the Fault In Our Nerve Endings

Managing Your Chronic Pain

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt,” at least according to Augustus Waters, the protagonist of John Green’s record breaking novel, The Fault In Our Stars. And boy, do the people suffering from chronic pain understand this all too well. For chronic pain sufferers, pain is an absolute. Pills and anti-inflammatories only offer mild relief, while their nerve endings continue to burn and singe with an unyielding force. Even that ancient remedy, the one that solves nearly all problems—emotional and physical—cannot help. I’m of course referring to sleep, and if you’re a chronic pain sufferer, then you can agree that a solid eight hours of sleep is in no way a guarantee.

A successful night is classified as being filled with a solid 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of uninterrupted slumber. Research shows that in the different phases of sleep, our body undergoes muscle repair, memory consolidation, and hormone regulation for growth and appetite. Sleep, however, when constantly interrupted, not only results in our body failing to recoup, but potentially leaves your body worse than it began. Imagine your last sleepless night, recall the way you’d fall asleep only to thirty or forty-five minutes later be woken by a sharp pain running through your spine. Now I want you to think about the next morning. How was your mind? Groggy, lethargic, unable to function at full speed? And what about your body? Sore and Swiss-cheesed with pain? In all likelihood, your sleepless night has given way to an even more painful day than the one you had tried to escape the night before.

While chronic back pain sufferers can attest that a lot of the time anti-inflammatories and over the counter pain relievers can stifle their pain, it typically does not hold the pain at bay forever. So for those sufferers unable to fall asleep, even when aided by pharmaceuticals, here is a list of five tips to help you fall asleep, and stay asleep longer. Continue reading

Don’t Cramp My Style

Trigger This


Last weekend I had the pleasure of babysitting for my older cousin. Not actually a parent, and far past my own years of childhood, I confess that I was slightly nervous. While I adore her children (plural), and love them in small doses (an hour or two tops), I’m for the most part pretty unfamiliar with how to handle a three and seven-year-old for 24-hours at a time. You heard that right, twenty-four hours, including a sleepover and early morning wake-up call. Needless to say I rallied the troops for support, and took my mom’s advice to take them to their favorite 50’s themed diner, to tire them out before they came home to go to bed.

For the most part, the night went smoothly. At seven-years-old, my cousin’s oldest is pretty self-sufficient and willing to help wherever needed, and at three, her youngest only wants to follow his older sister around aimlessly. In fact, by the time we had reached dinner, I parked only to find the younger of the two passed out and snoring in his car seat, while my husband took the oldest inside to get started on some arcade games. The night was going smoothly, and by the end of dinner, as their eyes drooped, I was fully convinced that bedtime would be nothing short of a home runner.

Then came the moment. If you’re a parent—or even a babysitter—then you know the one. Where you call the night what it is: over. The oldest was understanding, and admittedly tired, but the three-year-old in typical three-year-old fashion, scrunched up his face, narrowed his eyes, and let out a wail that only a dog could hear. To say that he did not understand in the same way his sister did would be an understatement. He was shrill, angry, and didn’t want me anymore, but rather insisted on his mom and dad (both of whom were busy dancing the night away). The tantrum lasted for thirty or so minutes and ended with him passed out in his bed, breathing raggedly, and fighting hiccups from his crying. But in the end (other than his three am wake-up call wherein he snuck into the guestroom, and promptly turned around and left), that was the last we heard of him for the night.

So why all the talk about a three year old on a pain management site? Continue reading

It’s All Relative

Living A Pain-Full Life

Like most teenage girls, in my years prior to turning sixteen, I spent a good handful of nights babysitting whenever I needed to earn a few bucks for the movies or some shopping that weekend. After a few successful hours spent watching kids, I ended up turning babysitting into a rather lucrative business, and by junior year I was nanny-ing five days a week for eight hours a day during the summer. The hours spent watching other people’s children were ones in which I learned a lot of things: that kids need a constant amount of attention, that it’s never easy to calm a crying child, and that kids have an endless bounty of attention.

Whether they were friends of the family, or acquaintances from neighbors, all of the kids that I watched stayed in my life for years after they had surpassed their babysitting needs. One in particular, actually became my cousin several years after I started watching her, and holds a lesson in babysitting that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. At the age of thirteen, while babysitting my now-cousin, I heard the unmistakable sound of glass shattering, followed by the wailing of the man next door. Freshly a teen, it was a terrifying sound to be sure, and yet I found my toes pointed toward the door, ready to help wherever possible. Upon entering the room I found the man keeled over on the floor, crippled head to toe with searing pain.

What I know, that I didn’t know then, was that the man suffered from chronic pain, the kind that debilitates the body in every way. That particular day, my now-cousin’s neighbor had experienced an intense spasm that ran throughout his back, cramping his arms (including his hand which was holding the baking pan) and legs, which left him writhing on the floor until I found him. This story is unfortunately all too familiar to those suffering from chronic pain, and with nearly 4.5% of the global population experiencing some sort of neuropathic pain, it’s become something worth talking about. Continue reading

The Hip Bone’s Connected To The Thigh Bone

Growing up in San Diego meant that I spent many a day enjoying the beach. In fact, by the time I was six I owned my first surfboard and went every weeknight before dinner to surf the waves with my dad. By the time I was in the seventh grade, I was well accustomed to waking up before dawn on multiple days throughout the week to hit the jetty and soak up some saltwater before school. This way of life continued throughout the eighth grade before I quickly realized that high school wasn’t very conducive to the surfer lifestyle.

Needless to say, my dad continued on without me. Growing up in San Diego, himself, my dad was big in the surfer and skate scene of the 70’s. Big waves and storm warnings were as much a part of my dad’s life, as I am today. Living at the height of the Dogtown era (wherein southern California underwent a drought, not unlike the one of today), where surfers took up skating and bounced from backyard to backyard finding the perfect drained swimming pool to shred. Understandably, since the sport had become a new one, those who experimented in pool skating often times fell—and boy did they fall hard.

Off the top of my head, I can recall two surgeries that my dad has undergone in recent years (yes, he still surfs and skates today). Both of which were done to alleviate the pain on his torn rotator cuffs. However, his rotator cuffs are the least of his concerns. Not one to complain about pain—he drove and then walked himself into the hospital after breaking his leg surfing one morning—my dad has in recent years had to come to terms with the damage he’s done to his body throughout the years. Riddled through with an old-age that he won’t acknowledge and with injuries from decades past, he is finally starting to feel a little worse for the wear, and with his most recent diagnosis he discovered that he needs not one—but both—of his hips replaced. Continue reading

Walk It Off

A little known—or widely known for those that went to my high school—fact about me is that in December 2006 I was tested for early onset Multiple Sclerosis. It all began, when at the age of seventeen, I suddenly and without reason, lost the use of my legs. It was rather dramatic, and even at the time I couldn’t let the irony of having spent my entire life labeled by parents as a “drama queen” pass any of us by. Of course, handling the situation with humor was, if not done on purpose, then an entirely plausible way of handling the situation. My parents were panicked, probably more so than myself, but that was because I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of not walking again. To me it was the only possible outcome.

The day following my, what I will fondly refer to as my, “episode” was uneventful in that none of the tests I endured were anything out of the blue. I visited the ER, where we were promptly told my insurance would not work; my orthopedic doctor, the one who had patched up all of my various broken bones in my life; and the phlebotomist office. By the end of the day, the most exciting thing I underwent was getting my blood drawn and a couple of x-rays. Of course, I’m condensing for intrigue, but for the most part I spent the better ¾ of a day being wheeled from office to office with nothing to show for it. In the following weeks, however, that all changed. My days of leisure in the x-ray and blood-pulling room were over, I was frighteningly moved to the big leagues: MRIs (plural), CAT scans, and PET scans became my norm. EMGs were a given, and a spinal tap, while unwelcome, was had. Predictably, or not, as the tests piled up, the mystery of what my diagnosis was grew. With only an incredibly painful back and useless leg muscles to go on, the many doctors grew increasingly flummoxed. Luckily, signs of a blood clot, stroke, or brain tumor were nil, and MS was ruled out as well. For all intents and purposes, I was a healthy seventeen-year-old girl, who just so happened to have zero use of her legs. Continue reading

Botox: The Little Drug That Could

This morning, I did what any other American woman does. I opened my eyes, stretched my arms, reached for my phone, and checked my Facebook. It may have not happened exactly in that order, there’s always the possibility that I checked Instagram or my email first, but somewhere in the lineup is definitely my Facebook. It’s not something I’m entirely proud of, and actually I can feel my head dipping a little bit in shame even as I type this. That being said, it is cringe worthy to think that the first story I came across was an US Magazine post, with a glaring headline reading: Heidi Montag Is Almost An Aunt.

My immediate thought was: this is breaking news? While my second thought was: awww, Heidi Montag, what has happened to you? Breaking headlines is no news to Montag, made famous by MTV’s the Hills; she notoriously underwent a whopping ten-procedure plastic surgery in just one sitting. With her body now tucked, trimmed, and filled to her heart’s content, her face is probably the least recognizable. Pulled taut by the amazing filler that is Botox, she is no longer recognizable to the fresh-faced twenty-year-old of yore.

It got me thinking, however, about how Botox is quite the wonder drug. No longer strictly used for aesthetic purposes, the drug has made its way to the pain market, serving as a powerful tool for not just the Plastic Docs in our lives. And I should know. While not a licensed doctor or practicing nurse, I’ve had my fill of Botox treatments planted right into my back. Yup, you heard that right, my back. Continue reading

Back At It: Understanding Back Pain

The other morning, in the brief time that I had before getting to work, I stumbled across an old episode of Sex and the City. An HBO favorite from the days of yore, it was an episode I was both familiar with and enjoyed. Admittedly, the story line that stuck with me was pretty cliché, and I’m sure you’ll agree. The story of the pretty girl stuck on the bathroom floor, naked and writhing in pain, waiting for her handsome savior to come and rescue her. Now I’m going to safely assume that we all have similar stories to tell. In my case I was the zany character struggling on the bedroom floor, and it was not a handsome man coming to collect, rather my mother, but I digress.

My point is that back pain; severe, debilitating, back pain is something that we have all at one point or another come across. In fact, it is so common that research estimates that four out of five people will suffer from some sort of back injury in their lifetime. In Phoenix, Arizona alone, researchers have estimated that roughly 1.6% of the population has had some sort of back issue, with a whopping 47.2% of that estimate belonging to the elderly. The other portion is made up of work related injuries and sport related injuries (typically belonging to those of young adults and adolescents) that have required some sort of medical attention. Continue reading

The Lingo Tango: How To Better Prepare For Your Doctor Visit

Heading to the doctor’s office can be intimidating. Most of the time I would rather work overtime to avoid visiting my office if only because I don’t understand most of what it is they are saying. This, mixed with my ever-worsening fear of needles, and you’d be surprised that I do actually visit the doctors whenever my body calls upon it. For those of us suffering from chronic back pain, biting down and scheduling an appointment isn’t much of a decision—our bodies, riddled with pain and aches really make the choice for us, despite what we personally may desire.

When we’re hurting, our bodies needs outweigh the need of many, and instead must be dealt with appropriately and in the proper setting. Yet, while chronic back pain sufferers are aware of our bodies’ needs, some of us still experience the racing heart and sweaty palm that happen each time we write our name on the sign in sheet. While I cannot prescribe a magic pill that will make visiting the doctor’s office that much easier—and if anyone should stumble across one let me know—I can offer you some tips and tricks for making your visit that much easier. Continue reading