Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding non-drug items that help with the pain

I met with a Physical Therapist on Monday.  I think some signals were crossed because I was supposed to meet with an Occupational Therapist- but this mix up ended up being a wonderful thing.  She evaluated me head to toe, we went through some exercises and then she hooked me up to a TENS unit.  Oh MY!

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit is a little device that has a battery, dual channel and several (in my case four) electrodes.  As it was my lower back that was hurting, she applied two electrodes to each side and then had me lay down on a heating pad and switched it on.  She handed me the unit and showed me how to increase the pulses and then set a timer for 15 minutes.  It was like having a very spot specific massage- but worked faster than any masseuse has ever achieved on my lower back.  I could very easily have fallen asleep right there as the sensation overrode the pain.  It was bliss.  When we finished, I was as loose as if I had had a full body massage.  The therapist is going to see if my insurance will cover a personal unit.  My fingers are virtually crossed.  I don't know if they will or not- but if they do- at this point in time it will go a lot way toward controlling my pain.  I seriously feel that every single one of us who has chronic pain should have one.  

There are other things that I use to increase my pain control and quality of life.  Heat has always worked at least temporarily.  Heating pads are nice (especially when I have time to just sit with one) but not very portable.  Thermacare is my favorite portable source of heat when I am hurting.  There are many different "store brands" and "off brands" to choose from but in my experience Thermacare is the most comfortable in terms of the covering on the wrap and in holding the cells close to the body.  I have also found that it maintains temperature longer than any of the others. 

Often in the winter you will see me with Hot Hands in my pockets and sometimes the sister product Foot Warm-up.  Though these don't last as long as Thermacare- they are designed for outdoor use by hunters and skiiers and give a nice heat that you can put in your pocket and/or shoes. 

Massage is also very helpful.  I enjoy going for a full body massage as often as I can.  Rather than targeting a specific site, my massage therapist will take care of the areas that are specifically troublesome but not neglect the rest of the body in the process. The important thing when choosing a massage therapist is to find someone who knows how to deal with RA and Fibromyalgia.  If they are not familiar with the diseases it can be too rough and not acheive the goal of loosening the muscles and just add a layer to the pain. 

I am very interested in what my fellow RA/Fibro'ers use besides the host of drugs they give us to control your pain.  I have considered Yoga and Arthritis Aquatics but haven't made the time in my schedule.  If there is something that YOU recommed- leave it in the comments so we can all learn from your win. 


deac-in-training said...

Sometimes when I'm dealing with a lot of inflammation in the joint(as opposed to the surrounding soft tissue) ice is the only thing that works--unpleasant as it is. This is especially true if I've done something stupid or overdone it.

I do aquatic exercise 4-5 times a week in a warm therapy pool at the YMCA. I don't do classes because a lot of what they do would hurt me. Instead, I have an water exercise program designed by my physical therapist. In addition to keeping the surrounding muscles strong--and thus taking pressure off the joints--it helps just to offload in the water. Also, I do gentle aerobic exercise in the deep end and this gives me a little endorphin rush that sometimes buys me several hours of reduced pain. This takes 1 1/2 hours out of my day (including drive time and locker room time) but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Would love to hear from anyone who has successfully dealt with nighttime pain. I'm on neurontin and vicodin and still having break through pain that wakes me up.

Leslie said...

When my hands hurt really bad I would use warm paraffin was heavenly! It holds the heat in and also makes your hands very soft! Good luck on the TENS!

Jules said...

I forgot about paraffin! The funny thing is- I have a paraffin machine and it is out of sight out of mind. I think I will give that another whirl on Sunday!

deac- I cannot imagine putting my hands or feet in ice. I would be afraid that every muscle would just scream in protest. Night time pain is particularly difficult. The only thing that helps me is taking a flexeril an hour before bed so I can get to sleep- and then sleeping with an electric blanket. Not fun in the summer!