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Chronic Pain: The Next Level

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What do you do when your body fails you? When it becomes impossible to do even the minimum of things that have been keeping you sane for the last couple of years? I'm hoping that I'm never going to have to find out, but in the last couple of days I've gotten glimpses into how bad it can be.

I've talked in the past about suffering from chronic pain and how debilitating that can be. But with the right amount of drugs and some perseverance you can carve out some kind of life for yourself. As long as you are able to keep the pain within the parameters of what you are capable of coping with, you are fine.

Part of that is drugs, of course, and maintaining a proper dosage so that you are functional but pain resistant. It can be a fine line to walk at times, but usually as long as you keep to your dosage, things are manageable. There are always going to be bad days where you're not able to do much about it except try to keep yourself as comfortable as possible.

The other important part is to know your limits. Know what you are capable of doing and how much you can accomplish at any given time. If you try and do too much, you are going to have to pay a price in either an increase in pain or a decrease in what you are going to be able to accomplish in the days after. You learn to govern yourself accordingly.

For the last few years, that has been the pattern I've been able to follow with some success and accomplish a number of things that I've wanted to do for the longest time. I've been blessed or lucky enough to be given opportunities that I've never had before and I've been able to take advantage of them because of the gift of time that I'd been given. Sure, there have been limitations placed on my life, but they haven't involved things that I have suffered from missing out on.

But in the last few weeks there has been a change, and although I've been assured it is temporary and can be corrected with some minor surgery – I've developed a hernia in my lower left side – it has made life exceptionally more difficult. It's become harder to control the pain levels with medication and I'm able to do less and less of what I would normally take for granted.

It takes far less activity to aggravate things to the point where I have to return to bed in order to alleviate the pain. I have to take more and more "breakthrough" pain medication because it is peaking beyond levels that allow me to rest comfortably for any period of time. In short I'm losing the ability to control my body and have any say in what I can and can't do.

I'm sure a lot of you have experienced this temporarily during an illness when you've been too sick to get out of bed. I know I have on occasion in the past, but there has always been the assurance that it will get better soon. I've been given similar types of assurance on this occasion, that once I've recovered from the hernia surgery I'll be fine.

But it doesn't feel as reassuring as I'd hoped. The longer it takes before the surgery, the heavier the pain is becoming and the harder it is getting to cope. There is a huge gap between what the mind is told and what the body and the emotions believe on occasion, and this is one of those occasions.

Nobody knows what effect having this type of surgery will have on my existing condition. Perhaps it will improve things because they will be able to relieve pressure on the myofacial system that surrounds my pelvis by correcting the hernia. But on the other hand it could also do more damage, simply by having to cut into tissue in the area again, and to fiddle around with the myofacial at all.

I don't know and nobody's saying anything except that the hernia has to be dealt with. It's already advanced to the stage where surgery is no longer elective, but necessary for my body. Anyway as long as it's possibly affecting the existing condition it's become impossible for my pain doctor to do any treatments on me because we don't know what is being caused by the hernia now and what is normal (if you want to call that normal).

When it first became obvious what I'm suffering from was going to be of a permanent nature, I would always count my blessings; it's not fatal like cancer, it's possibly treatable, and I am able to have some semblance of a life. I was able to be as positive as possible in spite of the circumstances and look on it as an opportunity to do things that I'd always wanted to.

I'm still grateful that it's nothing fatal, but I'm far less assured about the later two sentiments anymore. Sitting, writing this, as it is taking more effort than it should to keep my mind clear enough to think through the pain and pushing past the fuzziness caused by the pain medication, I have to wonder: Is this be what it will be like from now on?

If so, will I be able to get used to it enough to go back to how I was only a month ago? Or will I have to learn new rules that my body wants obeyed? If it's the latter, how much different will things be than they are now? How much different will I be?

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Richard, I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing you all the best as you cope with this new challenge.

  • Richard, I greatly admire your talent, courage and perserverance. I fervently hope things will turn out for the best, and that your surgery helps to alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing.

  • troll

    Richard – I don’t know the nature of your hernia but talk laparoscopic surgery if at all possible…get the surgen to disturb as little tissue as possible


  • Nancy

    What troll says. Lap surgery is amazing, it truly is. I just had a major, major op done laproscopically, and I was up that night, and chafing to get out & go home within a very few days. Another thing I’ve found is true: no pain, no gain. You do have to push yourself beyond comfort levels in order to make any progress, but you probably already know that.

    Living with chronic pain is a bitch. I’m sure I don’t have to cope with anything near what you’re suffering through, but I have enough of my own problems to know it can, indeed, really do a number on your head & your hopefulness.

    Oddly, some studies have shown that patients who keep as upbeat an attitude as possible are the ones who do best: sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy thing.

    Meanwhile, I do wish you good health & good luck with your travails & upcoming surgery. Keep us posted.

  • Baronius

    Hernias can be devastating. There’s the pain, and the effects of the pain medication; but it’s more than that. The body’s north and south aren’t fully attached any more. All the muscle strength in the world doesn’t help when the muscles aren’t connected as they should be. That’s usually the main reason for the reduction in the body’s effectiveness.

    I don’t know your pre-existing conditions, but typically surgery is the best thing for you. As things stand now, it’s like you’re already having surgery, and you left the table and went for a walk. Now you’re coming back and the doctor is finally going to sew you back up.

    Best of wishes.

  • Everybody I’d like to thank all of you for your comments, suggestions and most especially support. I apologise for doing what I don’t normally do, which is spilling my guts so spectacuaraly in public, but because I’ve written about pain and it’s effects using myself as an example it seemed appropriate to cross the boundery between the clinical and personal at this time.

    My purpose was to try and describe how what might seem trivial to a person in normal circumstances, like a hernia, can be devastating to anyone already dealing with other pain.

    A fact of life when living with chronic pain is that you are occasionally face times when you are going to have to readjust your expectations of what you are able to do. Until you can figure that out you are your own worst enemy due to how quickly you can reduce yourself to a quivering wreck.

    I believe I wrote this in the wee hours of Sunday morning, a day which I spent predominatly in bed as I recovered from overexerting myself the previous few days. I’m back to my annoying self again, witness the latest post, slew of comments I’ve left on the site today – o.k three but for me that’s a slew – and the fact that my verbosity shows no signs of abating.

    I’ve exemplary medical care, no matter what people say about the Canadian medical system I’ve received probably some of the best care I’ve ever had over the past five years and know that anything that possibly can be done is being done.

    Snark: Feldenkrest, Alexandera, and other movement/alignment types of theropy’s while wonderful are inapropriate for the condition I deal with. I use accupressure in an attempt to deal with some of the residual tension in the shoulders and neck area with some sucess, but priamrily good old drug therapy is still what sees me through.

    Without morphine I would be permanently bedridden, because of it I get to have the pleasure of all your company on a daily basis.

    Bless you all and thank you so very much

    Richard Marcus

  • Michael Roberts

    You can substantially reduce or even completely eliminate many kinds of chronic pain with a special diet that’s rich in certain carbohydrates, and low in fats, protein and sugar.

    Substantially increase your consumption of complex carbohydrates, these include foods such as wholegrains, ( with the exclusion of corn), beans vegetables and fruits, so these make up 70-80% of your food intake.

    Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, honey, and syrups, and cut your total sugar intake by at least 40%.

    Avoid all fats and oils including butter, margarine, meat fats and lard, as much as possible. Also avoid fatty meats, whole milk, cheese with more than 1% fat content, and egg yolks.

    Give both caffeine and alcohol a miss.

    Take an amino acid supplement called tryptophan, this is converted by the body into serotonin, a pain relieving chemical.

    The combination of the special diet and the tryptophan should dramatically elevates your pain tolerance.