I haven’t written in much detail about my health and how I am doing physically for quite a while. In general, my health has been slightly better.
I had a doctor’s appointment Tuesday, just a follow-up to discuss the new medication I have been trying. A few months ago, I entered the world of medication for the first time and started taking Elavil to try and control my chronic back pain. My doctor started me on a low dose – 10mg. A month later I moved up to 15mg, and two weeks after that I started taking 20mg, the dose I am currently on. I can, hesitantly, say that it has been helping. The only side effect that I have experienced is tiredness. It makes me a fuzzy and at times exhausted. I have been sleeping 12 hours most nights, and it is a struggle to get up even with that much sleep.
It is funny that I have been extremely hesitant to voice my improvement out loud. I have been keeping very quiet because it feels like if I tell too many people it will probably all go away. Ridiculous I know. If I speak too loudly, maybe the medicine will hear me and stop working. Not really, but the honest reason is that if the medicine doesn’t help on any sort of long term basis, I don’t want to tell people I am doing better if it isn’t going to last. It seems that anytime you make a claim about your health, people assume that claim is valid for the rest of eternity. If you say you are doing better than the assumption is that you are all better, and life can go back to normal.
So, I am keeping the hopeful thoughts to myself for the most part. For now, I can say that although it has not been a miracle drug, I have noticed a small but noticeable dent in my regular pain levels. I will take what I can get.
I am still going to physical therapy, and it continues to help. I do my physical therapy exercises at home, and they help me make progress until I overdo it, crash, and have to start from the beginning again. It is a neverending cycle of crashing and slowly building up, and this is where my doctor wants to focus – to try and break this cycle so I can slowly build up without crashing.
The plan for breaking the cycle is to use my tracking chart to help me assess when I might be overdoing it before it actually happens. Since I started my tracking chart, I have had crashes, but they have been minimal compared to the ones I have had in the past. Extensive and detailed tracking has really helped me know how much my body can handle on a daily and weekly basis.
On top of the Elavil, my doctor is having me take round the clock Advil to try and control the inflammation, which she thinks over time could also play a role in breaking this crash and burn pattern. I have also started using lidocaine patches. While each of these three strategies – the Elavil, Advil, and lidocaine patches – on their own only make a small dent, using all three at the same time has definitely improved my quality of life, especially when it comes to making it through work a few days a week. I have noticed a definite improvement in my ability to focus and be present at work due to my pain levels being down.
One of my goals at the beginning of this year was to try at least three new treatment strategies for my health. I use the term “treatment strategy” loosely to mean anything new I do for my health, including exercise, diet, etc… The first of these three was to try new medication at the recommendation of my doctor as I just discussed. Most recently I have been focusing on trying to find an exercise that I can do without flaring. And, great news! I may have found one! Last week I started doing a short Tai Chi video. It is only three minutes long, and I am embarrassed to say that even those three minutes of movement leave me feeling sore. But, I was able to do it three times last week without any negative consequences.
Last but not least, I have some decisions to make about my diet and whether I want to go back on a hardcore anti-inflammatory diet, or if I am ok with being more lenient. It is so hard to tell how much the anti-inflammatory diet helps me, if any, and it is so tempting and easy to give in to bad food choices. Let’s just say that a small can of coke makes me exceedingly happy, no matter how bad it is for me. But, I need to make a plan and stick with it.
Looking at my tracking chart, I can see that my pain levels are down. As my pain levels go down, it has been hard to get my activity levels up in what I would consider an equal amount. That is what I am working on. Wish me luck!
How have your pain levels been recently? What pain management strategies have been most effective for you?