Doctor Doctor, I keep falling asleep

…during the only hour you can book appointments. Which is infuriating.

I tried booking an appointment through their app, but the next available one is 6th May. My current prescription will run out this weekend. Fuck.

This is the downside of setting GP practices targets on appointments – their solution to seeing people within 12 hours is to release all the appointments at 8am, deal with the stampede and if there are no appointments, well you haven’t booked one so you’re not part of the stats.

So why not just join the stampede? Well, because the screaming leg & hip pain has a lovely habit of showing up like a drunk ex at 1am and demanding I pay attention. This means that once I do get to sleep after electrocuting my pain into submission (TENS ftw, and sadly we don’t get to electrocute the ex) I’m generally unconscious from a combo of being exhausted and heavy opiates… 8am gently rolls past… 9am and I log on bleary-eyed to no appointments and a rising feeling of panic that I’m going to run out of my super-effective slow release painkillers & have to return to the boom & bust of 4 hourly doses.

Going back to work on Monday whilst in the current “shiteverythinghurts” phase is going to be a barrel of laughs. I’m still in the sleepy bunny stage of having swapped to slow release morphine instead of the massively wired state of the max dose of Dihydrocodeine. The change hasn’t stopped the pain, but I care less. My joint pain is way more stable, but the nerve pain from reducing the Gabapentin is like white hot needles in my thighs. Which is nice (said in my best Felicity Ward voice). CRPS is a pain in the arse, or legs in my case. Or top half of legs as my lower legs are numb (small mercies).

I’m not sure how many TENS pads you can put on at once, but let’s give it a go!

Wish me luck gor the 8am syampede I have an alam set (& 5 1/2 hours to get some sleep!).

Night night x

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Pleasure & Pain

This is where you see the NSFW disclosure and start to read on sneakily, except this is USFW (utterly safe for work). 

As you do when chronic pain becomes just part of everyday life, I started to Google the medical trials for some of the treatments suggested to deal with my pain levels. One of my go to solutions when it gets too much is my TENS machine. Frankly there are times when I just don’t have enough pads & a full body suit would be a better solution, but as breakthrough methods go, it’s short term effectiveness wins my vote. But why?

There is little evidence to support the use of TENS for chronic pain relief, and yet every physio & pain management professional I have seen starts with this as a non-medical option. I’m generally a skeptic when it comes to things that haven’t been clinically proven to work, but  desperate times…

This is the machine I bought. Thanks to a PIP payment, I was able to upgrade my old 1 setting machine to a duel channel machine with multiple settings & the ability to set my own.This is in no way a recommendation of the device itself, just an image of my own machine for context.

Breakthrough Pain

This can hit me & hit me hard. When my SI slips, or a rib moves, or another spinal disc bulges for no good reason, I get Mr Geek to slap the pads on & I electrocute myself for an hour or so. In these cases I use a TENS setting which in theory uses “gate theory” to block put the pain signals – the idea here is that the electrical stimulation of the nerves blocks the pain signals to the brain. Tbh, it’s similar to massage for me. When any of these areas pop the surrounding muscles often go into spasm and cause more pain, the massaging effect of the tens machine gives the muscles no choice but to contract rhythmically creating a massage sensation & also preventing them from doing their own thing. The pain relief only lasts as long as the machine is on & the intensity feels less over time.

Myofascial Pain (muscle knots)

EDS is bloody evil. Not content with messing up my joints, because my muscles are taking over the job of my tendons & ligaments and because they are constantly overworked holding my skeleton together (or not), my larger muscles are riddled with knots. These are tiny (anything from a grain of rice to a marble) areas of muscle that ate stuck in a contracted state. Strangely, these often bother me more than a joint dislocation as they irritate & cause headaches, or twingy irritating burning pain.  No one really understands why they are there, but they do cause extra pain which refers to the areas around them (eg. A knot in my shoulder may cause pain down my arm). 

There are a number of ideas of how to get rid of these and growing evidence to prove that each method has its merits. The 1st is massage, but rather than Swedish gentle massage, this is pushing on the knot with some considerable force until it releases. Poor Mr Geek has spent hours upon hours attacking the major lumps in my trapezium  (shoulder blades) which bear the brunt of force holding my shoulders together and my head up. A good massage therapist can work out knots, but within 24 hours mine can return so the cost would be prohibitive!

Secondly is getting the muscle stimulated. Activating the muscles my lifting weights is a good example, but a terrible idea for someone with unstable joints! So along comes the TENS machine with its EMS setting (electrical muscle stimulation). With the pads placed correctly, this makes the muscle twitch in a rather off putting manner, but through contraction & release, somehow confuses some of the knots into relaxing and joining the normal working muscle. If you can get through the weird twitching, this is a simple option that also tones the muscle.

The final solution I’ve yet to try, but am fast edging towards is myofascial release therapy which is rather uncharted territory. The basic premise is to insert a needle into the nodule (knot). Trials have shown that this process somehow forces the muscle area to stop contracting. This is done as either a standard acupuncture needle to just release, a set of acupuncture needles which are then attached to an electric current which adds the TENS element, or more clinically, a standard needle which administers a small dose of botox into the muscle which prevents the muscle from contracting for enough time to stop the knot reforming.

It may sound drastic, but the third option appeals to me from a logical standpoint. If I’m desperate enough to allow someone to stick needles into me (and I am), I don’t want the bloody things coming back within hours!

Have you tried TENS for pain relief? Or even had needles stuck into you in desperation? Did it help?