Thursday, February 23, 2017

Acupuncture saved my life

In the last half of 2016, I began seeing a pain rehabilitation doctor I was referred to by my rheumatologist. My neck has been just god awful for me lately. 

For a long time, I hadn't been sleeping in my bed but on the couch. Even then, I was barely sleeping.

We started with trigger point injections. This is where lidocaine (a numbing agent) is injected directly into very tight muscular points. It relieves the tightness and allows you to move in ways that will help work that knot out. These were really effective at the start, but began to very quickly lose effectiveness past the first few days.

Our plan b was to start acupuncture and see how that went. It isn't covered by our insurance and y'all know how I feel about 'alternative' medicine things, but I was willing to give it a try.

I can honestly say right now that I don't know if I would be alive without acupuncture.

People may think I'm being melodramatic in saying this but, for me, it's a reality. I can deal with pain in a joint on a normal basis - heck, I lived and worked with bursitis for several months. This neck pain is something that is just demoralizing and awful in the worst way.

I can avoid using a joint like my knee but not my neck! 

We've only done the acupuncture a few times, but this last time I went for three weeks until having real neck pain again this past Wednesday. And, when I say this, I mean little-to-no breakthrough pain to manage as well - no TENS unit, hot packs, ice, ointments (aside from those to ease my sunburn), etc.

This is practically a miracle for me.

I've been able to sleep! And in my bed next to my husband at that! Tuesday night was the first night since I got back from Mexico that I didn't sleep in my bed once my sunburn cleared up enough.

All that said, this has been also a practice in self-care. For example, I can't be upright all day. It's just not something I can do and survive. That's actually been part of what's wound up causing me more pain this week.

The amount of time I've spent upright the last two days, though, has been productive and amazing. In addition to publicly speaking out again sexism and sexual harassment that pervades our patient communities, I've also been working on some great things for Chronic Sex and related projects. I won't talk too much about it here, but it'll advance a lot of research and information on sex/intimacy and illness/pain/disability.

I get acupuncture next week Thursday and I couldn't be more excited.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sometimes you just need a reset

The last few weeks have seen me having a lot of good days which I desperately needed.

It all started with a trip to Cancun, Mexico with my college roommate. It was a great way to take a break from social media and work. I mean, I did manage to get a horrible sunburn because we were drinking margaritas in the ocean, but that's beside the point.

It's hard to not rest and want to soak up as much sun as possible when you're around this instead of frozen tundra Wisconsin life.

It was nice to get a sunburn honestly. It was a good reminder that pain usually comes to people after they do something. 

Katy and I also just really needed to spend time together in the wake of all the political ick going on.

Despite having a sunburn when I got back, I really felt like I had a fire lit under my ass. For the first time in a while, I had really just taken a legit break and felt ready to attack things.

A week later, T and I got to go see one of my favorite bands - Boyz II Men!

I've been listening to them ever since I was little and I have always enjoyed their music. Seeing them in person was amazing.

It also got me thinking about other things from my youth that I really enjoyed... like albondigas soup... which all connects back to Mexico, funny enough. I talk about it in my latest piece over on Medium.

Hey, and I lost like five pounds within a month!

It's not that things are all going right. My inflammation levels are high. My fatigue is being a butt. I have a million things I want to do and not always enough energy to do them.

Still, things feel better. Rest is incredibly important, especially in times of resistance. Make sure you're taking care of you.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: TechCare Pro TENS Unit

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Today, I am reviewing the TechCare Pro TENS Unit.

For those unfamiliar with the term, TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This kind of stimulation can help to relieve muscle tension and pain by essentially exercising muscles using electricity. TENS units help provide that stimulation via electrodes the user places on their body. The user then controls the intensity and type of stimulation via the unit itself.

Having used some TENS units in the past, I really appreciated that the TechCare Pro was really light. Others I've had have been heavy and a little difficult to manage. It was easy to plug in the electrodes and easy to utilize those.

It comes with two differently sized kinds of electrodes - a set of tiny ones and a set of larger ones. The larger ones are about the same size that one might find in a drugstore or elsewhere. The tiny ones are smaller than I've seen elsewhere and that was actually pretty nice to have. I was able to use those in spots that were more difficult to get the others onto like around my collarbones.

One thing I found odd with this unit is that there is no start/stop/pause button. Once you turn on the device, it's on and going. If you want to switch modes, you have to turn it off and then get back to the mode and intensity you want to utilize. That would be amazing to have on this unit as it would allow for repositioning of electrodes - or even a quick bathroom break - without turning the unit off.

The button in the middle that one might assume is a pause button actually changes the modes. See, there are these kind of 'parent-modes' - those you see in the photo above - and each parent-mode has 2-4 modes within it. I do wish these modes were slightly more straightforward. However, it's easy enough to switch between these modes that it really doesn't bother me.

All in all, this isn't necessarily the most intuitive device - but does it work?

Yes, yes it does.

This is one of the most comfortable and effective TENS units I've ever used. 

The low-intensity levels are effective on light pain. I haven't had to go past mid-level intensity on any of these modes in order to get relief. 

The fact that it's so lightweight means that it's perfect for me. Between traveling a lot and having major fatigue issues lately, heavier units of any kind are getting more and more difficult to utilize. Heck, my television remote isn't the easiest for me to hold lately. This is lighter than that, even.

The price honestly can't be beat, either. Similar devices can be several hundred dollars, but this one costs far less. 

You can snag your own TechCare Pro Silver TENS Unit over on Amazon.