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A Soldier's War on Pain

Interesting article in NY Times about chronic pain:
Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil


  • EnglishGirlEEnglishGirl Posts: 1,825
    edited 05/11/2014 - 7:41 AM
    Although I completely agree with the statement "Employing a drug alone is unlikely to lead to a successful outcome" this is another example of going from one extreme to another. I feel incredibly sorry for many of those military patients. Prescribing opioids has dropped from 80% too 5% in that clinic. The problem with articles like this is they lump all pain sufferers together & make sweeping statements.

    A friends husband shattered his ankle in an accident. At the time it was excruciating & he was prescribed ever increasing quantities of narcotics while he 'jumped through the insurance hoops' until he was approved for a complete fusion & rehab. These 'alternative treatments' enabled him to completely quit all prescription meds ONLY bacause he no longer feels any pain. From a chronic pain view he was 'cured' so statistically not taking narcotics & finding another way to deal with his pain was a complete success but that's a very different situation to mine.

    Over the years I have developed a 'blend' of alternative therapies that work for me. Physical therapists & specialist yoga instructors helped me to develop an exercise & stretching routine. I practice relaxation, visualization & meditation with aromatherapy massage & inhaled oils. I use ice & heat to treat flares & hot Epsom salt baths for inflammation. I live (mostly) on a strict arthritis diet that eliminates processed & 'bad' foods & centers on antiinflamatory & fresh natural foods. I know my limitations & practice my restrictions religiously. I have had every procedure my specialists have offered. I have worked with a pain psychologist to develop coping strategies to mentally deal with my pain. I have optimistically & enthusiastically followed all medical advise I have been given.

    When I was pregnant I relied completely on this blend so I know what it's like to survive & cope without medications. To be honest I treated my body like an incubator. I did not live. All I did, all day, everyday was control my pain & nurture my unborn baby & yet I still reached the point that I needed medicinal intervention because of the damage the unmanaged pain was causing to my body & my daughters. The side effects of narcotic medications is often discussed but the physical tole that unmanaged pain has on our bodies is rarely compared. At that time my doctors lectured me on 'fight or flight' chemicals released in my body because of pain & the damage that was causing to my heart & other organs.

    I have never taken narcotics lightly. They are the lesser of 2 evils. I have discussed this at length with specialists because there have been times that I took them reluctantly. Narcotics protect my body & allow me to practice my blend which in turn allows me to function & live my life. Without my blend of medications I would not be able to raise my 2 young children. I would not be able to live my life.

    Sorry for writing an essay here but articles that give the impression that medications turn patients into bed ridden zombies really annoy me! If alternative treatments & a bit of acupuncture & hanging out with horses managed my pain I would be doing it! We have seen first hand on this forum the depths of depression & self medicating extremes that people with unmanaged pain are pushed to. I wish those 'modern' noble doctors who no longer prescribe would hang out here for a while & consider the lives they are destroying before they continue on their quest to ban narcotic therapy!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I am 66 years old and like Englishgirl said done everything possible to avoid meds.
    Right now I wish I had more than I am taking because this is hell withdrawing due to
    developing a tolerance.
    I love that statement of how they have dropped the level of those Vets. using meds.
    My time at night when I cannot sleep due to pain is spent reading and I know for a fact
    that number is way off and I also know that Vets are committing suicide due to pain.
    So they can paint all the pretty pictures they want.
    I get sick to death of these know it all's and wish they would spend just a week in our
    shoes. It makes my blood boil that you can bet they will have an influence too on
    the CP sufferers not getting their meds that they need to have a life.
    He was one of the lucky ones who was able to get that fix and go on with his life
    and there are some like that. But thousands who are not they try it all.
    Enough I will leave it there Englishgirl said it exactly as it is.
  • Sorry wanted to make sure you did not think I was upset with you.
    I find those articles interesting I will use that nice word, so please continue to post them.
    It's good to keep up on what is being said out there.
    Thanks Sherri
  • Yes! Thank you for posting. It's important, these magazines have a huge number subscribers. I like knowing what information is being consumed by people. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I didn't take it personally. I got upset reading the article too and knew many of you would as well. I really feel sad for Vets with chronic pain.
    Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil
  • JAM661JJAM661 Posts: 121
    edited 05/12/2014 - 1:27 PM
    The VA system has gotten better though the years but it really is determined what VA you go to and what doctor you get. Since this guy was on active duty still he was able to get a place in the 3 week PT program. Some Vets can be on a waiting list for years depending on there VA rating. What is happening now is that these guys are not getting pain medications to help with the pain while they wait get into a program that would provide other choices and support for the pain they are having. Chronic pain cannot be treated or seen as just use drugs or just PT or just using heat. It seems like too many doctors are forgetting the use of opiate medication and for some can and does give them a better quality of life. It would have been interesting to see how this guy would have done if he was treated by what some on this site calls "the blend" instead of pain pills. The other point they do not mention was what other medication was he on. (I think his wife said 10) The way the story is written his morphine was the sole cause of all his problems which included tremors. I would guess that some of the side effects he was having was because the morphine inner-acted with his other medication and not just from the morphine on it's own. While I am happy this guy was able to deal with his pain in another ways besides using medication I would how many Vets are not getting the pain medication they need to have a better less pain life.
  • Gotta say this trend of bashing painkillers for chronic pain seems to be getting worse and worse. Many of us are trying all possible avenues to get better not just throwing painkillers at the situation,
    ex: this year alone I've tried:
    -2 different physical therapists,
    -2 new topical creams,
    -heat pad treatment,
    -multiple cortisone injections,
    -massage therapy,
    -3 new non-narcotic pain med,
    -electro-pain therapy,

    and I am still exploring new avenues, I may try Botox and am considering psychological therapy. Oh yeah and did I mention that the massage therapy and stretching made my pain 10x worse and has literally cause such bad muscle spasms as to make me take leave from school and have to quit my job a few months ago?? Some of these techniques make us worse not better!

    So far the narcotic meds are the only effective and long term relief I have gotten from pain. Heat works great but that's extremely short term and I've had mixed results with cortisone.

    It really bothers me to be expected to have the exact same results as this guy, when I've actually had the exact opposite results from my PM experiences. A couple of these alternative therapies literally crippled me to new levels when previously I made the Honors Roll at university and worked 40 hours a week despite being on these supposed ultra terrible zombie drugs for chronic pain.
  • It's a combination of modalities and medications that properly treat chronic pain. It definitely paints an ugly picture of those that use narcotic pain meds as one of their tools in reducing pain. Narcotics are just a small part of overall treatment. Finding the right blend allows for a better quality of life. It's quite the opposite of what's described. We do everything we can to live life, not avoid it by sitting around all day popping pills. Those that abuse are already predisposed to such actions. The majority of people in chronic pain do NOT misuse narcotics, those articles just aren't brought to light.
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • Dumbledore.. I've thrown everything I can think of & afford at my pain. I have my 'blend' but I'm still tweaking it constantly. Just writting because I half heartedly tried Botox (with steroids) for pressure points & was VERY pleasantly surprised. I religiously stretched & had much better medicinal pain control after but the all over body pain was becoming nearly a memory (over 6 months) before my latest issues spiraled my pain out of control. As soon as I recover I'm going to have them done again..I've got that much faith in them!

    Also visited with a chronic pain therapist.. Again, GREAT results! She wasn't a 'tell me about your childhood' kind of therapist. We went through the practicle, everyday things that I have to do & developed 'action plans' to make them easier to manage. I have to confess I unburdened & cried a bit too. ;-)

    I hope you try these things. Try anything that makes sense & isn't going to make things worse. Both of them were covered by my insurance.. Nothing lost. A LOT gained!

    LCochran. I missed you! I completely agree. Statistically very, very few chronic pain sufferers abuse their meds. Addiction is not a major issue for us but sometimes it feels like all I read!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • :)
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
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