Reporting from Inside the Pain

Two weeks ago, I developed an injury in my back and shoulder. I still don’t know what I did, except it probably had something to do with being at the computer for too long for too many days. It was a completely new place with a completely new pain that I’ve never experienced before. It felt like I had a perpetual Charley horse in the muscles on the right side next to my spine, accompanied by a streak of numbness on the front of my torso. Being up and seated wasn’t fun, but lying down was worse. Whenever I got horizontal, the muscles went into spasms so intense that I couldn’t move. It was the most pain I have had in years and it was Not Fun.

Luckily, it started shortly before a weekend when The Boy was here. From Friday to Sunday, he gave me ultrasound every day and catered to my every whim and so I didn’t have to use my left arm for anything. Last Monday, I had an appointment with my rheumatologist, who gave me a trigger point injections of freezing and steroid. This broke the spasms enough that I could start healing. It’s still lurking and I’m still being very careful, but things are better.

In the midst of all of that, I was reminded of the number of things about pain that I’d almost forgotten:

Really intense pain in one area can make it difficult to feel the rest of your body. It’s as if the sensory nerves can only process so much.

The 10 point pain scale is logarithmic like the Richter scale. Each whole number indicates a tenfold increase.

When your pain is at a 9 for a couple of days, you very quickly worry whether it’s permanent.

In related news, a level 9 pain is the sobbing kind of pain. Except crying makes it hurt more, so you don’t.

Really big pain makes you feel very alone, even if someone’s there trying to help you through it.

Codeine is a gift. So are muscle relaxants.

When you are on a lot of strong painkillers, your face feels kind of numb.

When you have intense pain, narcotic painkillers don’t make you high. Sometimes a bit woozy, especially if you haven’t taken them in a long time, but within a day or two, your body adapts.

If you’re taking a lot of narcotic painkillers, it’s a good idea to stock up on prune juice.

When a spasm starts, it’s like a rip tide, grabbing hold of you, pulling tighter and tighter as it sucks you helplessly into a maelstrom of pain.

Really big pain makes it hard to breathe.

When a spasm starts, you can reduce its impact if you work to stretch the muscle before the spasm crests.

Stretching a muscle that wants to go into a spasm temporarily increases the pain.

Deliberately stretching a muscle that wants to go into a spasm feels like a very brave thing.

When the really big pain has receded into terrible pain, you can’t remember what the really big pain felt like. You can remember what that you cried and couldn’t breathe or move, but there is no sensation memory.

You can remember that you don’t want to be there again, though.


Wren said…
True. So profoundly true.
I'm ... I really can't verbalize how grateful I am that the kind of pain you wrote about isn't something I have anymore. I did, but it was years ago.
And you're so right, Lene. There isn't a sensory memory of No. 9 pain left over, once it's gone. But I know I never want to experience it again. The thought frightens me. And even though I had that pain so many years ago, it still comes to mind with each small poke or twinge or low-level ache I have. Every. Single. Day.

I hope there are rheumatologists who read our blogs. I really do.

steph gas said…
i feel like my pain levels are all messed up. i put an 8 on my rapid thing today and my husband looked at me like i was crazy. am i just that used to the pain that i can get through it? or am i exaggerating? or am i just crazy?
Anonymous said…
I am so sorry. I'm glad things are starting to get better.