Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Experience With Dry Needling

On December 23, 2016 I had arthroscopic surgery for a femoral acetabular impingement and to repair a torn labrum in my right hip. I have been in physical therapy for six months now, and the pain hasn't gotten better. The pain feels the same way it did before I had surgery, and more recently I have been experiencing tightness. We think the culprit is my iliopsoas. I tried a cortisone injection which didn't help with the pain or tightness I have been experiencing, so that's when my physical therapist suggested that I should try dry needling before I went ahead with more cortisone injections. 

I tried two dry needling sessions to see if that would give me some relief, and it helped somewhat with the tightness but the relief I did get only lasted a day, and it didn't help at all with the pain. So, my physical therapist and I decided that continuing with dry needling wouldn't help since the relief wasn't long lasting. 

To me dry needling wasn't painful, it was really uncomfortable. After the dry needling sessions I felt extremely sore for the rest of the day. The soreness felt like I did some really heavy leg lifts. This is the best way I can describe it. It didn't make my pain worse, and putting some ice on it helped. For the procedure a needle, similar to needles used in acupuncture are inserted into trigger points one at a time. The needle is then moved around to try and get a "twitch" response, which is supposed to help relax the muscle. The "twitch" was the most uncomfortable part for me. I also did have some bruising, but it wasn't bad. 

Please know that this was my experience with dry needling, and everyone's experiences are different. I know that this can be painful for some, and everyone experiences pain in different ways. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Long Term Disability Denied Me

 This happened to me a few years ago, and at the time everything was so fresh that I wasn't ready to talk about it. But now I feel empowered and ready to talk about what happened to me. Let me start by saying that chronic pain conditions are a disability, and they need to be viewed as such. There needs to be a lot more attention and education about chronic pain as a disability, because unfortunately many companies that handle short term, and long term disability don't recognize them. This is extremely frustrating for those of us who live with these disabilities everyday, and we can't work because of them. I really believe that the whole process needs to be changed, and become much easier and smoother for those of us who are applying for it. The whole process is a mess! I had to not only type up many, many appeal letters, then go get medical records from every doctor I saw, every ER visit, every test I had done, and then make copies of these. Then mail out these "appeal packets" every time I was denied. How is this easy for someone who's in horrible pain and can barely function? There were many times I wanted to just give up, and say fine you won. But I told myself NO, they're not going to win because I'm appealing this all the way to the end, and that's what I did. Even though, I did get denied I was proud of myself for standing up for not only myself, but for others who are in similar situations, and educating them about chronic pain. 

I was approved for short term disability because of surgery. But when I didn't get better and I couldn't return to work I applied for long term disability, and I was denied. I fought, and fought until it reached the point where I had exhausted all of my appeal options. I honestly felt so angry, pissed off, and upset that they 1.) didn't recognize my pain conditions as a disability. 2.) they were telling me when I could and couldn't take my pain medications. 3.) The tone in which the letters were written were so demeaning, rude and unprofessional. 4.) They are uneducated about chronic pain and how it impacts my everyday living. 

Here are 2 examples of what was written to me in the denial letters. In one of the denial letters it said, "You are restricted from taking medications that make you drowsy while working, and you can work without taking pain medications and take them at times when you are not working". I said WTF, are you kidding me this has to be some kind of joke, right?! Ummm excuse me, no you can't tell me when I can or can't take my pain medication, and I can't even get out of bed without taking them, so how can I work??

In another denial letter they said,"There findings do not find physical functional impairment". I would love to know what they think constitutes a physical functional impairment, because to me the pain i'm in, not being able to sit or stand, not being able to feel my leg and foot, my leg giving out on me, and me collapsing are physical functional impairments. In my opinion their list of physical functional impairments needs to change. 

I received many many other denial letters which contained  the same demeaning, and rude language. This post would have been really long if I included all of my denial letters. So, I kept this post short and to the point. How can these companies even think that any of this is acceptable?! Honestly, in my opinion these companies need to hire chronic pain advocates who understand what it's like to live with chronic pain, and be able to educate them about chronic pain conditions. This whole process is exhausting, very frustrating, and something needs to change!

Friday, April 28, 2017

How I Coped With My Feelings Of Not Being Able To Return To Work

This is a personal topic for me to talk about, but it's time to share my story, and situation so others who are going through something similar know they aren't alone. I worked in the financial services industry full time, which meant most of my 8 hour days were sitting at a computer. 

April 5th, 2013 I went in for a surgery that I had many times before, but this time was different because I ended up with more pain that just kept on getting worse. I had taken 3 weeks off of work to recover from surgery, after the 3 weeks were up,I had made the decision to try and go back to work. I was in horrible burning pain, barely getting any sleep, and extremely nauseous. I only lasted a half day because I just couldn't take the pain anymore and I knew something was wrong. This was the last day I was at work. 

It was an extremely tough reality for me realizing that I couldn't work with being in this much pain. Not only did this decision affect me but also my husband. During this time I went through a cycle of emotions, and I was really hard on myself. I honestly felt so lost. I told myself that I was just a burden and I was worthless. There were a lot of days and nights I would just cry, thinking what's going to happen now? I just kept getting more depressed and down on myself, but at one point I realized that it's alright to let myself experience these feelings of frustration, but I couldn't let it consume all of my thoughts, and I couldn't continue to go down this spiraling dark hole that seemed to have no end in sight. I started to retrain my brain to recognize that the little accomplishments are just as important as the bigger ones. When you live with a chronic illness and/or chronic pain the most simplest of tasks,and just everyday life can be a big challenge. So, I would start to celebrate things like, getting out of bed, taking a shower, making dinner, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, doing a load of laundry, etc. These smaller accomplishments of everyday living matter too. I consider a lot of accomplishments to be the way I impact or how I made an impact in someones life. Even if it's just a simple message like great job, I'm praying for you, that's awesome, you got this, you're a warrior, etc. Those words make an impact and matter. 

I did and still turn to my faith, pray everyday, and trust in the lords plan for me. 

Trust me I still have days where I struggle, and this is completely normal, sometimes it's hard to be positive everyday. I do like to remind myself that I'm not a burden, I matter, I'm doing my best, and I'm not worthless. I like to put these positive reminders on post its around the house and in my phone too. I found this to be really helpful. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Feeling Defeated

So, for the past almost 10 weeks I have been recovering from having hip arthroscopy surgery that I had on December 23rd, 2016. I had a femoral acetabular impingement and a torn labrum that was repaired. This recovery has been very challenging to say the least.

Out of all the 10+surgeries I have had, this one has been the hardest. I feel like I have been dealing with set back after set back. 3 weeks ago after my 7 week post op visit with my orthopedic surgeon I was honestly feeling defeated. I had found out that I tore a stitch that held the capsule together (the capsule is what he had to cut open to get to my labrum, that's how my PT explained it to me), my pain wasn't improving like I had hoped, and he told me that I needed to cut back on my physical therapy. I have been working so hard at my therapy, I have been committed to my recovery, and following the restrictions I have. So, when I left the office I had this overwhelming sense of defeat. 

To make matters worse, last week my pain was horrible. It seems to have gotten a little better, but it's still not at a manageable pain level. I'm still staying hopeful and positive that the pain will get better over the next couple of weeks, but I have prepared myself for what's next if the pain doesn't get better by the time I see my surgeon at the end of this month. 

How I choose to deal with set backs, and the sense of defeat is to acknowledge my feelings. If I were to ignore them, they would get worse, and I would become so overwhelmed that these feelings would consume me. I also like to approach whatever i'm going through with a realistic attitude and mindset. I understand that this pain may never go away, but if we can manage the pain, i'm alright with this. I have come to accept a long time ago that living with chronic pain is, and always will be a part of my life. I rely heavily on my faith. I pray a lot, ask God for guidance, and I trust in his plan for me. I also like distractions because they take my mind off of things for a little while. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery: My Experience

I had spinal cord stimulator surgery on October 25, 2016 and it was done as an outpatient. As of right now i'm 5 weeks post op. Surgery took about an hour and a half. I was under sedation and not general anesthesia because I needed to be woken up to let the doctor know where i was feeling the impulses, so he knew if the leads were in the right spot. Once he knew he had the leads in the right spot, I was put back under sedation. I didn't wake up on my own, and the only thing I remember is telling the doctor where I felt the impulses. Then the next thing I remember after that is being in recovery. During surgery it took 35 minutes just to seat the leads in the right place because my body wanted to be difficult like usual, and they weren't working in the place I had them in for trial. But after he got them in the right spot everything was back on track. I should also mention that the Boston Scientific Rep was there in the operating room, and came to talk to me in recovery. He was also at my post op appointment to do some reprogramming and to go in to more detail about how to use my remote and charging the battery etc. I call him when I have questions, and when I need to meet with him for reprogramming. 

The first few days were rough because of the surgical pain. I was icing my back a lot which helped with the pain and swelling. 3 days after surgery I saw my doctor to check my incisions and make sure that everything was healing properly. It felt so good to get the pressure bandages off because that relieved some of the surgical pain. He had stitched me inside, glued both incisions, and then steri stripped the incision in the middle of my back. The steri strips came off after the first week. He said that I was healing really good, and to keep taking my pain meds for the surgical pain. He did tell me I could shower but not to wash the incisions. The surgical pain was getting a little better after the 1st week but i was still experiencing surgical pain the 2nd week, and I ended up getting a cold so all the sneezing and blowing my nose didn't help at all. Going in to week 3 the surgical pain was almost gone, and my back felt tender and it felt like intense pulled muscles along with spasms. Week 4 post op the surgical pain was gone and I was still experiencing the intense pulled muscles and spasms. It took about 2 weeks for me to finally be able to walk standing straight up, and to sleep in bed again. I slept in the recliner for the first 2 weeks because of the swelling and pain, and I wasn't able to lie down. My doctor did give me restrictions for 2 months, I can't bend or twist at the waist, and I can't raise my hands up above my head. He gave me these restrictions because he doesn't want the leads or battery shifting and he wants my body to accept the SCS and form scar tissue around the leads and battery. 

What my back looked like when I came home from surgery.










The middle incision is where the leads were placed in my back, the lower right one is where the battery is, and the old scar underneath is where my Interstim used to be. 








Having the SCS has improved my quality of life, and honestly I'm so happy I decided to go ahead with getting it implanted. I'm now able to sit down, which I haven't been able to do in over 3 years. I'm starting to get some feeling back in my leg and foot, I'm finally getting good sleep, and I wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed. My mood has improved, I'm not anxious and irritable all the time. I finally feel like I have serious pain control, and the SCS gives me 50% pain relief. To give you some reference my everyday pain was a 9 or higher, so now it's about a 5-6, which is manageable for me. I saw my pain doctor a week after surgery and I have started weaning off both of my pain medications which are Nucynta ER and Dilaudid. I told her that I felt ready since I had the SCS implanted now. I'm still doing good with the weaning and my pain is controlled. I'm now taking Tizanidine 3 times a day as needed for the spasms in my back. I see my pain doctor again next month to discuss how i'm doing. Please know that this is my personal experience, and I know that this isn't for everyone. I just wanted to put my experience out there to help others who may be considering the SCS. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. 

I have the Boston Scientific Precision Spectra SCS. I have a rechargeable battery, wireless remote, and a wireless charger that charges my battery.




This is what my remote and the charger for it looks like. 






This is what my remote looks like when I unlock it. 
The remote shows what program I have on, and it shows how much battery life I have for the remote and the scs battery, and it lets me know when they are low and need to be charged. I have control over the programs and the stimulation which is really nice. 


These are the charging accessories. 


This is the charger for my scs battery, and it's sitting on the base station that charges it. The green light means it's fully charged. 






This is me charging my scs battery. 

















Monday, October 24, 2016

Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery Is Tomorrow!!!!!

I honestly can't believe this day is almost here! I feel like I have waited for what seems like forever to finally have something that helps control my pain. My SCS surgery is scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday October 25th at 3pm. I will be tweeting before and hopefully after surgery with some updates. Here is a link to my twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/MrsEtc0721.

 I have so many different feelings right now. I feel so excited and nervous at the same time. I'm excited to finally get some serious pain relief, and nervous just because I want everything to go well. I know that this was the best choice and right option for me and what I needed to help control my pain. kind of know what to expect since it's very similar to my Interstim surgery, so that kind of helps put my mind at ease. I will finally be able to have a good nights sleep and feel well rested when I wake up. I hopefully will get feeling back in my right leg and foot, and be able to drive again. I will be less irritable and moody, and most importantly my pain will FINALLY be controlled and at a manageable pain level!!!! I'm just so overwhelmed with excitment and I have a really good feeling that everything will go well tomorrow. Praying that everything goes as planned!!

I know that this is a short post, but I will be doing a post all about SCS surgery and the recovery process. If you haven't read my blog post all about my SCS trial surgery, you should go check it out! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How My Husband First Dealt With My Pain & Our "New" Life

I asked my husband if I could interview him for this post, and he said yes. We both agreed that this could help others in the same or similar situations, and we hope you find this helpful. This is how my husband first dealt with, and how he figured out how to cope with the"new" me, my pain, and what our "new" life looked like. This post will be in the words of my husband Eric. 

At first it was hard because so much was happening all at once. In the beginning, I was upset because things weren't going the way I thought it would. Melissa had lost her job, so now I was the only one working, and we had to have some difficult conversations. It was very stressful, and when Melissa would take things out on me, I would fight back, so it was like we were fighting all the time. It took me a while to figure out that this isn't the Melissa I know, and fighting and yelling back isn't helping, so it took and still takes a lot of self control. It also helped when Melissa explained to me that it was her pain taking control of her, and causing her to take it out on me, it's not me or anything i'm doing that's upsetting her. 

 I didn't realize how bad it was for Melissa, until she completely broke down because of the pain, and what was going on with her. This is when I started to understand what she was going through. I realized that I have it easy, and she has it hard because she is the one suffering. It's hard watching someone you love go through all of this. This also made me realize that life is so much more than money, a house, and materalistic things. Your spouse is more important, and I came to accept what was going on and just take it one day at a time. 

We're a team and we work together, make adjustments, have open communication, and we make it work. We have hope, and I just want the best for Melissa, and I want her to feel better, and not be in so much pain and suffering.

A little thank you note: I would like to say thank you to my husband, because honestly without him I wouldn't be here. He does so much for me, and he always goes above and beyond. I love you, and I appreciate you more than you will ever know.