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Are Pain Meds Making Me Worse? 2014 Post - 2017 Results

I posted this in August 2014 - Please read below to 2017 after you have read this.

Hi

I am a new user to this forum, reading other members posts has been very useful and somewhat comforting that I am not alone with my chronic pain, I sympathize immensly with all. I have degenerative disc disease, my lower three lumbar discs are affected and I am always in some degree of pain. I have had my symptoms now since January 2012, so just over 2.5 years. During this time I have had nerve block injections, disc block injections, an epidural and have tried loads of pills - codeine (over the counter), valium, tramodol, high strength anti-inflammatories and other forms of sleeping pills to try and "knock" me out at night and get a decent sleep.

My neursurgeon (2 different one's, both concur) and pain specialist have advised that surgery is not an option, there is no evidence it will actually help and could infact make it worse, so that option is off the table. My pain specialist has also now said that continual disc block injections are not an option so I am not able to go back for more.

Strong anti-inflammatories were of some use, however my stomach is no longer coping very well with them. I was recently prescribed another drug which would allow my stomach to handle the anti-inflammatory and they really knocked me for six - stomach problems, panic attacks, anxiety, so I have now given up on them also. I have also tried the suppository anti-inflammatory without success.

I am 40 years old and quite fit, I excercise daily (mostly) unless I am too busy to fit it in. I have found though that recently the concoction of pain meds and sleeping pills are really making my whole wellbeing feel worse. Whilst the pain meds do reduce the pain, it never goes away, the sleeping pills help me sleep, but make getting up in the morning and facing a new day incredibly hard sometimes. I suppose I am definately feeling depressed at the moment to, I don't need a diagnosis for that, as I come to the realisation that this is it, it's will not get better......

So, how to live with this long term is the question. 4 days ago I stopped all the pain meds and sleeping pills completely. I don't know if I will last but I will give it a go for as long as I can. My mind already feels so much better and with that I feel like I can cope a little better with the pain. The most recent drug that I took caused panic attacks and anxiety - I really feel like the back pain was a lot better than that, at least I know what I am dealing with when my mind is healthy, drug induced panic and anxiety is terrifying. I also found that the pain meds were starting to cause depression and bout's of overwhelming hopelessness - given that the back pain was still there whilst on the meds, just slightly relieved then I don't think these cures are really offering any help at all because overall I am feeling much worse on a whole.

My surgeon told me that his scan's actually look worse than mine and yet he is not in any pain. The pain is actually caused by the inflammation so I am going to try anything natural I can to try and reduce the inflammation without the drugs. I have gone to sleep the past two nights with ice on my back, it has helped. I have also found that without the sleeping pills at night I don't need 5 coffee's in the morning to get me going. I was finding that I was sticking to coffee as my go to drink to try and energise and counteract the sleeping pills and completley lacked adequate water during the day, so I am sure that replacing the dehydrating coffee with water will help the discs somewhat.

So I am starting an anti-inflammatory diet this week. I will monitor how the pain levels are and see if life without the meds is actually liveable and better or liveable and worse.

Good luck to all.


2017

I have not been on this site for a very long time, but wanted to come back and hopefully share something that may be useful to some people.  I suffered in pain for almost 3 years, so I know exactly where some of you are at and how miserable it makes life when you are in constant pain.

I was just having a discussion with a colleague which prompted me to jump online and tell write about my experiences with back pain and pain medication.  The discussion we were having was about the over prescription of pain medication by doctors and how more people are dying of prescription medication overdoses than by heroin and other illicit drugs, that's a fact, a terrible one, but true.

I have been pain free now for the past 18 months.  I exercise everyday and I don't take any medication.  This includes running 5km to 10kms at time - with no back pain, I know for some of you just the thought of that would make you wince.

I know this won't work for everyone, I know everyone is different, have different degrees of pain etc, but for some people I am sure it will work and improve your lives.

After almost 3 years of back pain and the constant pain medication that goes with it, I decided that I had had enough.  I was still exercising with my back pain, but not specifically for my lower back because it was too painful.  One day, I thought, stuff it, I am in pain all the time anyway so I will grin and bare it and see how it goes.

The exercise is so simple.  Just bending and going into a squat position at the same time and lifting a medicine ball, I lift the ball right above my head to a straight arm position and then squat back down and put it on the floor, stand up and then repeat.  I swear this one simple exercise has given me my life back.  I started with a 3kg ball, I now use a 9kg ball.

I am convinced now also that the pain medication handed out by Doctors is in a lot of cases (not all) counterproductive.

When you take the pain medication it relaxes all of the muscles that support a bad back.  Also, exercise is generally the last thing you feel like doing when you are dosed up.  The above exercise will help strengthen the lower back, glutes and quads - all of which will help you back.

Not sure about everyone else, but as per my original post back in 2014, I was living on pain medication, caffeine and sugar to keep my going.  Caffeine and Sugar both cause inflammation, but I was having lots of both after nights of pain meds to keep me up during the day.

What amazes me though is that I was never, ever, referred to physio by my doctor or my specialist, just given pain medication.  In fact, my doctor told me not to exercise as it may make the condition worse.  Well, you may want to check with your doctor first, but let me say, when you have a bad back for 3 years, it is a living hell and you will try just about anything.

So I really fear that the cycle for a lot of chronic pain sufferers may be the same as the one that I was on, and thank God was able to get off.  I know some people will be addicted to medication and struggle to do the same, but for others, you may want to give it a go - 

Pain Meds = Muscle Relaxation = Less Support for Spine = More Pain (as well as many other negative side effects from long term pain med use)

Exercise = Strengthen Muscles = More Support for Spine = Less Pain.

That's just my take on this.  As I said above, I know we are all different, and this won't work for everyone, but please try and not get too use to pain medication, it's a band aid only with side effects that may be counterproductive.

Good Luck

Naomi







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Comments

  • @naomi 1973 thank you for sharing! There have been studies done that prove pain medication actually makes your body more susceptible to pain with long term use. It reduces the amount of endorphins your brain produces naturally. This is why a lot of people actually feel better after getting off pain meds. Your brain kicks in again, producing the amount of endorphins it should be producing normally.

    I don't think pain meds should be prescribed for every pain that comes along with back pain. Everyone has some sort of back pain in their lifetime. DDD is a disease that occurs in everyone. By our 20's, our discs are already loosing hydration and showing signs of the disease. I don't think pain meds should be prescribed for any case that are not severe, as the risk/side effects out weigh the benefits. That goes for any spinal condition that is not serious. 

    That being said, people with serious conditions benefit from pain medications greatly. Some of us have multiple conditions that restrict our lives to such a serious degree, pain meds help us to get some sort of quality of life. The benefits out weigh the side effects/risk. 

    I would give anything to have my life back before all of my diagnosis and surgery. I would love to live without having to take pain meds daily. I am extremely happy that you found your path! Thank you for sharing your experience!!



    Retrolisthesis C4 of C5 and C5 of C6
    Spondylolthesis C5/C6
    Disc protrusions with Annular Tears C3/C4, C4/C5, and C5/C6
    Disc Material Compressing Spinal Cord C3/C4
    Severe Forminal Stenosis C5/C6
    DDD
    Ankylosing Spondylitis 
    Annular Tears L3/L4 and L5/S1
    Enlarged Facet Joints/Facet Anthrosis L3/L4/L5
    PLIF with Rods, Cage, and Pedicle Screws-L4/L5
  • mlsmmls MarylandPosts: 11

    @Naomi 1973, thanks for your post. I'm so happy for you that you found relief from your pain!

    As you say, everyone is different. I tried the painkillers and other meds but I guess luckily for me they didn't even work, so there wasn't an issue of me getting addicted. But just trying exercising didn't work either. It would always just flare up my symptoms. 

    It turns out there were some deeper issues I had to address before I could start to exercise more and not have increased pain. There was past trauma that my body was still reacting to at a primitive level. And until I faced that, my body continued to react with pain even when I tried to slowly start an exercise regimen.

    Now I can do much more physical activity and my pain is certainly lower than it was in my first few years of pain. Yet I'm still waiting for my body to catch up to my mind to fully let go of my traumatic experiences and associated physical pain.

    I do believe that sometimes it's helpful to take meds to get us to a place where we can even start moving, exercising, or addressing deeper issues, but ideally as a temporary measure. Steroid injections helped bring down my pain temporarily so that I could then search for what was going to help me next. In my case it was addressing past traumas that I had to do first, which I did with the help of myofascial release and reading about the link between trauma and physical pain.

    Good luck to us all out there!

    HealingFromChronicPain
    (if you want to read about my story and what I've done to reduce my chronic pain, see my personal website: https://www.healingfromchronicpain.com)
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  • Thanks Jillybean079 and mls for the reply and insight you have also shared with me.  I feel for everyone that goes through this. One of the things I found most frustrating when I was suffering was the lack of tolerance by others at times toward chronic pain, if you can't see it, or it's not cancer, could it really be that bad?  I felt guilty at times because I couldn't do things because of the pain, it's totally miserable.  

    I absolutely see the merit in people taking the pain medication to get their lives back and become functional.  I know it's not a one way street, and I am really fortunate to be where I am today.  At the same time, I know how addictive these drugs are and how irresponsible some doctors can be, so I really want others to be weary of that also.

    One of the other things that I found also was that I was extremely low in iron, to the point that it was addressed after I nearly fainted a couple of times, I think taking supplements for iron was a contributing factor with my recovery, yet the Doctor I was seeing was well aware that my iron was very low when I started to see him, but didn't make any connection.  When I told him that getting my iron up to the right level also saw an improvement with my back pain, he seemed surprised.

    I also have a standing station at my work now as well, so I make sure that as well as having a walk around during a lunch break, I never sit all day.

    I think there are many things that need to be addressed with back pain, if not caused by trauma (I know this is another kettle of fish and wouldn't wish it on anyone) With degenerative disc disease there has to be a reason why some peoples scans can look worse than others, yet they have no pain.

    I would certainly recommend that if you have DDD, you get your iron levels checked and take supplements if required.  Try and do some light exercise and never sit all day, that's definitely the worst thing you can do.  As a last resort take medication, but only for the short term.

    Good Luck Everyone :)

  • itsautonomicitsautonomic LouisianaPosts: 2,561
    edited 07/26/2017 - 11:00 AM

    The mind is a crazy thing, it can become sensitized in some cases due to long term pain medication.  The reason for that is so deep I do not think its fully understood why one gets that way and another does not, but some have an injury that doesn't cause much and another has same injury and the pain centralizes in brain and you end up with CRPS which is one of the most painful conditions out there.  I hope more understanding of the human brain will open many new avenues of treatment.  Congrats on doing so well and recognizing it wasn't working for you.

    I wish it was as standard as your theory and process for everyone, but often those who do not get treated for pain develop centralization of the pain from not being treated with medicine until they can get ahead of it with other therapies then its an entirely different monster to treat.  Complicated , but interesting stuff to read about. Fascinating stuff to see all the viewpoints in books .

    Do your due dilegence, trust you know your body and question everything if it does not fit. Advocate for yourself and you will be suprised what will be revealed trusting your body and instinct.
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