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Monthly Archives: March 2011

University of Florida News – Pill-Free Pain Relief

This article brings about a few interesting questions. Can these ‘good vibrations’ really help people with chronic pain? Also, how long does the effect last? If there is any truth to this research, can a patient create their own way of experiencing the vibrations necessary for pain relief? Is there hope that this would treat all pains? These are but a few of the questions I have for this research. I think that a pill-free treatment option for chronic pain that works would be worth the money. I just wonder if these vibrations are causing more of a placebo effect then actually providing pain relief. I know that this could be hell for those with skin hypersensitivity as any stimulation of the nerves would be excruciating. Interesting nonetheless…

(Via: University of Florida News – Pill-Free Pain Relief)

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Hope, Pain - Physical

 

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Use your Blackberry Smartphone to Keep a Pain Journal

In my last posting I talked about the reasons for keeping a pain journal and the many ways I have done so in the past. As promised, I’m doing a follow-up to that article focusing on keeping a pain journal on your BlackBerry smartphone. When I was keeping this type of pain journal I found it very convenient to keep track of my daily activities since my phone was with me 24/7. Also, since most of my pain originates in my hands and wrists, I was eager to find a system in which the least amount of writing or typing was necessary. In this, I found that my BlackBerry was perfect. As you can see in the image below (actual screen captures of my phone), I was never more than two clicks away from my pain journal. From my home screen, I was able to access my memo pad by just scrolling. Then once I clicked in a memo pad I was presented with my daily routine.

What makes the system so appealing to me is that I did not actually type everything you see in the picture. In fact, the BlackBerry smartphone allows me to set up shortcuts in which I can type a few letters and upon pressing space or enter will inject a longer phrase or entire sentence. For example, as you can see in the image below, all that I do is type “D1” and press enter to inject “1 Glass of Water @ 12:22:23”. What you might also notice about this image is that the time is automatically entered as well. This is convenient in that it is one thing less for you to do. By setting up your phone correctly, you can keep track of anything you do in your day to the second. By setting up a long list of codes I can keep track of my entire day with a simple letter and number combination. You can see from the image that my three most common drinks during the day are expressed as D1, D2, and D3.

Setting up these phrase substitutions is quite easy. Every BlackBerry device has a menu option for “Word Substitution”. On my particular device (BlackBerry Bold 9700) I enter my options menu, click typing and input, and then enter the word substitution pane. From there I can enter any word, misspelling or phrase to be substituted for any word. The word substitution option on the phone is mostly used for spelling correction. So instead of sending “catn” by accident, my phone will correct it to “can’t”. You can put anything you want into the substitutions since there is no word limit. This is why it is very easy to use as a journal.

As you can see, this type of pain journal can work very well for some. It is easy and quick to access and lessens the pain of writing or typing. I personally even had an option to rate pain based on a scale. For example, “rw8” would type out “Right Wrist Pain is 8/10 @ TIME”. This way my doctor was able to know which wrist was in pain, how much pain it was in, and the time it was at that intensity. This was most useful during our appointments. If you would like to know more about word substitutions on a Blackberry, All About my Blackberry did a great post here.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Smartphone, Uncategorized

 

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Keeping a Pain Journal

One of the most beneficial things that I started doing when first diagnosed with chronic pain (I actually started this years before the ‘official’ diagnosis) is to keep a pain journal. I found that it helped me in three ways:

  1. It helped me to track what I was doing before, during, and after the onset of the ‘breakthrough’ pain while also monitoring my daily intake of medications and I felt good doing it. It gave me a sense of control in intimately knowing what was happening, when it was happening, and how I was affecting it.
  2. It helped my doctor correctly diagnose me with chronic pain. I had seen doctors on and off for years, but when you go to a doctor with two years of excel spreadsheets showing your daily levels of pain and the amount of tylenol, excedrin, ibuprofen, vicodin, etc you took on a Sunday nine months ago it adds legitimacy to your claim that you’ve been suffering.
  3. The most valuable function to keeping a pain journal is the legitimacy it provides. It is extremely helpful to go to the doctor with a diary of exactly what happened during your day and how often you took your meds. When you go to the doctor at a later period and you start talking to them about meds before your scheduled refill (if you’re lucky enough to get to the refill stage) it is helpful for them to see that you have taken your breakthrough meds responsibly and that your count of the meds and what’s leftover in the bottle match up.

Aside from my reasons above for keeping a pain journal I found it to be really easy to do so! Sometimes people feel like it’s a daunting task to keep track of things that you do during the day and the times that you did them. In fact, this isn’t true. It can be quite easy.

A pain journal should contain the following information for your doctor:

  • The day and date for the journal entry (usually the day of the week and the date at the top of the page) so that your doctor has some idea when episodes occur. Listing the actual day of the week is more helpful for you to remember what you did. For example, what did I do on 3/15/11? I don’t know but I can tell you what I did this past Tuesday.
  • The pain level you experience throughout the day. This means coming up with a pain scale (typically 0 – 10 from no pain to the worst you have ever experienced) and marking it throughout the day. I used to do it twice a day (at breakfast and before bed). I now keep track of it every hour (as you’ll see later it is really easy to do).
  • List what you did throughout the day and the times you did them. I personally don’t go crazy with this but it is useful to know that your lower back pain a 6pm could be due to soccer practice that ended at 4pm.
  • Another important thing to keep track of is when and how much medicine you took throughout the day. More on this later.
  • Not necessarily kept in the daily section of your pain journal but listing side effects to any medications can be handy.
  • The last important and most overlooked part of the pain journal is how you feel. This can be done as a reflection at the end of the night. Were you more sad than usual? Did you avoid a specific activity due to pain or the fear of pain?

These are but a few but in my opinion the most important details to list in your pain journal. Now that you know what you should put in it, how will you do it? Well I have kept many pain journals and some have worked better than others. Remember: the BEST pain journal is the one you USE.

The first type of pain journal I kept was an excel spreadsheet. Since I was always around a computer, this was handy. However, I could only really keep track of the amount of pills I took everyday and my overall pain levels. I found that if I tried to go crazy in detailing my entire day, it became burdensome. Also, if you’re like me, you want to keep the journal handy but also discreet. I didn’t always have my computer with me and then it becomes a problem of remembering what you did during the day.

The next thing that I tried was using a small notebook that could easily fit in my back pocket. For this I used a mini Moleskin notebook that you can find at almost any bookstore or here. In this I would date each page by itself and then write line by line what I did. I would write: took Lortab (dosage) @ 3:15pm for example. I would also keep track of when I ate and my daily activities. This was nice because the notebook fit nicely in my pocket, was discreet, and easy to keep.

The next type of pain journal that I kept was on my cell phone. More on that in my next posting. This was by far the most convenient and accurate of all my pain journals. Again, I will do an entire posting on that one shortly!

The pain journal that I use right now (and by far my favorite thus far) is based on a template that I found from the American Pain Foundation. The template can be found here and is extremely detailed and easy to use. This one allows me to track my pain on a scale of 0 – 10 every hour of the day. It also lets me mark on the front or back of a human silhouette where the pain occurred. The other important thing about it is that it allows me to track when I take my different medications throughout the day. I use the daily template found on the site and print out 7 of them in small booklets. That way, I have a weeks worth of notes bound at once. This allows me to go to my doctor at the end of the month with four booklets of a very detailed history of my daily pain management. The booklet size is about 25% of a standard sheet of paper.

These are just a few of the ways I have found to keep a decent pain journal. I have found websites like MedHelp.org that have online pain journals but for me this just wasn’t as detailed as I wanted it or as convenient as I needed it to be. I have found it to be extremely helpful and slightly rewarding to track my progress through the years. Everyone is different in how they keep their notes. As I said before, the best pain journal is the one that you USE! If you have an idea that wasn’t listed here and works as well, please tell us in a comment.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Emotional, Pain - Physical, Pain - Psychological

 

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PTSD and Chronic Pain – More Similarities?

The more that I research, the more that I find that there might actually be strong correlations between chronic pain and PTSD. This of course makes sense if your chronic pain is caused by the same thing at the root of your PTSD. This is exactly what the article below looks at. I am a strong believer in the correlation and that one condition can be overlooked because of the other. However, I wonder what if the two were mutually exclusive? For example, I have a history that caused my PTSD but might not be directly linked to my current chronic pain. Does the article below still apply? I leave that to you to decide (or until I find the research!)!

PTSD and Chronic Pain

By: Cynthia Townsend, PhD

Relationship Between Chronic Pain and PTSD

While chronic pain and PTSD are conditions that may occur together, their relationship to one another is not always obvious and is often overlooked. PTSD can be overlooked because the health care provider, the patient and the family may be focusing on the pain disorder. At times, the patient’s level of disability may be attributed solely to pain. Because there is such a close relationship between PTSD and chronic pain, they have been referred to as “mutually maintaining” conditions.9,10 This is because the presence of both PTSD and chronic pain can increase the symptom severity of either condition.11 

For example, people with chronic pain may avoid activity because they fear the pain – avoiding activity can lead to physical de-conditioning and greater disability and pain over time. Similarly, people with PTSD may avoid reminders of the trauma. This avoidance of activity can lead to the continuation of PTSD symptoms while also contributing to greater physical disability. People with chronic pain may also focus their attention toward their pain while individuals with PTSD may unknowingly focus on things that remind them of the trauma. Consequently, people with both PTSD and chronic pain may have less time and energy to focus on more adaptive ways of coping with both their pain and fear. Furthermore, people with PTSD often experience symptoms of arousal and tension, which may decrease their tolerance for handling pain and increase their perception of pain.

 

 
 

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How you can extend a hand to those in Japan

For those that are wonder I found this great resource on how to help those in Japan without getting scammed. Unfortunately in times of tragedy there are those that will try and take advantage of others. If you would like to donate to the relief efforts in Japan please be smart. The sites below are helpful starting places. If you find another organization please check around the net to make sure it’s legitimate. If it originates in a particular state you can check that states “Secretary of State” website for verification.
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Japan earthquake and tsunami: How to help

By Lili Ladaga – Fri Mar 11, 11:48 am ET

Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on March 11. The magnitude-9.0 quake spawned a deadly tsunami that slammed into the nation’s east coast, leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Thousands of people are dead and many more are still missing or injured.

Japan has often donated when other countries have experienced disasters, such as when Hurricane Katrina impacted the United States. Below are organizations that are working on relief and recovery in the region.

AMERICAN RED CROSS: Emergency Operation Centers are opened in the affected areas and staffed by the chapters. This disaster is on a scale larger than the Japanese Red Cross can typically manage. Donations to the American Red Cross can be allocated for the International Disaster Relief Fund, which then deploys to the region to help. Donate here.

GLOBALGIVING: Established a fund to disburse donations to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.

SAVE THE CHILDREN: Mobilizing to provide immediate humanitarian relief in the shape of emergency health care and provision of non-food items and shelter. Donate here.

SALVATION ARMY: The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 and is currently providing emergency assistance to those in need. Donate here.

AMERICARES: Emergency team is on full alert, mobilizing resources and dispatching an emergency response manager to the region. Donate here.

CONVOY OF HOPE: Disaster Response team established connection with in-country partners who have been impacted by the damage and are identifying the needs and areas where Convoy of Hope may be of the greatest assistance. Donate here.

INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS
: Putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and are in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities. Donate here.

SHELTER BOX: The first team is mobilizing to head to Japan and begin the response effort. Donate here.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Hope

 

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PTSD – Chronic Pain Correlation?

Research suggests a correlation between those that suffer from PTSD and chronic pain. You mean it can all be related? Below is the abstract and link to the article. It is somewhat of a dry read but in a nutshell suggests a strong correlation between the two.

Full Theoretical Model


 

Cho SK, Heiby EM, McCracken LM, Moon DE, Lee JH.   Daily Functioning in Chronic Pain: Study of Structural Relations with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Pain Intensity, and Pain Avoidance. Korean J Pain. 2011 Mar;24(1):13-21.   doi: 10.3344/kjp.2011.24.1.13

 
 

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Want to see the silver lining? Wear polarized shades!

Experts say that the sun is good for you and that might be true. However, the experts haven’t quantified how annoying and unsafe the sun can be as well. The brightness and glare personally causes me migraines and general irritability. Due to this I wear shades to help with the discomfort. I never realized though that there were different types of sunglasses until a trip to Hawaii a few years back. While there, a friend of mine introduced me to sunglasses that contained polarized lenses. Simply put: polarized lenses work by filtering out certain ‘orientations’ of sunlight. Usually when sunlight is reflected off a surface it arrives to our eyes in a ‘horizontal orientation’. This orientation is the bright glare that we all despise. Polarized lenses filter this specific orientation of light while permitting others through. How does this help us?

Polarized lenses allow us to see the world more clearly with less glare and light intensity which can help those like me that are over-sensitive to the sun. Not only that but these lenses also promote safety. Safety comes when eyestrain is lessened, our irritability level lowered, and concentration increased due to less distraction. For example, the picture on the left illustrates the appearance of a child where glare once existed. But, these are only some of the more practical reasons for spending the extra few dollars on these types of lenses. The other reason (and the one that I like the most) is the new view of the world that one get from wearing them.

We have seen how glare and light intensity are reduced without mentioning the other important side effect: vivid color changes. What was once an expected landscape of brightness has now been replaced with a view that is just a little more beautiful. This can be seen in the image below: the picture on the left is un-polarized while the one on the right is. I mention this because science states that sunlight is generally good for depression. Now, not only can one get out more, but they have a better view when they do. Try it sometime. Your daily drive will be a whole new more positive experience.

 
 

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