PHB weekend open forum: dealing with chronic pain

I Tweeted and Facebooked this afternoon:

Battling bad, bad diabetic neuropathy today. Even capsaicin won’t tamp down pain. Can hardly walk. Dammit.

It naturally generated a lot of kind “get well” responses, but what’s noteworthy is that there were a number of people who contacted me who either knew someone living with chronic pain or experienced it themselves and were offering tips and tricks or war stories. There were enough reactions in that vein that I thought it might be worth a post so see how others are dealing with it.

Some folks were theorizing that since I’m recovering from surgery, that I might be in a heightened pain response mode in my case. It could be related to my fibromyalgia. In my case, for instance, pain from diabetic neuropathy is something that flares up many times with fibro. Not this time.

Who knows what’s going on, since pain management for those with chronic pain can be an elusive, frustrating battle.  What I do know is all the tricks in my neuropathy playbook were not helping to relieve the burning, stinging, both numb and ultra-sensitive feeling in my feet all last night. It hurts so much that I cannot put any shoes on other than some really padded slippers. Walking to the bathroom, only a few feet away, is cringe-inducing.

This may clear up on its own if I can get to sleep; since my fibro is fairly well-controlled with a combo of Lyrica and Cymbalta (it’s taken years to find the  effective drugs and dosages). Even then, flares can still occur from time to time. I take magnesium and Vitamin D supplements as well. Since I have insulin-dependent diabetes as well, juggling that, particularly before and after surgery, is also taxing. But I can say that it is in great control.

The down side is that the nerve damage in my feet is apparently permanent, since tight control hasn’t made a difference in pain levels when neuropathy decides to flare up. My magic bullet up until now has been the use of capsaicin cream, which is derived from hot peppers. It has proven to be helpful in counteracting the nerve pain, but it did jack sh*t last night.

All of this is not to make you feel sorry for me — I consider myself lucky. The fact is that millions of people out there deal with some sort of chronic, sometimes debilitating pain that common pain relievers don’t help, or don’t have health insurance to help cover the meds (or worse, have insurance that won’t cover a med). I’m also pretty fortunate that there are many days where I am nearly pain free (post-surgery pain excepted right now) when everything is in balance. But so many things can throw it out of whack – changes in weather, over-work, lack of sleep, travel – that it’s a dice roll.

Many people are dealing with pain that requires them to be on narcotics all the time. I cannot imagine that, particularly since your local pharmacy is always hypervigilant about refills of something like Percocet or Oxycodone (thanks, Rushbo!), making one feel like a criminal for filling a script for a legitimate prescription medication that is abused, sold and stolen.

So here are some discussion questions:

* Do you know someone or are someone dealing with chronic pain?

* How is it managed?

* How does it affect quality of life?

* What are any issues re: health insurance?

* What alternative medicine, holistic remedies have been tried? Success?

* How have your doctors been in terms of understanding pain management?

And feel free to share other issues about it.
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