Wednesday, 31 January 2018


I have an interesting relationship with pain. It's been a part of my life forever but not in the way that would make me seem like I'm feeling sorry for myself, or at least not too much.

I grew up with a significant other who had juvenile arthritis, developing into old-git arthritis when they reached their majority. They had one particularly severe bout of it when I was growing up that I can remember, and I'd never seen anyone suffering so much. The experience of watching them destroyed my illusions of what it was to be an adult as they spent what seemed like months getting over it, probably with the use of decent pharmaceuticals. They were undoubtedly hooked on something for years afterwards, and it took ages for them to get off of it (I think I would've stopped on it, TBH).

Then in adulthood, I spent a lot of time in pain clinics and thinking about pain in regards to another significant other. To say their pain affected me is, perhaps, an understatement.

I've had aches and pains since being a teenager. There was the bone chip stuck under my kneecap which stopped me playing sports except for table tennis at school (have you ever played table tennis against yourself for an hour straight: boring!). Then, when I worked nights, I'd often ask my colleagues to drag me along corridors by my legs to ease the pain in my hips. All these aches and pains meant that I was always taking painkillers of one sort or another - my favourite was co-proxamol, but the dodgy dossier put paid to that particular avenue, so it's been double up doses of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for something like 15 years. And alcohol as well I guess, though that was partly down to needing a wee dram to get me off to sleep after a night shift.

I'd go and donate platelets and make sure I'd not taken any Ibuprofen for 48 hours or Paracetamol for 24. It wasn't always easy, and I had to cancel a couple of times because I'd forget (but only once or twice - nearly made it to 200 before the NSAID put paid to platelet donations). When asked if it were for something recurring I'd have to hold my hand up and say I'd been taking them since I was a teenager for various aches and pains. I had to wait a couple of times while the nurses at the donor centre liaised with medics to check. Check that someone who had near constant headaches, as well as aching fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, back (upper and lower), hips, knees, ankles and toes, could donate platelets. They always asked about medical investigations, and I again said there was arthritis in the family and that so far nothing serious had been diagnosed. But I'd be given advice and told to see the GP, and off I went to donate. I always forgot to see the GP because multiple trips during my youth had revealed nothing - I wasn't being stoic, I just didn't want to waste time!

I guessed it was just something that was a little unusual about me... or perhaps everyone else felt like I did and I simply had a lower pain threshold than anyone else. Maybe everyone else ached, and it was merely that I was more sensitive to it, so I put it to the back of my mind and carried on. And I really did carry on! I went to the gym on a semi-regular basis on and off (definitely on at the minute, and it has been for over a year now). I cycled everywhere (easy to do in Cambridge TBH) and at one point had all three of my boys on the bike at once (#1 on a tag along, #2 in a bike seat between my legs and #3 on a bike seat behind me). Boy did we walk as well, whole days during the Summer holidays wandering around Cambridge, walking for miles, but my stride was getting shorter - I put this down to respecting the boys and not striding off and leaving them behind, but it was probably my crumbling hips.

Then, with the diagnosis of AS, I got prescribed a longer lasting and more powerful NSAID. But that was bloody odd! I was snappy as anything for about three days and a right miserable sod and quick to jump down the throats of anyone (sorry Katrina). Then that stopped, and I was right as rain - and was sleeping way past 05:00. Sometimes managing to sleep in, something I'd not managed to do in a long old time. No more staggering out of bed while it was still dark and trying to get myself moving with a cup of coffee, fag and the three S's.

I guess it's not easy trying to get the tone of this down right. I'm not looking for sympathy or anything, just trying to get my feelings down properly about my relationship with my failing body and it's near constant warnings to me (interesting euphemism for the pain that is). I'd been checked over about 18 months before my diagnosis and knew that I had an unhealthy relationship with carbohydrates, but that was solved by knocking bread, rice and potatoes out of my diet (and switching from bitter to lager). The type 2 diabetes is now classed as being in remission, so that worked a treat. My blood pressure is being treated with Statins and seems to be being slowly sorted. What I thought was angina was actually tennis elbow in my shoulder (though maybe it's AS as well?).

I ran out of the NSAIDs last month for three days and went back to Paracetamol and Ibuprofen until the prescription was filled. Not too much of a bother until I got them again, and again, I was a pain to live with for a day or three until I got used to them.

Then came an invitation to take part in a clinical trial. Coming off of them and having an MRI, going back on them and having another after they'd built up and having another MRI to check that they were of some therapeutic use rather than just stopping me feeling the pain. And I'm about a week in and aching again. I used to say that I knew I was alive because I ached, and that was the case, but I'm sort of getting used to living without constant pain. It's the transitions that cause the problem though.

So I'm a week into being NSAID free, and I ache, but I'm used to it now. Posture and exercise as well as eating a healthy diet are helping - as they did before - but I'm planning on what to do when I go back on them... as well as pondering not returning to them due to the serious grumps they seem to engender.

I'm not sure why that is the case though. I know that Paracetamol is linked to a reduction in empathy and there are suggestions that that reduction in empathy is down to a reduction in the pain subjects experience. Apparently feeling pain improves empathy... but that's an interesting thing, in that once my body is acclimatised to it I go back to being less grumpy... and I'm not 100% sure that my ill-temper is down to reduced empathy or just being a git generally.

No comments:

Post a Comment