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Posts Tagged ‘facial pain’

Good “Pain” Article: “25 ‘Scary’ Side Effects of Chronic Pain We Don’t Talk About”

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 16, 2019

I subscribe to a health e-zine some of you may know: The Mighty. It tends to focus on areas such as cancer, mental illness, disability, chronic pain, chronic conditions, rare diseases and many more topics. I have several primary categories I read it for.

Today I found an article there that I really felt like I could seriously relate to. As many of you know, I’ve been having to deal with, among other things, an increasing number of diseases, disorders, and conditions that result in chronic pain for the past decade, foremost of which is Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2 — but there are many others. And just like with other health categories, The Mighty often comes through with a really relevant article, and I thought this one on chronic pain was good today. Entitled “25 ‘Scary’ Side Effects of Chronic Pain We Don’t Talk About,” I can relate to many of these, and I could add many more of my own. I thought about just putting a link to the article here, but thought readers might not be inclined to click on it, so with apologies to The Mighty, in addition to the link, I’m going to re-post the entire (short) article here for you to read. I welcome comments. Thanks.

Paige Wyant authored this.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________pain

As those who live with it know, chronic pain can result in so many more symptoms and side effects than “just” pain. Pain conditions can have an impact on just about every part of your life, thus provoking a wide range of emotions.

Living with a chronic, unpredictable condition that is tough to manage can naturally affect your mental and emotional health – and one of the most common side effects pain warriors experience is fear. Many may understandably feel scared and anxious about their health, and worry about what their future might look like.

To help others better understand why those with pain conditions might struggle with feelings of fear, we asked our Mighty community to share a “scary” side effect of chronic pain they experience, and how they cope with it. If the following sound familiar to you, know you’re not alone.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. You get so used to being in pain you don’t always have a firm grasp on what’s serious pain anymore. I just got a stress fracture in a new surgical area but I never felt the pain was high enough to be concerned over. Thankfully I’ve learned over the years to err on the side of caution and check with my doctors more often than I’d personally prefer. But every time it turns out to be something serious, it drives home the fact that to me… that serious problem presented as only minor pain.” – Amber R.
  2. If I’m this sick and have this many complications at at 29 years old, what will 39…49… 59 look like for me? It’s scary.” – Stephanie B.
  3. The toll it can take on my overall mental health. In the middle of a flare, days can blend together and I start feeling pretty depressed. I have to be extra intentional about interacting with others and getting outside of my head.” – Laura F.chronic pain, 
  4. The fact that no one can see what I’m going through, and that it will never go away. Pain caused by central nervous system disorders can’t be seen, there’s no evidence, so the only person who knows what I’m going through is me. That isolation scares me.” – Amy C.
  5. Unknowingly lashing out at loved ones and friends when I’m in a pain flare. I don’t even know I’m doing it at the time, and when all is said and done I’ve usually hurt someone’s feelings. Relationships can suffer because of pain.” – Kathryn M.
  6. CollapsingI hate it. It just happens in a flash and I can’t always feel it coming first. My biggest fear happened recently – my pain surged, my legs collapsed, and I fell flat on my butt in a crowded room. I have never been so embarrassed.” – Katelyn I.
  7. There are times when I cannot get out of bed. I can barely move at all, including my jaw to be able to eat or take meds. To cope, I focus on what I need to do to improve my situation. I slowly do gentle stretching exercises starting with my fingers and working to other joints. When I’m able to move enough, I get a protein shake from the mini fridge next to my bed and drink it through a straw, which I keep on my nightstand. Usually by that time I am able to open my jaw enough to take medications. Then I take deep breaths and remind myself the symptoms are temporary while I wait for the meds to kick in.” – Jackie R.
  8. Trying to keep my job for the health benefits when I can barely function.” – Ceil B.
  9. The financial repercussions. Not being able to work full-time, plus medical expenses and raising three girls on my husband’s salary is scary. I don’t know how people do it. I’m not depressed – I’ve been there – I know what it is, but some days I feel like they’d all be better off without the burden of my health issues. It’s just exhausting, and frustrating, and infuriating… all the time.” – Jen M.S.
  10. Forgetting for that split second that you can no longer accomplish a certain natural action of your body, and making it hurt worse. The forgetting of some things is very scary, very. I think our minds need to over compensate in other areas, so we simply become forgetful. For me, very very scary, especially at first. And looking back and realizing things that occurred before I was diagnosed were signals. Scary stuff.” – Sky C.
  11. Wondering if this is the way it will be forever or if this is only the tip of the iceberg and it will get worse. Is my 10 today the same as my 10 next month?” – Sarah E.
  12. My memory loss. Ever since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my memory has been getting progressively worse. I’ll forget what I’m doing as I’m doing them. I’ll forget what I’m saying mid sentence. It’s scary because I’m 18. It shouldn’t be this way. I cope by writing everything that is important down and making sure that I’ve got notes and lists of everything.” – Abi S.
  13. Not being able to be the mom I want to be. Feeling like I’m not enough for my kids physically, emotionally, or financially. I’m not just a single mom but a solo mom to my youngest since his ‘father’ isn’t involved at all. And I’m the primary parent to my oldest.” – Sarah N.M.
  14. The doctors’ inability to help me manage it. There are so many laws governing what pain medicines can be given and for how long that it’s almost impossible to get effective pain management. It seems like doctors are now trained to assume everyone (especially those with relatively invisible illnesses like EDS) is seeking pain meds for an addiction. This results in an environment that discourages those who have legitimate pain from asking for the help they need. I’m literally terrified to ask for pain medicine, and usually my husband has to speak up for me or encourage me to seek the help I need.” – LeAnn H.
  15. Suicidal thoughts. Before the pain I loved life and the future but now I’m scared of it all driving me into some pretty dark places. Spending time cuddling with the kids and cats helps temporarily.” – Shayla F.W.
  16. Symptoms that mimic stroke or heart attack. I have lost feeling on the entire left side of my body, lost my ability to speak, and also had severe chest pain due to the various chronic conditions I have. It is always difficult to decide if I need to go to the emergency room, or if my symptoms are ‘normal.’” – Lisabeth B.D.P.
  17. Fear of the unknown for me. My pain changes day to day with EDS and has gotten significantly worse while moving to more and more joints and organs of my body over the last few years alone. I fear not knowing how much pain there will be in 10 or 20 years, when at 30 I’m already not sure what tomorrow’s pain will look like. I have to remind myself every day that God is in control and I only need to take things one day at a time.” – Meg S.
  18. When I get a different answer every time I go to the doctors of what is exactly wrong.” – Samantha K.
  19. “The times when I’m incoherent and on the verge of losing consciousness due to how severe my illnesses are. I purposefully avoid medications that alter my mental state because they cause me such great anxiety, but, when I am in a long bout of severe pain, my mind and body can no longer handle it and so I succumb to being unconscious and it is terrifying. Waking up and not knowing where you are or what happened. How long you were out. I cope by staying away from social situations and staying home so if I do pass out I’m in a safe environment and less embarrassed.” – Caitlin M.
  20. Feeling like I’ll never reach my potential because the pain limits me more than I want to admit.” – Jacqueline B.
  21. Applying for SSD and getting denied, after giving 30 years in service to this country in the Corps and government agencies. Now a SSA bureaucrat tells me I’m not disabled enough. Financial ruin because I can barely get out of bed in the morning due to the pain. As a single parent, just trying to grocery shop is something I have to mentally gear up for for hours because I dread the pain. I feel deserted by friends, family and my government. Literally don’t know where to turn. That’s my scary…” – Jim R.
  22. Making plans and not knowing if you’ll be able to come through. The feeling of letting people down can be as just as bad as the pain itself, knowing others are counting on you… but you just push through and pray you don’t collapse for good.” – Erica F.
  23. I never know what I’m able to do. I can be OK one day trying to catch up on all that I’ve slacked on. Then be completely debilitated crying for two weeks.” – Nikki D.
  24. Watching the symptoms evolve in our daughter is by far the scariest and hardest thing about this condition for me. I know exactly what’s she’s in for and I can only pray that early diagnosis will give her an easier future.” – Crystal F.
  25. The worst part of my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and all the other things that seem to come with it is guilt. Mostly, I feel guilty of the toll this has brought to my family. The guilt doesn’t seem to end there though. It trickles into every aspect of life itself. Guilt of the day going by with nothing productive done. Guilt that I’m not the mom and wife I used to be. Guilt that my family isn’t nourished with healthy meals because I haven’t been able to cook for so long. Guilt that my children are showing the exact same symptoms of this genetic illness. Guilt that my brother [died by] suicide over this same illness. Guilt that we didn’t have answers sooner. The list could go on and on. Chronic illness never ends, not even if we are tired and are begging for it to go away. The only way I know how to deal with it, is to take one day at a time. Every day I try and remain hopeful and remind myself that I’m not the only one fighting chronic illness and every day I just try and do what I can.” – Melissa D.

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3 Things YOU Need To Know About Trigeminal Neuralgia – Daily Records

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 11, 2016

A while back, whilst working in Oregon, my husband, in agonizing pain, took himself to the emergency room at the local hospital. He had just suffered a severe burn, about 5 x3 inches, on his stomac…

Source: 3 Things YOU Need To Know About Trigeminal Neuralgia – Daily Records

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Letter to People Who Think Chronic Pain Isn’t That Bad | The Mighty

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 20, 2016

A letter to people who don’t understand chronic pain and think it’s “not that bad.”

Source: Letter to People Who Think Chronic Pain Isn’t That Bad | The Mighty

 

This is a really good article. Not the best I’ve ever read, but really good. It does a good job at trying to explain the problem people with severe chronic pain have in trying to live with. My wife found it and shared it with me and I then shared it with a number of Trigeminal Neuralgia support boards I’m a member of online and the response was overwhelming. Many dozens of people “liked” this article, many dozens of people shared this article, and there were a number of comments too. Some of those commenting said they thought this article might help their friends or family understand where they were coming from. Maybe. Maybe not. Still, if you read this and understand anything from it, take anything away at all, it will be much appreciated. I have several major chronic pain-producing illnesses, disorders, and problems in general, surrounding my face, head, and back. The worst is Trigeminal Neuralgia. I have TN Type 2. Only about 5,000 people in America have it, so it’s very rare and as a result, is not well understood or easily treatable. That makes it difficult for me to adequately describe my situation to anyone, let alone my doctors. Sometimes the doctors I meet have never even heard of TN Type 2. That’s when it becomes discouraging. But whatever the case, I thought this article was at least a 7-8 out of 10 and worthy of sharing and posting myself. I hope you’ll read it and if so, I hope you’ll get something out of it. Cheers!

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Trigeminal Neuralgia Situation

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 12, 2016

Okay. Update. This post is largely in response to a request from a reader. As many of you might remember, I have Trigeminal Neuralgia. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a neuropathic disease which affects the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in the brain, causing unbelievable head and facial pain. Most scientists, doctors, neurologists, health care professionals, and patients widely consider it to be the most painful disease known to mankind. I’m not kidding. Google it. It’s also widely known as “the suicide disease.” I’m not kidding. Google it. Look at the Wikipedia entry. The last time I looked at it, it was there.

Not many people have it. Somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 Americans have TN. That’s all. That’s why there’s virtually no R&D done on it. There’s no money to be made in it. There are two major types of TN: Type 1 and Type 2, often also referred to as Atypical TN. I have Type 2. It’s extremely rare. Only about 5,000 Americans have it. I’m one of about 5,000 Americans who have this rare, unbelievably painful facial disease.

The pain is hard to describe accurately. I can only under-describe it. Type 1 pain feels like sharp, electric shocks coming in quick, hard jolts through your face in 15, 20, 30, 40 second episodes over and over again for 30, 40 minutes, one hour, three hours, five hours, then maybe a break for awhile, then perhaps days, etc. It’s unrelenting. The electric shocks are supposed to be ungodly. I don’t experience these with Type 2. The pain usually centers in eye sockets, temples, cheeks, and jaws, although sometimes teeth and gums, as well as foreheads are also impacted. Sometimes even the back of the head. There are triggers. Eating, dental work, brushing your hair, wind, rain touching your skin, foul weather, anything brushing your skin, occasionally stress, it can be just about anything. Sometimes there’s no trigger.

Type 2 is different and a lot harder to diagnose. Instead of a series of short, sharp, insanely painful attacks, Type 2 people experience nonstop, usually all day, unrelenting dull, aching, yet also sharp (if that even makes sense), intense, otherworldly pain centering in similar locations. Allegedly, the pain is slightly less severe, but because it lasts virtually all day, every day, often for days, and in my case, weeks and months and even years, every day, I would assert that in some cases, such as mine, it’s much, much worse. You get no break. It’s horrible. It’s incapacitating. The first year I had it, beginning in the summer of 2010, through the summer of 2011, I spent most of my afternoons and evenings in bed, unable to function, able only to do things in the mornings when my pain was less intense, and even though I’ve not always been bedfast this whole time, I still schedule all of my appointments for early in the mornings and run all of my errands early in the mornings when I am able to, because by my early lunch, I’m usually in a great deal of pain and by after lunch and for the rest of the day, am unable to function as well as I would like, sometimes not at all.

There are treatments, medications, and some temporary surgeries, but only one possible cure, through a risky brain surgery. There aren’t any medications specifically for TN. There’s no money to be made in developing a medication for something that so few people have, so none of the companies have done so. Thus, neurologists and pain management specialists give out other types of medications for pain. The most commonly prescribed medication is Tegrotol, which I’m allergic to. The second one is Neurontin, which did nothing for me. Most TN patients are on incredibly high doses, usually well past the daily maximum recommended doses. Often they don’t get pain relief. Lyrica is another popular medication. There are many others. Sometimes people take Klonpin. I’ve taken that for years, but it does nothing for my pain. Two I take that have helped are Keppra and Topamax. After I started taking them together, I didn’t get a TN attack for some months and that was nice. Of course, there are often side effects and with those two, I had severe drowsiness for two months and fell asleep in my chair every morning and every night at 7:30 pm. It was annoying. Of course, most people with TN have extremely severe pain and these types of anti-seizure and anti-depressant medications only do so much. Sometimes people with 10 out of 10 on a 1-10 pain scale need something stronger. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned with some research, people with Type 1 are not helped with narcotics. People with Type 2 are. I have been taking narcotics since 2010. They used to help quite a bit. However, my pain levels increased threefold over a year and a half ago, and they ceased working like they used to and I had to start taking more and more for less than half the aid they once provided. This was annoying, in part because I didn’t even like taking them in the first place. Indeed, the first thing I normally do is take over the counter medications. I don’t even know why. They’re useless. I just don’t like to jump straight to the heavy stuff. I start with Advil, Tylenol, etc. Then move on to Excedrin Tension and Advil Migraine. Then I go to the prescription non-narcotics, such as Treximet, which used to help, and Sumatriptan and Naproxen, which has torn my stomach to shreds. Then it’s on to the heavy stuff. However, a couple of months ago, I had to bite the bullet and after five and a half years, admit with the help of four doctors and two pharmacists that I had reached my tolerance level and it was time to move up to something more powerful. When my pain management specialist gave me my prescription, I was horrified, because it was for a medication I’ve always heard about and had always heard negative things about and I’ve always heard it’s risky as hell to take this and indeed, when I did research, there were all sorts of warnings everywhere about it. I talked to another doctor and to two of my pharmacists and they assured me they thought it would be safe and good for me and would help me, so I got it filled and pondered things and several days later, started taking it, wondering what the hell would happen. Well, I’m still here. And it has helped. Some. I was hoping it would eliminate my pain, but it has not. I did further research and talked to my doctor and found out, it will not. My doctor told me their goal was to minimize my pain and restore my quality of life. Well, it’s definitely cut my pain, some of the time, perhaps even a lot of the time, certainly in the mornings, so that’s good. I’m also taking a second narcotic for “breakthrough pain” when needed, which is more often than I would prefer, but I’m still getting significant pain episodes, so it’s necessary. But less often than before.

So, what kind of procedures have I had and what are available? Well, I started out having Gasserian Ganglion Blocks. You have to be put out for those. They involve putting a needle through your cheek up through your mouth to your middle cranial cavity housing your V2 trigeminal nerve “tendril” (that’s what I call them) — there are three on each side, giving you sensations in three quadrants of your face on each side —  and anesthetizing the end of the nerve. They have to put you out because if you felt the needle connecting with that nerve end, the screaming would unnerve the entire hospital. Allegedly. I’ve had quite a few over the past five years now. Many don’t work at all. Not even for a day. Total waste of time and money. A couple have worked for several months. One worked for a year, so that was a good investment.

I’ve also had Botox injections, which haven’t helped me much. The longest any have helped my pain levels have been two weeks, reducing my pain about 50%. They’re supposed to help for 2-4 months, reducing your pain 100%. There are also steroid injections. Lately, I’ve been having Trigeminal Nerve Blocks, which I don’t think I’m reacting well to. With the last one I had, last week, I had significantly bad pain afterwards for three days. In fact, the third day afterwards was one of the most painful days of my life. It was absolute hell. If it were possible to rate pain over 10 out of a 1-10 scale, this would have been perhaps a 17. I couldn’t move, think, function, could barely talk, couldn’t read, nothing. None of my pain medications helped. I wanted to die. I actually thought about killing myself. Twice. That’s the first time in a very long time I’ve thought about that. It was horrific.

There are more major surgeries. There are four long term temporary surgeries, including Gamma Knife and Radiofrequency Ablation. I’m thinking of having a Balloon Compression surgery, which is long overdue. I finally made an appointment this week with a strongly recommended Nashville neurologist for next month to discuss this and other surgical options. Why Nashville? There’s only one group of neurosurgeons in Chattanooga and they’re idiots. I met with one last year for this same purpose. I told him my situation and he had never heard of TN Type 2. I was stunned. He didn’t know what it was. I explained it to him. He didn’t believe me. I had to provide documented proof. It’s his fucking field! I know it’s rare and only 5,000 people in the country have it, but if specialists in this field don’t even know of it, you’re pretty screwed. Indeed, I’ve been trying to find help elsewhere for sometime now. Last November, I went to Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic. It was a waste of time. They didn’t do anything that my current, local neurologist wasn’t doing. I was turned down by the Mayo Clinic last month. I have no idea why. I’ve decided not to apply to Johns Hopkins. I don’t like their program. The Cleveland Clinic doesn’t even treat TN! Shit. What do you have to do? The one major, biggie surgery is called an MVD. It’s a brain surgery that involves cutting open the back of your skull, going in and rearranging the arteries around the trigeminal nerve and anything else that might be touching it and aggravating it, and if necessary, simply cutting it in half, which is a bit extreme. It used to take a long time to recover from, although that process and time length has really improved. It’s a risky surgery though. It used to be slightly lethal and some neurosurgeons were reluctant to do it. It still can be lethal. A little fewer than 0.05% of people (I think — could be a little wrong with that figure…) undergoing it die on the table. But most people consider it a worthwhile risk. Apparently, the more experienced the neurosurgeon, the better your chances of survival, so it’s in your best interest to find someone good. People travel all over the country to find someone good.

And why has my pain increased threefold? Well, over a year ago, I started getting extreme back pain out of nowhere. Since then I’ve been to my orthopedist and rheumatologist umpteen times, as well as physical therapy for six months, which did nothing at all. After getting all sorts of x-rays and other images and tests and whatnot, I found that I have severe curviture of the spine, spinal stenosis, massive amounts of osteo-arthitis throughout my entire body, worst of all in my hands and lower back, severe disc degeneration in my lower back, so much so that it’s bone on bone in the bottom of my spine and discs above that aren’t much better. I also have severe nerve damage in my lower back and a broken tailbone, as well as pain in my hips and legs stemming from my spinal and disc problems. I wrote a blog post about some of this not too long ago: CT Myleogram and Emergency Procedure. Additionally, about a year and a half ago, I started getting a new and different type of head pain. It was bilateral — TN is almost always unilateral — and felt different. It also wasn’t responsive to any of my procedures and not really to any of my medications, except occasionally to my narcotics. My then-new neurologist diagnosed me with three new head pain disorders: tension headaches, severe migraines, and cluster headaches. For those of you who don’t know what cluster headaches are, many scientists and doctors also feel that cluster headaches, like Trigeminal Neuralgia, are the most painful disorder known to mankind and they are also called “the suicide disease” by some. I don’t know how you reconcile the two, but in any case, I allegedly have both, so I’m totally screwed. However, my wife and I feel there’s a FIFTH undiagnosed, untreated head pain disorder that remains undiscovered that we’re really frustrated about that we feel my doctors aren’t really trying to find. Thus the desire to go out of town. The reason is, I’ve been given a ton of old and new, even experimental, migraine and headache medications and these headaches respond to absolutely none. Not one. They’re responded to no procedure. They’ve responded to nothing. At least the clusters often respond to TN treatments. So in our opinions, this can’t be a migraine. So what is it? So, Mom keeps asking when I’m going to have brain surgery. Like it’s nothing. Well, there are two reasons. First, Type 2s don’t respond nearly as well to any surgery, especially MVD. They just don’t and no one knows why. Second, even if I did respond well to an incredibly expensive, risky surgery and it eliminated my TN pain, I would still have my daily 10 level severe head pain and have to take my same pain medications and it would be pointless. Until this other head pain is diagnosed properly and treated, I see no point.

Surgeries. My back doctors are recommending back surgery to repair my nerve damage, a possible spinal fusion, surgery to remove my tailbone (which I refuse to have), and down the road, two probable hip replacement surgeries. Great. I already mentioned the balloon compression surgery for my head.

Get this. In the past three months, I’ve already had SEVEN minor surgical procedures! Seven. I’ve had four in the past three weeks alone. One was an emergency procedure for a procedure that went bad. I’ve had four procedures that have gone into my spine in the past two months. I can’t tell you how exhausted I am. I’m so tired out by all of these procedures, I don’t want to have another in a long damn time. But I probably will. That’s just how things work out.

I have Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2. I have a shitload of other problems to contend with right now too. All seem and probably are serious. All are relatively debilitating in one form or another. I haven’t been able to work in over five years. I miss working in an office, doing something productive, interacting with co-workers. I miss having a social life. I feel badly that I can’t take Gretchen out on the town like I’d like to. I feel like I’m screwing her over badly. But she’s got a really good attitude and she’s incredibly supportive and I really couldn’t make it without her. She lets me talk and she listens. She offers input when I ask for it. She takes care of me. It’s damned nice of her. That’s true love. I’m very lucky to have her.

If you ever meet anyone with TN, I hope that this blog post will have helped you to understand their situation to a certain degree. I hope you will understand their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I hope you will be supportive. I hope you will say a kind word to them. Meanwhile, thanks for reading this, if you did. And have a good weekend.

 

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