Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pain in the Wee Hours

The pain is at its worst in the middle of the night. Like tonight. It's almost 4 a.m., and I was eventually so uncomfortable that I needed to simply get out of bed, stop trying to sleep, and distract myself with writing. So here I am.

It is times like these when I realize why so many of my patients take Oxycontin and other morphine derivatives, some occasionally turning to substance abuse. Pain takes over one's life, hijacks the brain, and and impacts every aspect of life: work, play, rest, sleep, sex, relationships, self-image. It pervades one's existence like an unwanted thread that weaves itself insidiously into life's tapestry.

On Tuesday, I will have a special and specific spinal injection which is essentially an experiment to determine if a more permanent approach---a Radiofrequency Ablation---will turn off my back pain, if not permanently, then for a prolonged period. However, if Tuesday's injection fails to provide significant pain relief, the ablation will not be pursued and we will be back to the drawing board with fewer options on the table. I am hopeful but guarded, aware that previous injections of three different varieties provided little to no relief.

Unfortunately for me, my pain syndrome is such that no treatment has yet been found which can significantly reduce my discomfort. Chiropractic, spinal injections, yoga, massage, swimming, weight loss, heat and cold application, Reiki, a TENS unit, neuromuscular therapy---nothing has yet been able to significantly touch the pain and assuage the suffering it causes. Adding insult to injury, I have developed Restless Legs Syndrome over the last few years, a disease with a pathetic name but far-reaching deleterious effects. Late nights can be an exercise in both patience and frustration.

Suffice it to say that chronic pain has invaded my life and impacts every aspect of my days and nights. My compassion for patients with pain is made more keen through personal experience, and I have learned all too well that subjectively describing pain and attempting to quantify and qualify it objectively can be a monumental task which all too often fails to truly communicate one's true level of suffering. These wee hours of the morning are often the most frustrating, when sleep is all one desires, but the body fails to comply with the overarching fatigue coursing through one's body.

For any of you out there who are up at 4 a.m. and hurting, you are certainly not alone.
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