Tuesday. This is going to be a stellar week.

And you know what? Screw it. It is going to be a great week, despite all of this nonsense. I’m going to get some answers from the endoscopy, and those shots do help. As for the mid-back, we will keep working on it. That is an enormous problem almost 12 years in the making, so it’s not going to be quickly solved.

ONWARD AND UPWARD, FOLKS!

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8 Comments

  1. Great post can I ask do you find the quell helpful for the most part? I’ve heard a lot about it but it’s a bit spendy – just haven’t heard from too many people whether they feel it’s worth it or not

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there! Thanks for the compliment! I do find the Quell very helpful. (Disclaimer: I bought my Quell [It wasn’t given as a “sponsored review” thing], and all of my posts on them were done without compensation.) That said, I LOVE THE QUELL. I’ve worn it almost every day since June. It doesn’t get rid of all the pain, but it allows me to function, do things, clean, walk outside, etc. It’s very good at muffling everything enough for me to forget about the pain for a while. I’m fairly positive they have a great trial period, like a 60-day money back guarantee, so you can try it and see if it works? I hope it does! Good luck if you decide to try it! Please let me know how it goes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just may do it now that I can. I did try a tens unit and maybe because it was just too cheap I didn’t like the skin crawl sensation I got along with the zaps – I’ve heard this works like tens but you don’t feel it at all. That may work. And I figure if nothing else even in the future if it doesn’t work like I need it to for certain types of pain it may help the knee pain I get in the winter sometimes 🙂 now maybe I will try it while I know I can make it work. But I appreciate your input on it and of course the disclaimer.
        I tend to do that myself with different things

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s more like a super TENS. And instead of just focusing on one area, it spreads all over the body. The way it calibrates is that you adjust it until you can just feel it, and then it turns on and off automatically every hour so you don’t get too used to it. You can also wear it at night, but I’ve never been able to because the sensation was too distracting. If you get it, I hope you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much for your help. I get really bad inflammatory lung pain, so that’s why I was so curious as to how it was helping your back. I’m sure some of your pain may be different but still if it helps nerve ending pain at all it might be worth trying. As you know, there’s so little that does. I do like that it is adjustable & you can calibrate it, so many of the inexpensive units have limited settings and then trying to figure out where and how to stick the probes & how much is too much or too little is such a frustrating guessing game. That’s what appealed to me about this but I never really had someone I could talk in depth about it so really this exchange is very helpful.

        Like

  2. Peggy says

    Wow, this sounds very frustrating and it’s so hard when multiple doctors get involved. But you seem to be coping well in spite of these issues. I hope you get the answers you need soon.

    I just had Botox injections for migraine a little over a week ago and I’ve been in agonizing pain ever since. They put a few injections in my neck/upper shoulder area and I have to endure being told every single time my doctor injects the medication in those areas that it feels like I have metal rods in my shoulders. I know that, that’s why I get Botox! It can take several weeks for the pain to decrease with no medication to help!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much! I’ve never actually met anyone who did Botox for migraines, though I’ve seen the commercials about it. Did it ever work? Was this the first time you’d tried it? I got Botox years ago for the mid-back, and it worked only the first time. Every time after that was a disaster. I hope you feel better soon and that things level out!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sending prayers your way. Your attitude despite the painful ordeal you are experiencing, is inspiring. Sending a gentle hug.

    Like

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