I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately about that very fine line between toughing out pain and having to intervene. I find that my limits have shifted, so some pain that would have had me taking measures in the past are now less of a strain. This is both good, and scary. I have higher pain tolerance. I need to use scary side-effect meds less. But, I’m getting used to a level of pain that used to be almost debilitating. I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or not.
At the same time, I have been dealing with some new (or at least more frequent) types of pain. Sudden stabbing or shooting pain that may last only for a second or two, and may or may not recur over the course of a few minutes. I can wait these out and then they’re gone, but the fact that they’re happening at all worries me. Some of it is probably muscles that are slowly readjusting to being used more (yay, physical therapy!), but sometimes I can’t relate it to anything I have or have not done, so that’s nervous-making.
Then there’s persistent low-grade pain. My left ankle in particular has been bothering me off an one for the last two weeks. Aggravated by p/t? Possibly. Old sprain cranking up? Also possible, but less likely. Arthritis finally making itself known in my ankles? Oh dog, please, no. Currently treating with light exercise, heat, and arthritis pain meds, but another thing to stay aware of.
And finally, there’s the purpose of my post. I have been having hours of crippling pain, mostly lower back and knees. I have injured both these areas in the past, and they tend to be most sensitive to changes in weather, not being hydrated enough, water retention, etc. Unfortunately, none of these causes 100% line up with the most recent flares. They are debilitating, persistent, and make it difficult to focus on anything else. I managed to wait out yesterday’s back pain long enough for my arthritis pain medication to dull things down, but this kind of pain frightens me. I’ve been there before and I don’t want to go back.
So here are my questions for you: When do you give in? How long do you wait to pull out the big guns? What’s your tipping point?
I found a few areas where I’m not afraid to take the next step, but I’m not 100% consistent. Of course, my pain isn’t 100% consistent either, so it’s a constant guessing-game as to whether something is going to subside or if it’s just getting ramped up. So here are my tipping points:
- Persistent, throbbing pain for long periods of time (8 or more hours). This kind of constant pain (usually a 6 or 7 on my personal scale) completely exhausts me. Wears me thin and runs me ragged. I start having trouble interacting with others and need to shut myself away or, if I need to function, resort to strong pain meds. I can’t focus or make considered decisions. I am often short tempered and unreasonable. I am aware that I am not acting rationally and that, more than anything else, makes me reach for the pain meds. Controlling the pain lets me control my emotions.
- Unable to sleep. Fatigue is one of my biggest obstacles. I currently work full-time, and being able to do so is almost obsessively important to me. This drive causes me to push myself during the week, when I would be easier on myself in a non-work situation. It means my evenings and weekends are as laid-back as I can make them so I can rest and recoup. If pain is keeping me awake at night for more than a couple hours, I will first try a muscle relaxant. If that is not enough to get my asleep then I’ll reach for something more direct. Exhaustion puts my pain under a magnifying glass.
Not sure what I hope to find here- I’m sure that I’m not the only one struggling with these questions, but maybe what coping mechanisms work for you?