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How to balance pain with living?

KimD592KKimD592 Posts: 435
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Chronic Pain
I guess I'm having a hard time figuring this one out. I have a husband, 3 kids, a house, a dog, a cat, etc. During the day I'm home alone with the 3 kids, so I can't take anything for the pain, which gets pretty severe at times. In the evening my husband is home, and I usually end up taking my pain meds before bed. However, I can see my husband is feeling overwhelmed and I hate to see him that way. I want to do more to help, but even standing at the sink for 5 minutes washing dishes causes severe pain. I'm fine when I'm sitting or lying down, but after a few minutes of standing, the pain starts to intensify. The other day I went upstairs to put a small basket of laundry away. The basket was already upstairs, and it took me all of 10 minutes, but by the end of it the pain was excrutiating. So then I find myself questioning, am I supposed to just push through the pain and do this stuff anyway, or am I supposed to take it easy when the pain gets bad? I feel like there are little things that I can do to make it easier on my husband, but even those little things end up causing more pain. So how do I balance the pain with getting stuff done around the house? I'm having a hard time figuring this one out.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,856
    there are phases that you will go through. So much of all of this is really life altering, so it is not easy on anyone.

    Now, you know I've talk to you about new threads and stuff, but this is really an important topic. Its something that I think all spinal patients will go through or need to understand.

    When someone is first hit with a spinal problem that puts them in a lot of pain, constantly going to various doctors, having tests, etc it all becomes so confusing.

    Then once an action plan such as surgery is established, fear begins to take over. Whats going to happen afterward, what if, etc

    The surgery takes place in reality begins to set in. The next several phases can be the most difficult. After surgery, the start of recovery begins. This is the start of the questions phase.

    How did the surgery go?
    How am I feeling after?
    Am in more or less pain now?
    I just did something and it hurts more, did I do something to damage the surgery?
    When is the pain going to stop?
    Why arent the medications taking the pain away?

    This is also the same time of family impacts.
    Probably before the surgery, your family saw you as doing this and doing that, being able to handle so many different things, always there to help out, etc. Now, you can no longer do all those things on a regular basis. Its hard for the families to understand this, they just didnt imagine it would be going this way.

    You (the patient) besides having to deal with the recovery, the discomfort, etc, start to feel guilty because you are NOT the same as you were before, you are NOT doing all the things for your family that you wanted to and used to do.

    Then its the spouse. Sometimes this is the most touchy area. The spouse wants to help, doesn't want to see you in pain. But as time goes on, they see that you can't do as much as before, and it begins to wear on them.

    - They are scared because they don't really know what you are going through.
    - They worry because they think this is the way it will always be.
    - They get angry because they feel that everything is up to them, the family income, the family chores, everything, just seems to pile upon them.
    - They could get jealous, because they see that they have to do so much more, while you no longer need to.

    I see more problems in this this area than any other.
    It may be impossible to avoid, but the key to dealing with it, is open communications. Starts with your spouse and continues on through your immediate family and then onto friends.

    Having spinal surgery does change many aspects of your life, but it does not prevent you from having a rich and full life. Once you have accepted your situation, you can then start to find ways to blossom with it.

    I had my first surgery at 28, my son was 4 and my wife was expecting my daughter. Fast forward to today at 60 and too many surgeries to think about, I realize that it was my family that became the driving force to always keep me motivated and moving forward.

    My children are now 33 and 37 and even to this day they watch over me, making sure I dont do things I shouldnt. They helped pick up the slack when we were all younger, helping in any way they could.

    My biggest struggles were and still are with the guilt I feel in the fact that just how much my wife has had to take on since 1978. She has worked full time, still does, and over the years, she had to come home, take care of the family, the house, do the inside and outside chores, etc.

    Then of course me being a man, with little common sense, would almost sabotage things. Instead of doing the things that could have helped, I would do stupid things that could potentially cause me (and did) more medical problems, which in turn would put more strain on my wife.. I'm still learning and I think I've finally have good grasp on what I should and should not be doing.

    Kim, to answer your original question. How to balance pain with living? It isnt always easy, there really aren't cook books to follow, the situation is not the same for everyone. But I do know some secrets for success:

    - Open and Two Way Communications.
    - Maintain a Positive Outlook and Never give up Attitude.
    - Love!

    Kim, you will find a way that works for you. We all do, not only because we have to but because we want to.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • As always, Papa Ron gives great advice. I just wanted to add, when doing chores like dishes, laundry, etc, take baby steps. Do a little at a time, when it starts to hurt too much sit down, take a break, and get back to it a little bit later. In the end, it really doesn't matter if it gets done "right now". As long as it gets done, it doesn't matter if it takes all day, right? YOu also mention about the meds, is there any OTC meds that your doctor can recommend for you to take during the day that aren't as strong as the others, but might still help? Do you have a tens unit that you can wear all throughout the day? I don't know if they have them for thoracic, but there are the heat pads that you stick on for lumbar or cervical, they last for a few hours, would something like that help a little?

    When doing the dishes, get a stool that you can sit on or lean against, you can also use it while preparing meals.

    When folding laundry, sit on the edge of the bed or lean against the washer/dryer, or have a chair or stool in your laundry room that you can sit on while folding or transferring the clothes between loads. Don't overload your basket to carry it up or down stairs (obviously). Actually, to take the dirty laundry down myself, I have mesh laundry bags that I fill up and just kick them down the stairs, lol.

    For sweeping, do one room at a time with breaks if you need them. If your kids are old enough, have them hold the dust pan for you so you're not bending over, or get one with a long handle. Get an inexpensive lightweight vacuum or sweeper to do the quick little pick-up jobs.

    We do need to keep mobile and active in order to heal, but moderation is key, so we need to find alternative ways to get things done that will be easier for us. And once you find a way that you can do things again, you will start to feel your self-worth, self-confidence and inner strength return. Instead of thinking "I can't", think "I can, just differently". Hope those hints help you some?
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • This is truly a very important topic for Kim to bring up and for Ron to lay it all out! Kim, I too have been trying my best to juggle my life with two young ones, a house to take care of and keeping my husband happy. I carry guilt with me on a daily basis and it's a constant struggle. I'm not sure I've accepted this pain and still have hopes that it will get better. Kim, you still have much more healing to do before you know if your pain will stay with you, so keep your thoughts positive!

    I will be praying for you! And thanks again Ron for your wise advice! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • HI Kim,
    Well, I think you have been given some very good advice here, from the posts I have read... The healing takes a while, and the communication with hubby and family and friends is important.
    The suggestions of doing things more slowly, or breaking up one chore into 3 little ones , is one thing that works for me.
    Life will get better, and you have many years to enjoy ahead of you...relax, slow down, keep that communication open, and heal... Things will work out, but it will take some time... Best wishes!!
  • It is a awsome post you wrote!!!!!!!! I will have to keep reading it. :)
  • This is a good topic and very important as we all have to deal with it in one respect or another.

    My husband has been the one to take the guilt off of my shoulders. First, he says he meant "in sickness and in health" when we made our vows 24 years ago, and second, he sees that I'm not who I used to be: outgoing, willing to try new things, motivated, good housekeeper, liked cooking, etc. He understands that something made me change and it can only be my spine and what it puts me through or makes me not be able to do.

    We still talk about this situation three years later. Just last night he talked to me about how worried he and my family were when I was supposed to come out of recovery at 6:30 pm and didn't make it until 9 pm.

    I remind him that I want to do these things, but it's simply too difficult today. Maybe tomorrow I'll have more strength, motivation or less pain, but today I can't do more than this or that.

    Everything PapaRon said was spot on and Kelly gave some great practical advice. The stool in my kitchen was my lifesaver before surgery. My hubby didn't mind dragging it around while I cooked dinner because he knew I was just trying to be as normal as possible.

    Anyway, you will find that balance. It comes to us and you have to trust that it will come to your family too. Do something out of the ordinary for the kids and hubby when you can and when you can't do anything, don't. Many nights we just pop in a frozen pizza for dinner - how much work is that?

    I haven't found a darned thing that couldn't wait just one more day...

    Take care of yourself.
  • Anyone else out there finding they just can't get it done, aren't getting it done, regardless of the time frame? That everything is slipping out from under them, things just piling up, and no friends, buddies, family or husband to help? I guess I've been kidding myself that I am going to wake up and suddenly be better, my "recovery" will be over and can get "things done" like my old self.
  • What a timely subject! I have been feeling this same way especially tonight and several nights prior. We think that even though we were able to do, that we can or must still. Not we can't. :( I am impatient, always have been and most likely why I am in this postion to begin with. Thank you for bringing this subject up. I can at least maybe focus on it instead of just feeling frustrated all the while. I am able to do more then many. So i guess i should be more thankful. I just feel bad as my husabnd never compalins, is almost 20 years older and still does soo much. I DO feel guilty and still try to do way more than i know I can. Lets keep this topic going. I am wishing the best to you all. I am going to quit for the night.

    Big Hugs,
  • Optimist, I completely understand where you are coming from and I have help, just hate to ask for it. I am so up and down and this past week has been hard and I tend to over do, then really pay for it afterward. I have learned to just stop though. I must or I wouldn't be able to do my job every day. I take advantage of the good days and don't hesitate to stop on the bad ones.
  • Need to reread thisese psots as i am having a really bad day.

    This flaring all over needs to stop.

    Hope all are doing okay.
  • Thank you all for your great responses. Ron, everything you said really hit home. My hubby and I are going through a very difficult time right now. He is extremely stressed out and frustrated and is taking it out on me and the kids, and it ends up turning into a huge argument. I've been trying to remain optimistic in hopes that he'll see me thinking positively and it'll rub off on him, but he's just been so negative these days. And I totally understand why, because we have so much on our plates right now, and the bulk of it is falling onto him.

    I'm slowly learning to pace myself, but the problem is I see my husband getting frustrated, and then I feel the need to take over to alleviate his frustration. Tonight I hit rock bottom. He was having a hard time getting our 20-lb 18-month old to fall asleep, so I took her upstairs and tried to rock her to sleep. Well, after a couple of minutes the pain was unbearable. I was literally shaking as I was holding her. She was half asleep so I decided to try to put her down, but she woke up screaming. I cried in pain as I ran to sit down in bed with her.

    I'll definitely have to look into getting some kind of stool to sit on in the kitchen. The problem is that my pain gets bad either when I'm standing or when I'm sitting without something behind my back, so I need a chair with good back support. Perhaps I could stuff a pillow in between my back and the chair in order to allow for more support.

    Right now I guess I really just have to focus not overdoing it, which I have a tendancy to do. But I also have to convince my husband to let me help with things such as sitting on the couch folding the laundry, that way it's one less thing for him to worry about.
  • I figured my last comment was a little lengthier than I had anticipated, so I decided to start a new comment. I had my 6-week (almost 7 now) post-op appt with the NS today. He is considering the surgery successful in that it helped with about 95% of the pain I was having on the right side. However, he said it appears that T7-8 is what is causing the pain on the left side now. He said the MRI showed it has gotten slightly worse. The good news is that my spinal cord is not being compressed, but the disc is likely impinging on the nerve root.

    So, what does this all mean? Well, he said that in 85% of cases, herniated discs tend to resolve on their own within 3 months. Herniated discs that persist and cause problems after that, generally will not get better without surgery. Does anyone know if this is true? He was quoting data as it relates to lumbar discs, because he said there is not enough information about thoracic disc herniations, since they are not as common.

    Anyway, first he wants me to try another round of steroids, so I'm on the Medrol-pak. It's a tapering dose, and I took my first dose tonight. If that doesn't work, which the last one didn't but I'm remaining hopeful, then he said I can try another epidural injection. I already have an appt set up with the PM doc next Tuesday, so we'll see what happens. I'm still on the Neurontin, 300 mg three times a day, and he wants me to continue that. I asked what he thought about PT, but he said for where the disc is at, PT is not going to help. He wants to see me back on 9/27, and if the pain is no better by then, then we're going to talk about ANOTHER surgery.

    Needless to say, I'm extremely frustrated. I just started this new job, and I'm terrified of having to have another surgery because I don't want to lose this job. On the other hand, I cannot live with this pain. It is WORSE than the initial pain was prior to my surgery, and it is extremely debilitating. But again, the thought of another surgery scares me. The recovery from the first one was way more painful than I had anticipated, and I worry about this being the same. When he spoke with my husband and I while I was in the hospital right after my surgery, he said that if it came down to having surgery on this disc (I wasn't symptomatic at that time), he could try to do it posteriorly, but there was a chance he'd have to convert to an anterior approach. When he talked about surgery with my mother and I today, he said he could do it completely posteriorly. So if I end up needing the surgery, I'll definitely have to clarify that with him. In any case, it was hard enough going through ONE spine surgery, but to go through a second one in less than a year is absolutely sickening.

    Fingers crossed that the steroids or ESI works. We also still have wiggle room on the neurontin, which he said can take about 2 weeks to take effect. I've been on it for a little over a week now, so maybe I can talk to them about increasing the dosage if it doesn't seem to be helping. All I know is that I need SOME kind of relief. And since I've been back to work, I haven't been taking my pain meds, so I'm basically in horrific pain all day. I wake up in the morning feeling okay, but once I'm up and about, the pain quickly intensifies. I'm ready to feel "normal" again. ::sigh::
  • It is very hard to feel usefull when things pile up around you and pain keeps us from being able to do these simple tasks. Its the hardest think to be able to adjust to. I dont know if anyone can realy get use to this even if its been going on for years.

    I think we feel we are not asking for a lot just to be able to get a litle work done around the house without being in such pain and it can be very stressfull

    As Ron said, We go through many stages of emotions and it never gets too much easier as long as pain holds us back. Human nature is to want more and want to do more and when its not posible its rough. But pushing too much can backfire when pain is at its worst. Tried it done that and put myself in er for it. That caused me to rethink how much can i push and i can ignore the warning sighns of pain telling me to stop but if i do that dont make me any more productive laying in er.

    Its very hard to re program the brain to be just happy of being able acomplish any small task but sometimes it has to be done.

    And everyones husband or wife has to understand this is not for being lazy but its a serious medical dissability condition that can affect anyone at any time.
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Kim,
    I cannot tell you how it made me feel to read your post! Just to see that another mother to a little one is on here made me feel some solidarity. Our little girl is 6 months old & was inconsolable yesterday after her vaccinations. I'm in a lot of pain this week so my sweet husband & his sweet mother both tried to soothe her by rocking, talking, walking, singing - you name it. In the end, only mama would do. :-) The pain was so intense as I bent over her crib & sang to her for 20 minutes but it was what she needed & I managed to deliver. (Towards the end I was sitting in the floor, but hey! I was THERE. lol) That simple act made me want to shout from the rooftops! I felt validated; I am STILL a good mother to both my children despite my limitations. I am sure you are too! We have to get creative (& no offense intended, to all you awesome Daddies) but I think it is especially tough for mothers to "let" others do what we perceive as "Mommy Duties." Once I was crying to my best friend about having to tell my young & very active son we couldn't go outside. I worried that he was missing out on so much because of my limitations. She got a little impatient when I started with the "I'm not the mother I should be" & gave me a stern response. She informed me that she highly doubted my son would remember the incident next week, much less next year. She assured me that what he would ALWAYS remember are the things I DID do, especially through pain like attending his football games, making chocolate chip pancakes, etc. His favorite time is when we "pile up" in bed to snuggle & read books. He knows this is because I'm hurting but to him (& me!) it's our special time & it works better for my soul than ANY meds on earth. I'm rambling so let me close with this: YOU are a mother because God decided to bless you with children. Your children don't have a "limited" or "disabled" mother, they have "Mama" & that is all they know. The labels don't matter to them, your presence does. Be kind to yourself & let's ALL resist beating ourselves up, comparing & lamenting. My best friend went on to say that when my children do look back on their childhood, they will most likely be even MORE grateful than children with "normal" parents because they will realize it was a sacrifice to climb those steps, to attend that game, to carry them, etc. And they will know they were loved because I gladly made that effort.

    Blessings to all of you!
  • I had surgery in January this year for spinal stenosis and went back to work as school housekeeper in March. I have severe pain when I have to walk or stand very long. I decided that even though I do go to work each day and can do many things, I needed help with walking and carrying things. I bought a rollator with a basket and a seat and I use it for carrying the laundry and emptying wastebaskets at home. I try not to carry anything but use a shopping basket on wheels at work and at home. I am taking gapapentin 2400mg per day and extra strength tylenol and diclofenac for the femoral and sciatic nerve pain. The pain in my foot is better but still have thigh and groin pain. I am 61 years old and besides routine housekeeping chores in the private boarding school, I do outside chores like weeding and walk-behind lawn mowing. I have to sit frequently for just a few minutes. Then I get up and go again.
  • Hi Kim;

    Has he considered raising the dose of the gabapentin? Did your ESI help, even if for only a few hours? If it did, then maybe you could ask him about an RFA, where they "burn" the nerve root? That could possibly help you for a little while, take you through the "3 months" where the disc could heal on it's own. Or simply, give you some more time with relief.

    As for your questions about herniated thoracic discs, have you looked through the Conditions tab of the site? It has a section on thoracic discs, some of your questions might be answered there. here's the link: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/herniated-disc/upper-back-pain-a-thoracic-herniated-disc

    I hope that you don't need to go for surgery so quickly, who wants to go through that more than once, let alone within months! As for recovery, it can differ from surgery to surgery. It was hell after my first one, but was a walk in the park after my second, so while hopefully you don't have to go again, it will be easier this time around if you do. At least with the 2nd, you know what to expect so it's that less daunting to face as you don't have the unknowns to worry about. I hope the ESI and steroid round helps you though!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
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