Finding hope during chronic pain

26 February 2015

Finding hope during chronic pain

For the last three weeks arm pain has been a constant companion. It seems from my MRI I have some discs pushing on nerves in my neck that makes my arm hurt. The pain ranges from irritating to making it impossible to think about anything else but PAIN. Of course I started using our tools on the website once I realized the pain wasn’t going away anytime soon.

I am determined to be an empowered patient. I expect to work in partnership with my doctors. Well, I have learned yet again, that this isn’t the perspective of some physicians. My primary care doctor is marvelous and she is my “safe haven” – she listens, she “gets it” and acts on what I tell her. We develop a plan together.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote up some notes to share with my pain management doctor about my pain, and used the hopes and fears tool. I was struggling to work full days and also have some energy left for my family in the evenings and mornings. I can sit at a computer for five minutes before my arm is pulsing in pain. Once it flares, it doesn’t stop for hours – this is exhausting, depressing, makes me feel powerless…you know all that stuff!!

I asked for 1) tips to cope with pain, 2) asked about working 6 hours a day to have a little down time to recover and 3) if there was anything I could be doing to minimize the pain. Take into consideration, I am asking her these questions in a pain level of 8, doing deep breathing just to cope and think. I was surprised at her responses.

Her responses to questions:

1)   Tips to cope = “Maybe you need a referral for neurosurgeon if my treatments aren’t helping.”

2)   Working less than 8 hours = “You will get frozen shoulder or do more harm than good. I will not consider this as an option for you.”

3)   What I can do to help myself(i.e. is there a way I can hold my body just right to stop the pain) = “Yes there is. We will get you signed up for physical therapy in a week or so.”

I am certain my pain management doctor cares about people. However, I was shocked, hurt and even angered by her responses. After we meet, then it is time for my procedure, where she sticks a needle in my spine to help relieve pain. So, I wasn’t eager to question her responses; I felt vulnerable.

This is not rational thinking on my part; it is survival thinking. I went to fight or flight in my mind. I heard her say she didn’t really believe I was in pain or that the pain would have any impact on my quality of life that would require immediate answers.  I heard her blame me for not being strong enough to cope.

I am thankful that after my procedure in the recovery area, Rebecca, a nurse came and sat down next to me. She reviewed the page of information I had brought to my appointment and went through each point with me and offered understanding and support. Even though I was shaking with pain and anger, this helped. She gave me good support. She validated me as someone doing their best to cope with pain even though there are no “quick fixes” for chronic pain. I left the office with hope – which was all I was looking for.

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