All posts filed under: health

Pain News Network: Dressing for Comfort and Success

Check out my latest column for the Pain News Network! Comedian Patton Oswalt once apologized for all the times he made fun of sweatpants. “I thought the pinnacle of mankind would be Mars colony or teleportation. Nope! Sweatpants! That was it. Sweatpants!” he said. “We started with fire and the wheel and writing, agriculture, penicillin, sweatpants. Everything else, we’re just on the downward slope. We did it. We’re all done.” Oswalt went on to say how one never puts sweatpants on after showering; they’re always worn over “un-deodorized flesh,” with which I disagree. Why? Because I just took a shower and then put my sweatpants back on. (That’s not the point of this post.) If you are one of the approximately 60 million people in the world with chronic pain, you know that regular clothes can just hurt. It becomes a burden to wear something as regular as jeans. We operate by feel alone. What is comfortable? What doesn’t compound our pain? What feels good against our tortured skin? Sweatpants! This obviously was a problem …

The Quell Pain Relief Device: 8 Months Later

Hi, everyone. It’s been quite some time since I’ve shouted into the electronic void. I had such grand plans, too. At the end of 2015 I left my full-time job as an associate attorney. My bosses did so much for me, but the way our office was set up, having me work part-time just wasn’t possible. The month of December was my slow transition to working from home. I still have my freelance editing work, but primarily I am home. In my sweatpants. With my cat. I figured I would use this time to write a ton of blog posts, start my new website (to be formally announced at a later date), do yoga four times a day, walk an hour every day, finally go to the gym, hang out with my cat, wake up at 5 a.m. during the work week, do some personal writing for the first time in years, etc. I had grand, unrealistic plans. At the very least I still plan to discuss transitioning to working from home, but that’s not the point …

Pain News Network: The ActiPatch

Here’s my latest column for the Pain News Network! Loyal readers, I have returned. It’s been a tumultuous month of bad days and flares, so while I was absent from my writing duties, I was trying out a hodgepodge of products designed to offer pain relief. Naturally, none of them worked. Let’s discuss. A while ago it was suggested that I try the ActiPatch. I was originally introduced to this new form of pain product by Lil’ Bub, the celebrity cat. I should probably explain that. Lil’ Bub, full name Lillian Bubbles, is a perma-kitten, meaning that she will retain her kitten-like characteristics for her entire lifespan. She also has an extreme case of dwarfism and a rare bone condition called osteopetrosis (the only cat in recorded history to have it), which causes her bones to become incredibly dense as she grows older. This causes pain and difficulty when she tries to go from Point A to Point B. Her person, called the Dude (like Jeff Bridges in “The Big Lebowski”), discovered the Assisi Loop, which …

Accepting Limitations Caused by Chronic Pain & Illness

Yesterday, after much deliberation (far too much deliberation), I finally accepted the fact that I can no longer work a full-time job because of my chronic pain. My bosses did everything they could to work with me on a solution, but I cannot fundamentally perform the tasks required by my job. Driving to the office, sitting in a chair every day, and traveling to meetings was chipping away at me, little by little, breaking down any resilience I had left… which sounds absurd, doesn’t it? A sedentary job being too much for me? But it was, and it is. Even mitigating devices put in place (like a kneeling chair at my desk or taking breaks in a recliner in my office) wasn’t enough. Husband has been begging me for ages to put my health first, finances be damned, but I kept dwelling on the decision and driving him out of his mind with my constant “What if?”s (again, I am sorry, Husband). The reason for my very extended delay in making this transition was that it …

Maladaptive Memories (Or, How Your Body Just Won’t Let Go)

Is your memory just too good? I’m not talking about recalling what you ate for breakfast six Sundays ago or always knowing where you dropped your car keys. I’m referring to the body’s ability to remember everything that happened to it — for your entire life. We hear terms like “muscle memory,” but most of us have no reason to contemplate what that means. Well, let me enlighten you. Muscles remember a strength training routine far easier the second time around; say you start training, have a few weeks of vacation, and then start again because your clothes don’t fit after the annual Holiday Food Gauntlet. It is far easier to get back on the saddle the second time, and it takes less time to reach the same goals. This idea of the body remembering things has always stuck with me. Let’s say I took a tire iron to your knees on Thanksgiving, Nancy Kerrigan-style (stay with me). Once you get over the initial shock, pain, casts, surgery, rehab, soft casts, physical therapy, aqua therapy, and more — let’s say that …

Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Pain, Part II

Sorry for my lengthy absence; it’s been another one of those flares. Back to business as usual! I have discussed before how food can have a direct effect on what happens in the body. Use any cliched vehicle for this idea that you like — our bodies are temples, our bodies have engines that need pure fuel, our bodies don’t like toxins that gunk up the system. Basically, we are what we eat. Those suffering from chronic pain and illness already got the short stick, but 99 times out of 100, we are also told by doctors that we should follow some form of an “anti-inflammatory diet.” Now, I was tested for inflammation by a rheumatologist, and while it was higher than normal, it wasn’t stratospheric. That was how he ruled out arthritis (well, duh). So while my joints aren’t inflamed in a rheumatoid arthritis sort of way, I can definitely tell the days when my body as a whole is just… blegh. Like this morning, for instance! I spent last night pigging out. I’d had …

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 …

Piss Off, Pain Management Clinics

“You have exhausted all of your options.” That is what I was told yesterday when I was denied as a new patient at Massachusetts General Hospital. Western medicine has officially given me the heave-ho. Because I have a “long-standing relationship with another pain management clinic,” unless I am being referred for a specific procedure that my current doctors do not have, I am not allowed to become a patient elsewhere. It’s so strange to reach the end of the road. It’s one thing to be told that the doctors are running out of ideas; it’s another thing entirely to have someone tell you that there is literally no other procedure in existence. All the treatments they are willing to try have been attempted. Science and research have not caught up yet. This is as good as it’s going to get. What they’re willing to try. That’s the operative phrase here. Despite my decade of experience in the medical system, despite never exhibiting pill-seeking behavior, my pain management doctors refused to prescribe any kind of opioid safety net. If …

The Quell Pain Relief Device: Living Up to Its Label?

My long-awaited Quell pain relief device has finally arrived! As soon as I saw the FedEx truck rumble by, I heaved myself out of my chair and hurried to the front door, hoping to see that plain, unassuming box sitting on the front step. There it was, as I’d dreamed for months. I basically ripped it open with my teeth. I backed the Quell IndieGogo the moment I discovered it during the winter; it had already tripled its $100,000 goal. At this point my fairly useless pain clinic says I have exhausted most of my options in terms of what they can provide, unless I want to try an IV lidocaine/ketamine mix. I had the IV lidocaine infusion two weeks ago, and the aftermath was nothing short of a pain-riddled disaster. I’m grasping at straws here. Quell makes grand promises in its sleek promotional video. As PSFK said: TENS systems aren’t new in the market but Quell’s prescription-free, user-friendly and discrete approach is special. The Quell, no matter where the body pain is, could be left strapped at the calf where …

Names Have Power: a Discussion About Labels and Chronic Pain Patients

I have long believed in labels. If there is a name for what I am experiencing, I am better equipped to fight it. If I know what I am, I can deal with the world appropriately. Names have power. That’s what Neil Gaiman’s version of John Constantine said. He said it for different reasons and toward a different end, but the fact remains: Names have power. I have collected labels and names over the course of my life: allergic to food/has eosinophilic esophagitis/is a good student/played tennis/played the violin/writes novels/is a lawyer/is disabled/is a chronic pain patient. I define myself by what I do and what I experience. The names are like a shield. A medical ID bracelet naming my allergies makes me feel special and fragile like a unique little glass-winged butterfly, and more than that, it’s a story. I love to tell stories. A scar on my throat is a symbol that others recognize. I have been broken apart and welded back together. I have been remade. So now I face a dilemma because the …