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.