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Understanding a Loved One's Pain

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Matters of the Heart
I'm at a loss as to how to handle my husband's back pain issues. He says he's in pain an 8 or 9. Yet when I ask him about the pain, he says it's not so much the pain but the way it makes him feel. He takes Tramadol and is on a Fentanyl patch. He lays on the couch probably 18 out of 24 hours. I have read his MRIs and other test results and nothing shows as being severe - mild or moderate. Basically degenerative disc disease. He has had surgery on his cervical spine, I think a fusion and surgery on his thoracic spine, not quite sure what it was, 2 disc area. This has been going on for about 4 years. I was diagnosed with cervical stenosis C4-5 and 5-6 and have not had surgery. I learned to deal with the pain. I also have lower back pain but have not been to a doctor - only room for one person to be disabled in this house. It was so bad that when I went to the mall with with my kids, I just sat there because I couldn't walk but a few steps. Anyway, I'm getting off track. Can anyone explain to me the "feeling" my husband might be experiencing. He can't seem to explain it. We are becoming empty-nesters and I would really like for him to be mobile.


  • Having been through two fusion surgeries I may be able to offer some perspective on your husband's pain. It's a nightmare of pain-depression-more pain-more depression etc. I.e. it's a vicious circle. The worse the pain, the less likely one is to be active, and the inactivity leads to depression, which exacerbates the pain, and on and on.
    It's not atypical to have this sort of syndrome even if the diagnostic reports use terms like mild or moderate.
    The mind plays a powerful role in pain perception, which is not to say it's "all in your mind." You yourself found yourself coping with the pain because you probably had no choice. As you said, there's "only room for one person to be disabled in this house."
    If your husband hasn't already done so, perhaps he should consult a pain management specialist who also can address any psychological issues that may make the pain worse.
    Best of luck!
  • Men, I apologize ahead of time here, as no insult is meant here. I have found with my husband, that if *I* hurt, or if *I* am sick, he gets pissed if I don't accept his care. When he is sick or hurt, he keeps a LOT of it inside! I can tell by his body English if he is hurting, hell, he even gets mad if I call him on it! I don't know if it is something men are born with, or something they are taught! As women, we are the care givers, and too tend to look after others, men (not all of course) historically are the bread winners, and don't like to let on if they hurt. That might be a bit what is going on. Your hubby might not want you to really know how much he hurts, and too not worry you and the rest of the family much. Again gents, not trying to insult. My hubby fits this to a tee.....

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I read the link letters to normal and appreciate the perspective. I am trying to understand and often tell him that I am not in his body and cannot feel his pain. Like I've said prior, I have my own pain. For 3 months the only way I could get sleep was to sleep on the couch with my legs at a 90 degree angle using the back of the couch to keep my legs up. Many years ago I fell on my butt roller skating and broke my tailbone. Nothing was done for it. I don't know if that is what is causing the pain now. During one of my C-sections the anesthiesiologist asked if was ever diagnosed with arthritis in my spine. He said he believes I have it because he couldn't do an epidural. That was 18 years ago. Six years ago was when I was diagnosed with cervical stenosis. Five years ago I started having low back problems and my legs started hurting. I couldn't cross my right leg over my left. There was no range of motion, it was like it was stuck. I went to an orthopedic doctor and he suggested exercises. It was a good day and I had decent rotation. I said to hell with going to the doctor any more. When I mow the lawn, that is all I can do for the day by the time I'm done my feet and legs hurt so bad I can barely walk - the burning pain sucks. I take no pain meds. I bought a bed where the head and legs can be raised. I understand the pain - at least mine. When my husband can say his pain is an 8 or 9 with a straight face and no sign of truly being in pain, I wonder. I know he has disc disease and has had 2 spinal fusions but he walks and moves better than I do. He can get down on the floor and play with our grandson. However, after about 15 minutes he does need to stop and rest his back. He can get up and feed himself but for some reason cannot do anything else. And I do mean, nothing else. On occasion he will wash a few dishes but then says his back hurts and goes and lays down. Now he is talking about checking into home health care for himself. He says he's paralyzed but his legs can move. He sees a pain management doctor. He is on fentanyl and tramadol. The doctors have prescribed an anti-depressant but he won't take it. He doesn't like the way it makes him feel. He gets upset when the pharmacy won't fill his prescription or when the doctor's office won't refill it when he wants them to. I don't believe he is an addict, but he does have a dependancy. He does have a good neurosurgeon. Another surgery was scheduled for his lumbar spine but the insurance won't cover it. My husband lays on the couch all day and starts moving around 4 in the afternoon. I believe he has his nights and days mixed up. I'm wondering, am I wrong?
  • IMHO, you need to take care of yourself here. It sounds like you are having an issue with your own back that needs attention before it gets worse. Your husband sounds to be very depressed. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it if he doesn't want to help himself. If you take the focus off of him and take care of yourself first, I think he may take notice of that.

    Best wishes,

  • It's rough you're having to go through this with your husband as well as you having pain. Perhaps a visit to the Doctor with him to explain the importance of taking the anti-depressant as it's also used for nerve pain. I take Cymbalta for sciatica but it has also lifted my spirits. I think you should have the Surgeon talk to the Insurance company to see what they cover because if it's necessary for him to have surgery then maybe the Surgeon would have some pull with them. It sounds like you do need homecare and I think you can call the city homecare and get a self referral for physiotherapy and Homecare assesses you over the phone. I just called them but there's a waiting list but my husband is able to do physical work. In your case you may get seen faster. Best wishes for you both. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Pain of this magnitude in time would depress anyone however stoic they are as individuals, perhaps he was the provided who cannot now do the very basic of this perhaps he feels he should be able to do. Once that nothing helps mode kicks in then we become less active in reality and do less as a consequence, we believed we can do no more and perhaps on occasion this is realistic.

    As mention depression accumulates over time and is a mixture of all who we once we, what we have become and our future. We as the patient need to see the light and a future in all this pain and turmoil.

    Motivation is the key and that as you know is difficult when the pain it at these types of levels and perhaps the first step is to assess how effective the medication is working, concentrating on the negative would depress anyone and this in itself is a vicious cycle of inactivity which increases the perception of the pain and brings with it more depression and inactivity.

    Has he been to see his doctor, the last person to know I was depressed was myself and it took some medical intervention and time to change things for the better? He will have stopped doing most of the things he loved to do as an individual and together and that in itself are the sad reality.

    Get him to see the doctor.

    Take care I will write again.


  • I'm sorry that both you and your husband have to deal with chronic back pain, although yours and his are a bit different. I really feel that he may be depressed and that he should reconsider trying an antidepressant. Not only will it help his mood, it will also help with his pain. I take one myself and I get both benefits.

    I also have severe DDD in my lumbar spine and know all too well how much it hurts. From my experience being a wife too, men don't like to show their pain as much as possible and will try to "hide" it(speaking of my better half ;) ). My husband has back pain but he still goes to work despite a history of herniated disc, sciatica, and stenosis. When my back went bad, he knew how bad this type of pain is of course. I do live with severe chronic pain which has made things difficult for me and this happened despite all kinds of treatments and even spinal surgeries. We also have 2 kids and understand very well how this can affect everyone in the family.

    I really think that he should see a pain specialist to get his meds readjusted so that he can function better than he is, and maybe talk to a professional about his depression and get help with coping. Also, don't put yourself on the back burner- you need to see a doctor about your problems and get x-rays or even an MRI done if warranted. It's no fun to miss out on things because of pain.

    It's also true that we have a hard time doing certain activities such as standing around while doing the dishes. If I stand, sit, or walk around for too much it will aggravate the pain. It also depends on person and the severity of their condition.

    As far as your husband's moving around a little better than you, you must consider that he is on a very strong narcotic medication(Fentanyl) while you aren't taking anything for your pain. It stays in his system consistently and all day long and it looks like it does help him out. You do have a choice of a non narcotic medication for your back pain until you can get in to see a doctor such as an OTC NSAID like Aleve. Ice packs and heating pads are also life savers when the pain gets bad.

    Anyway, I hope your husband's situation improves so that he can do a little more and not miss out on life. And don't forget to take care of yourself too. Hang in there :H
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