Learning to deal with chronic pain is a challenge. Learning to walk differently, learning to have pillows at particular angles in chairs to support an arm or back, proper use of analgesics, etc. In 2002 after years of missing work due to back spasms I was approved for a 4 week, 8 hours a day, 4 days a week pain management program. Those four weeks were life changing.
The group of about 6 women spent most of January with a staff of professionals. Two psychologists, innumerable physical therapists, a pain management physician and speakers presented what I call a smorgasbord of options. Physical therapists watched as each participant walked, sat, stood up, bent and did all the other movements required for living. We even had to get off a raised mattress to illustrate how we get out of bed. Each person was given a tailor made set of instructions for dealing with defects in our movements.
The list of modifications for my movements included retraining muscles in my knees. That process included mild electrical stimulation on one particular muscle that should have been 'firing' first when I walked. That lack of firing was causing a misalignment of the knee cap. My foot action had to be changed to have the toes pointed more toward each other. It was tricky to discipline myself to walk in such a different way. I felt as I was walking like a pigeon for weeks. The daily exercises to strengthen core muscles and generally improve all muscles took about 30 minutes. On days with more time I would go through a series of Tae Chi movements.
Our medications were enumerated. We were told how there are times to stay ahead of pain. Do not let it get out of control before you take that ibuprofen, acetaminophen or more prescription medications. Reminders to persons relying too heavily on drugs were made that learning to control the pain through alternative techniques are at times more successful. Dietitians noted the effects of diet in pain control.
Dr. Ian led the group through many sessions of relaxation methods. From simple breathing techniques to self hypnosis. Dr. Ian had lived and studied with monks in India. He had seen their use of mind over matter. One example was filmed and shared with the group. The monks were in a frigid room with nothing on from the waist up. Other monks placed wet towels on the seated monks. Within a minute or so the monks had willed their bodies to generate additional heat. So much heat that the towels began releasing steam into the frigid room. The relaxation exercises were one of my personal favorites. I have used the deep breathing techniques prior to surgery and during dental work.
One other item on the list were personal counseling sessions. It was during this time Dr. Ian diagnosed PTSD as one of the root causes of my anger issues. Many sessions were spent working through the issues that led to this disorder. A technique of visualization and rapid eye movement were used during the private sessions. EMDR, eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing, is the name of this peculiar treatment. It was used by some of the counselors for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. By spring of 2002 I finally was sleeping without nightmares for the first time in my memory.
We are finally home from the third trip to Texas since June 6, two to deal with Mom's issues, the last to assist with grandsons. Mom's hip replacement surgery was successful though she does continue to have some health challenges but nothing life threatening. Most of Mom's possessions are divided and dispersed. My youngest sister is still having to 'tweak' (a real understatement) Mom's bed situation and spend way too many hours dealing with all things Mom. But there is help on a daily basis for Mom's needs. The last trip was primarily to be a backup for our son during his two weeks with his sons. Those 12 days were filled with good times and a few bumps. Many of the bumps were on roads looking for potential homes for us when we move to the Austin area.
Today after many hours in a Jeep Wrangler it sure is good to be in an easy chair. No bouncing over drought damaged pavement. No worrying if the semi pulling into our lane was going to run us off the road. After this hectic summer it is cleansing to sit and simply take a very deep breath and release it. Good air in, bad air out.