Monday, 28 June 2010

chronic pain - medication v meditation

if you have read some of my other posts you will know that pain plays a big part in my life. due to me/cfs/fibro everyday my muscles and joints are achey and sore - a similar feeling to when you have the flu. some days are worse than others with certain parts of my body felling pain that may be throbbing, hot, deep or piercing. sometimes even just typing at the computer for a while can make my pain worse or bring on muscle weakness. (impaired ability to sustain force during and after repetitive muscle exercise) other times too much activity like bending, standing too long or walking can bring on a 'flare up' in my pain. this will be more than familiar to the majority of people affected by me/cfs/fibro - we can all push our activities a little too much (especially if we have nobody to help us with day to day things that need to be done, or we are enjoying an activity) and pay for it later.

after a long time suffering without much help, my doctor eventually sent me to the pain clinic at stobhill hospital. (like most nhs services there was a long waiting list) i had already tried amitriptyline which helped slightly but left me feeling groggy and totally out of it all day. the dr at the clinic prescribed gabapentin, building up the dosage over 6 weeks. this offered me no pain relief but gave me more side affects that were awful including yet again that groggy feeling, this time with depression thrown in. (if it did not trigger depression it most certainaly made it worse)at my latest appointment last week, i was told i would be prescribed yet another medication to try (this on will be similar to amitriptyline but fingers crossed, should have less side affects.) i am also wary of long term use of painkillers like co-codamol which i am meant to take daily, but don't always help relieve my pain anyway.

so i have also been looking into other ways that may help my pain. i tried accupuncture sadly without any success, although it has been known to help many others. the nurse at the pain clinic told me that a tens machine may help, however it can only be used in one area at a time and my pain is more general. it still may we worth discussing this with my gp. when using a tens machine small electrical pulses are delivered to the body via electrodes on the skin. this is thought to affect the way that pain signals are sent to the brain, if pain signals are blocked we may experience less pain. i have also read about natural pain helpers including supplements of magnesium, vitamin b12, malic acid, omega 3s and vitamin d. i have discussed these with my own gp and dr at the homeopathic hospital and both say that they don't see any advantage in taking supplements. this is a bit of a surprise to me, and i am not sure i agree that i get sufficient nutrients in my diet alone, especially when i am often to poorly to feed myself properly! on a limited budget, like many people affected with me/cfs it's not easy to stock up with proper supplements.

the other avenue i have explored for pain relief is meditation. i have previously mentioned this is one area with lots of research showing benefits for chronic pain. i have been reading'living well with pain and illness' by vidyamala birch, founder of breathworks, and i am planning to go on one of her courses later in the year. vidyamala herself has suffered from chronic back pain for over 30 years, now a wheelchair user she shows that by developing a calm, mindful awareness of your body in each and every moment it is possible to let go of frustration and distress. this book is an inspiring, practical guide to living with and managing chronic pain and illness. vidyamala says:

''its easy to get locked into aversion and distraction if you're living with pain as a fixed and hard 'thing'-a monster lurking in the shadows that dominates your life because you fear it. that's where mindfulness comes in. the awareness you can develop through mindfulness is steady, calm and kind, and it's subtle and precise enough for you to notice the different elements of an experience. paying attention to a painful sensation, for example allows you to investigate it, to explore it's texture and to see it for what it is, rather than what you imagine it to be''.

i am also a big fan of the wildmind which has many articles about the benefits of meditation for chronic pain like this one. i have found that through regular mindfulness meditation i cope better living with daily pain, and for that reason would encourage anyone who who struggles with chronic pain or illness to practice it.

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