At the beginning of February, I mentioned wanting to “detox” my system a little by going without my take-as-needed prescription pain medicines*.
I also abstained from any sort of over-the-counter drug for pain or sleep relief.
This went on for about 2 weeks. I then developed a sharp pain in my right knee that was not part of the preexisting pains produced by my assorted parts. I took my prescription anti-inflammatory that night and felt 6000 times better in the morning.
Since then I’ve taken medication sparingly compared to my old regimen. But it feels pretty decadent after even that small window of abstinence. I learned/deduced/randomly correlated a few things from this experiment.
1) I’m not in pain all the time.
For 15 years, my life has not been pain-free. I may have good days, even weeks or months, but my body remembers the damage previously wrought and it won’t let me forget for long.
Going into this, I could not remember the last time I truly felt like I had a pain-free day. And I’m not sure I’ve had one since. However, during this experiment I became very aware of moments where I felt comfortable. And being aware of comfortable moments seems to lead me to more of them.
Instead of just anticipating that I would feel pain because I am someone in pain, I began to check in with myself and how I felt before and after activities.
This revelation and continuing the inward reflection is helping me return to exercise in a better way. As someone who loves a good endorphin high, I have previously “pushed through pain” for a workout in part because I believed there would always be pain so I might as well go for it.
2) I don’t need drugs to feel better.
I’ve already written about my gratitude for hot water and the analgesic properties a shower provides me. And while I cannot think of other specific tools I use to alleviate or eliminate pain, I would say in general I feel better by just the knowledge that I CAN feel better.
My caveat here is that my shoulder pain, while instigated by trauma, seems to be very muscle-orientated. Stress, body position, environment, etc plays a bigger role in this pain than with others. Some pain does require drugs. It goes too deep and is too, well, painful, to be alleviated with a new chair or special pillow.
3) Drugs can be good for me.
Last month I also was smacked with the health issue of hypertension. It is partially environment and partially hereditary and I have dipped in and out of the pool of hypertension medications three times so far.
I was heavily using my “as needed” pain medication going into the prognosis that my recent dip in the pool needed to wade a little deeper (my hypertension medication dosage was increased). Part of my decision to take a break from my pain medications was to see if that had any affect on my blood pressure.
It did. It seemed to make it worse.
So this is where I am taking a correlation and turning into a causation. After upping my hypertension medication but still abstaining from pain medication, my blood pressure lowered to OK numbers. Not great, still pre-hypertention, but good enough the Dr said we’d leave the dosage there and continue monitoring.
Then I had one or two bouts of really bad pain. I went back to my pain medication for those. And after those doses, my at-home readings (which were erring higher than the Dr’s) were absolutely perfect.
My hypothesis is that the stress of being in pain will slightly raise my blood pressure. And by taking my drugs when needed, I am doing my heart – and the rest of me – a favor.
I am happy overall about this experiment. I do think I had become somewhat resistant to the affects of the drugs. The first few days I felt horrible pain and wonder if that was a partial withdrawal symptom. I also managed to have a few nights of decent sleep in a row right at the end. And have continued to have better-than-normal-for-me sleep.
The best result is that I feel more in control of my body and my pain management than I did before the experiment.
Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not suggesting that eliminating any medication from anyone’s routine is a good idea. My doctor was aware I did this and did not object.
*My pain medications are a common muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory. I’m not talking about messing around with Vicodin, Tramodol, or other narcotic substances. Just in case you thought I was being rather cavalier about all this.