All posts filed under: back pain

Pain News Network: Rating the Pain Creams

Here’s my most recent column for the Pain News Network!  I am a connoisseur of pain creams. My idea of Christmas is when my friend’s mom mailed me a box filled with unopened packages of Bengay (true story). Every morning I slather on a layer of something containing menthol in order to numb my back. Then my cat decides to attack me. Why? Because cats love menthol (also a true story). Anyway, I have tried many, many, many different topical anesthetics over the years. Here are my experiences with the common and unique brands: Bengay: The gold standard. Whenever I use this brand, I generally gravitate toward the pain relief massage gel. However, my friend’s mom sent me the regular Bengay. What, you thought I was kidding? Here’s a picture of my Bengay drawer. There’s no doubt about it: Bengay is good. However, even the massage gel only contains 2.5 percent menthol, which is the active ingredient that transports your skin to the Arctic. It also has camphor, like what’s used in Vick’s VapoRub, to reduce …

Do You Want to Get Better?

Do you want to get better? It’s a simple question, but many patients find it almost impossible to answer. It is part of the reason why a great number of doctors are hesitant to prescribe medication that patients need. They don’t want to enable irresponsible behavior. They are worried about what psychiatrists call “secondary gains.” And what are secondary gains? Well, it’s not fun being a chronic pain patient. All of us know that. But you know what? You deserve to stay home from work. You feel disgusting, like a nuclear wasteland. Why should you have to go to work? In fact, why should you be required to have a job at all when you feel like death all the time? If anyone deserves disability payments, it’s you. And you know what else? Sometimes you really need an excuse to get out of social obligations. “Oh, sorry, I’m not feeling well. Maybe next time.” Except “next time” turns into ice cream and binge-watching Netflix. The worst part is that you might not even realize you’re doing it. So much of pain is …

Pain News Network: The Quell Pain Relief Device

Pasted below is the content of my first column as a regular contributor for the Pain News Network! When presented with the Quell pain relief device, people make one of two assumptions about me: 1.) I injured my knee, or 2.) I am a paroled felon wearing a very forgiving Velcro GPS. As I said in my recent guest column, I have made it my mission to test as many pain relief products and therapies as possible. Some of them might be familiar to you; others will be of the “new and bizarre” variety. Whatever they are, I will be your Friendly Neighborhood Guinea Pig and review them for your convenience. I only draw the line at “Made for TV” products that are out to swindle the desperate consumer. Pain patients are certainly desperate. We have a constant refrain humming through our bodies that plays a different tune for each person. Doctors are the musicians taught to hear those tunes — but how can they possibly learn all the music? How can they hear your …

How to Handle Chronic Pain in the Summer

If you’re like me, then you dread weather patterns and barometric pressure changes. You can feel the effects of a rainstorm swelling in your body, and maybe you pretend that you’re a superhero with poorly-controlled weather powers (again, if you’re like me). For more than a decade I have been able to predict rain with 99 percent accuracy. Humidity decimates me. The cold can find me in several sweaters and a non-ironic Snuggie. I have touched on this topic before, but now that we have experienced the hottest day of the year so far in Massachusetts and the humidity refuses to abate, I ask myself: Why on earth do I live here? Seasons are, generally speaking, difficult for those of us with chronic conditions. Our fragile bodies are unable to handle random, drastic weather changes. That’s why it confuses me when the elderly flock to Florida… like birds. It’s humid down there. Short rainstorms occur almost daily. The heat is intense. Whatever my reasons, I choose to stay here. So how do I deal with the seasonal onslaught of …

Welcome to the Chronic Pain Club

It might have been a car accident. Maybe you overextended yourself during a gym class. It could have been a sneeze gone wrong. Perhaps it was caused by trying to put on a pair of pants. In the end, though, you might just be getting older. You wait for the pain to get better, but it doesn’t. Weeks turn into months, months turn into years. Doctors’ faces blur together. They try this, that, and the other thing — and it might help for a little bit, or not at all. Whatever the reason, you are now one of the 1.5 billion people worldwide who has joined the Chronic Pain Club. It is kind of a club. And at this point, in a strange way, I am thankful for my membership. I’m not being facetious. Obviously I would prefer not to be in pain, but hey, here we are! A couple years ago, I would have smacked myself for saying that I’m thankful for what this experience has taught me — I would have groaned to this bizarrely optimistic person that the pain is so bad, it’s …

Word War Won: “Being Careful” vs. “Being Mindful”

Husband offered up the topic for this edition of Word War Won (which, sadly, has not been on the radar for quite some time). To refresh your collective memory, WWW is when I delve into the meanings of words that we use and how some words are better than others for those working through chronic pain. It helps to re-frame negative thought patterns into positive ones (like the techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy). Careful: adjective. [kare-full] The state of avoiding potential danger or mishaps. Mindful: adjective. [myend-full] To be fully aware and present in the moment. I was reading through some of my medical records when I came across a shrink’s blurb who’d made a point of noting that I am afraid of interacting with the world. To paraphrase: “She is scared to go out in crowds, and in the wintertime she thinks that if she is not careful, she will slip on ice and injure herself further.” I might as well live in bubble wrap. For the record, I have tried. Please refer to Exhibit A below. Husband framed the idea …

Thoughts on the Quell Pain Relief Device

I have now been using the Quell pain relief device for 15 days. Here are my initial thoughts: I definitely notice when I am not wearing it. Last week I was on the beach in Cape Cod with the in-laws for an afternoon, so I didn’t put it on for fear of ugly tan lines. I crashed as soon as I got back to the hotel. My pain quieted within 20 minutes when I started wearing the Quell again. While it can be tolerated on a 24-hour basis, I have been wearing the Quell only during the daytime. My pain is better when I’m flat on my back (once I take some tizanidine, anyway). I attempted to wear it one night and found the vibration, even in nighttime mode, too distracting. On the plus side, Husband could not feel the vibration on his side of the bed, so it won’t disturb any partners. For not wearing it 24-hours a day, the electrodes wear down at a rapid rate. After five days bits of the gel came off and stuck to my …

Yoga for Chronic Illness

Just thought you might like to know that this online yoga class from Aroga Yoga is available soon and is specifically tailored to those suffering from chronic pain and illness! There are also a couple of free videos to try. The course itself is $97 USD, which I think is great for six one-hour yoga classes, one-on-one chats with the instructor, and two group chats. As the site says: The Course: -6 one-hour videos of yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. All you need to access the videos is an internet connection and computer or mobile device! -One to one unlimited email support for the duration of the course and 3 months afterward. -2 group chat sessions where you can talk to me and other students in the course. These will happen twice throughout the duration of the course and you are able to ask questions and connect with others living with chronic illnesses. Dates: The course runs 3 times a year. The next session starts July 6! Cost: Huge beta discount on right now! The full course …