While I am appreciative you are here, I assume you are a pain patient or care for someone who is suffering with pain. I am sorry for that and wholeheartedly empathize. The stigma of chronic pain is isolating, promoting feelings of worthlessness and despair. We all had enough isolation during 2020 and with the CDC estimating 50 million U.S chronic pain patients in 2018, you are not alone. However, I have spent much of the last decade feeling lonely and tearful, seemingly a part of “chronic pain’s destruction.”
I hope this site will free you from feeling alone with your frustrations over managing, and ultimately recovering from, the nightmare that chronic pain creates.
My goal is to help others by sharing my story.
Multiple sources, doctors, and establishments have similar definitions of chronic pain as ongoing pain, lasting longer than 6 months. I have found that chronic pain syndrome is used when the chronic pain causes other complications or comorbidities. I was a few years into this misadventure when I noticed “chronic pain syndrome” listed in my medical chart. At that point in time, I was obese, depressed, anxious, and experiencing pain at multiple sites.
Finding a balance between work and life is a struggle for many, but you toss a medical condition into the mix and things get messy. If that medical condition is pain? Well then you have to throw in the stigma of pain. You are being treated for something that heavily relies on subjective versus objective measures. A provider takes a patient’s temperature, but there is no physical thermometer to measure pain. Can you imagine being asked to judge your temperature by a series of smiling and frowning faces? A scale of 1 to 10?
The about section provides a brief overview of my thoughts and goals for this website. Here I will begin outlining my decade long chronic pain journey, why I created this blog, and what I hope to do for you.
Why The Healing Paradox? Well, healing from chronic pain creates quite the paradox.
The beginning of my saga is filled with so many things I did right, when I felt I had the perfect combination of alternative therapies and conventional medicine.
As I prepared to build this blog, I needed to recall when things went sideways. I forced myself to go back years and dig up details from memory, journals, and medical records. The hindsight makes it easier for me to see where things ultimately went wrong.
You might not relate to each aspect of my history but some parts may mirror your experience. Mine is a roller coaster ride, filled with enormous regret that I wish for others to avoid. Plotting out my detailed story would be book length. I prefer my troubles unfold throughout my posts, but offer several highlights here that ultimately lead to major turning points down a rockier path.
It all started with my neck “hurting a lot.”
- My neck pain began in 2009 while working a desk job.
- I was a healthy weight and active (completed my last sprint triathlon in summer 2010)
- I plowed through thinking it was “age related” despite only being 38 (this is very laughable now).
- As the pain worsened, it was a struggle to balance pain stress with other life and work stressors that we all experience.
- I had an inappropriate work chair for hours of sitting.
- I was seeing an acupuncturist, however, treatments merely acted as a “bandaid” due to increasing stress and a desk job.
- I had my first massage spring 2011 and this aggravated what turned out to be a compressed nerve in my neck.
First official diagnoses
- My first official diagnoses were assigned after an August 2011 cervical spine (neck) MRI. I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) and Spinal Stenosis.
- I immediately saw a surgeon who recommended disc replacement, and stated there was no longterm solution outside surgery (I declined).
- I received a cervical spine corticosteroid injection for cervical radiculopathy in December 2011, that helped ease the compressed nerve pain.
- I continued with acupuncture and added Pilates and Rolfing to manage my pain. This was on top of a nutritionist I was seeing for digestive troubles.
- I experienced another surge in stress trying to balance my pain with everything else, I felt like all my therapies were basically “band-aids.”
The cost of treating pain
- I damaged my esophageal lining due to taking too much over the counter Naproxen (over the counter anti-inflammatory)and switched to prescription pain medications.
- I started a full time Masters degree program in spring 2014 while working full time.
- Shortly after, I woke up with excruciating hip pain and barely able to walk after an intense week of activity.
- I attended physical therapy, with the diagnosis “probable hip labral tear.” I would limp off and on for one year.
Quite the paradox
- My neck was happier when I stood, my hip was happier when I sat.
- Be the end of 2014 I was up 34 pounds in 3 years and much less active. The weight gain and decreased activity wreaked havoc on my confidence.
- Both life and work stress seemed magnified and unmanageable.
- I left my job in early 2015 to focus on school full time.
Major turning point
My job decision resulted in me cutting back on various therapies. So when I finally had more time for these things, when I finally had a proper work station set-up at home, when I finally got rid of some of the stress, I couldn’t afford as much. I paid around $50 a month for medication copays, while the various therapies cost me several hundred a month.
It makes me think of a partial quote that I ironically hung next to my home desk.
I’ve seen this quote attributable to the Dalai Lama and it essentially states:
“Man sacrifices his health to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”
I will continue with my story in the next post. I hope that something I have shared has somehow helped you, even if it’s to know you are not alone. I am not a clinical practitioner and nothing I document here is meant as medical advice, I write to tell my experience and connect with others.
I have tried many activities, therapies, diets, supplements, products, medications, and mental health activities. I have read books, watched documentaries, poured through research studies. Many things work well, some work in the short term, a few don’t work at all. While I have improved since my “rock bottom,” I am still sick and on a quest to heal.
Hopefully as I recount these experiences and share future ones, you can benefit from what I learn. No two bodies are alike and what works for me, may not work for you or vice versa. However, I cannot imagine this battle prior to the internet joining people together from across the globe. I think we can heal together. I want your journey, or the journey of someone you care for, to be made easier by something found here.