Isaiah 48:17 – This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
It was just a normal morning. I was attending a training session. Some of it sounded interesting while other sections not so much. And then it happened.
I was doing what could be seen as a regular training activity when I picked up something that weighted fifty pounds then twisted it while lifting and I heard a pop in my neck and immediately my left index finger became numb and pain radiated from my neck and down into my arm.
Like I said, it was just a normal morning when it turned into a life changer. That one movement. That one task. That one instruction session caused a herniated disc.
I was scared. I didn’t feel normal and I was in pain. I thought about whether I should tell someone or just wait and see if the pain went away. But it didn’t and by the next morning I was in more pain so I went to see my doctor.
It is said that you can do the same task time after time, but then when you’re not paying attention, that task can cause damage to the discs in the neck or back. These are the kinds of stories you hear about someone simply bending over to pick something up when it becomes the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Months of physical therapy, and two years later surgery was recommended for my neck. I thought at last I’d find relief, but I never healed completely from the surgery all because of one small piece of bone pressing into my cervical spine. For some people, surgery is the best option and pain is reduced or eliminated completely. But it’s not that case for everyone.
For me, the injury was twenty-four years ago and I still don’t have relief.
Treating neck or back pain does not always provide an easy fix. Our bodies have areas of strength and those of weakness. Yet, both don’t only affect the immediate area of an injury. Much of the time the pain can radiate to other areas as well. Another thing that happens is that discs become thinner as we age and thus can cause the discs to compact on each other and lead to pain.
Let’s take a look at some ways we can find relief from our neck or back pain. Spine-health.com in their article, “9 Lesser-Known Tips for Easing Neck Pain,” provides some alternative ideas on relieving pain, in this case neck pain, instead of only the usual choice such as surgery. Suggestions include choosing a neck-supporting chair and sleeping with a water pillow. Also, mayfieldclinic.com in their article, “Self Care for Neck and Back Pain,” not only makes suggestions for pain relief it provides illustrations of correct body posture while standing, sitting, bending and stooping down.
Armed with the suggestions in the articles above you can make an informed choice with your doctor the direction for your treatment. Remember also that God is the one who can teach and direct you in the ways you should go. He, ultimately, gives us the wisdom we need to reduce or even eliminate our pain and shows us how to live.
Isaiah 21:3 - At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see.
Sometimes our bodies pull us one way, while we try to pull in the opposite direction. That’s what it’s like living with chronic pain, especially when it involves muscle spasms.
1. As the muscles pull and cramp, you grab hold of something so that you don’t lose your balance and fall, because of the imbalance the spasm puts you in. Normally both sides of your body act together as one unit, but when an area of your muscles begins to become active with the pain from spasms, it can make it almost impossible to continue to do normal activities of life.
2. Muscle spasms attack your muscles and surrounding tissue. If it’s an area where you’ve been injured by a car accident or work-related injury, it can escalate not only to severe chronic pain, but it also takes a toll on your emotions. You try to remain calm and take some deep breathes. You rub your leg or shoulder and try to work out the knot that has formed due to the spasms.
3. Muscle spasms, also, are not always seen unless the spasm is so great that it contracts the muscles. Yet other times, the spasm may make an onslaught on your body, but no one can tell it’s happening except by looking at your face or the sight of you grabbing your back or leg.
Sometimes your doctor will send you to have physical therapy if the muscle spasms happen frequently.
With time, your muscle spasm may become better or even go away due to the muscles healing. But sometimes if you go back to an activity that puts strain on your body the muscle spasms may return.
So what are some other ways you can help ease muscle spasms? Draxe.com posts the article, “Remedies for Muscle Spasms, Leg Cramps and the Charley Horse.” The article lists reasons for muscle spasms and treatment such as preventing electrolyte imbalances with potassium and magnesium, as well as how to stretch and massage your muscles and getting plenty of rest for proper muscle recovery.
Take a look at the Bible verse above. Isaiah was a prophet during Bible times. He understood pain. His body wasn’t just racked with pain; it seized or took hold of him. It caused him to stagger and he was bewildered. He couldn’t understand what was going on. We, too, can walk around bewildered because of chronic pain. When muscle spasms seize us it’s hard to keep going. Thankfully God is the Great Physician and he can help carry our load and our pain. This way we don’t feel alone, and we will be better equipped with wisdom to know which treatment to undertake and whether to take care of ourselves at home or go to our physician.
Psalm 5:3 - In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
You look at your watch. Only three minutes have passed since you last looked. Isn’t it true that when you’re doing something you love time seems to fly by? But when something bad is happening every minute turns into an eternity.
That’s how it is with a chronic pain condition. Waiting for relief can take hours, or weeks sometimes and at other times, it never comes.
There are many methods of pain relief I’ve talked about in past posts, however, this post is going to center on how to endure waiting for a treatment or medication to kick in and bring relief.
For instance, I’ve recently undergone a procedure called Radiofrequency Ablation. The mechanism of this particular pain reliever is radiofrequency waves are used to burn nerve ends coming from the facet joints. This procedure can be performed on both cervical and lumbar joints. The idea is that burning the nerve endings kills them and will provide over fifty percent of pain relief coming from the area.
The problem is though that the pain relief doesn’t kick in right away. In fact, in many cases the pain gets worse as in the cervical facet joint nerves. Burning pain, like a deep sunburn, can last from one to two weeks and in some instances up to a month.
Another form of waiting comes as you wait for a scheduled procedure to be done such as a knee or hip replacement surgery. You know that many people have had this surgery and found benefits from it. And sometimes this helps you push through until the procedure is done.
A third way that causes us to wait is relief from prescription medications. If you are taking prescription medication where the goal is to provide you with chronic pain relief then you have to wait until the medication kicks in. This can sometimes take an hour or two before you start to feel relief. And then, the medication may start to wear off giving you a few hours relief and you’re back to square one with pain and you have to wait the full hours allotted between doses when you can take more pain reliever.
So here we are playing the waiting game and needing something that can help our focus turn away from looking at the clock or counting days on our calendar. What can help us as we wait?
Countingmyspoons.com has a great article titled, “Distraction as a Pain Reliever: 10 Ways to Distract Yourself From Pain,” such as making new friends online. There are many websites, such as mine, that provide encouragement, information and a way to communicate with other people who are also waiting for chronic pain relief.
Though having to wait can be difficult, just as the Bible verse above states, God hears your voice and the pain within it as you wait. And notice that the verse says that the writer waited expectantly. Expect that your waiting will not be in vain and that pain relief is marching towards you.
Isaiah 43:2 - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
In previous posts, I’ve written about various treatment options for those experiencing chronic pain:
Each one of these choices has both benefits and side effects. It’s important that you discuss this with your doctor.
There are other options available, in addition to the ones that I’ve mentioned above and they are cortisone injections and epidural nerve blocks both of which I have undergone with good results.
Let’s take a look at the first one, cortisone injections.
Cortisone injections are made up of:
They are usually injected into various joints in the body such as the:
It's important to look at both the pros and cons before undergoing a procedure. Find some of them from arthritis-health.com in their article, “Cortisone Injection Risks and Side Effects.”
Now let’s take a look at epidural nerve blocks.
Epidural nerve blocks are commonly used to numb a pregnant woman’s body from the waist down. This is used to alleviate pain during the final stages of labor. However, the blocks can also be used to treat pain.
The blocks are made up of numbing medication and in some cases corticosteroid medication or narcotic pain medication. It can be given as an injection into the neck, back or legs. Here are pros and cons for the block according to backpainhc.com's article, “Epidural for Back Pain – Is it Good or Bad?”
As I mentioned above, discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of both the steroid injection and the nerve block. Then you and your physician can decide which procedure to undergo, and he can review the expectations for the procedure.
Though you may pass through the fire of fear before undergoing an injection, remember that God will walk through the fire with you and cause the flames not to set you ablaze.
2 Chronicles 16:12 - In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.
They vibrate and burn. They pulsate with pain. They feel like small needles pricking your feet. It’s painful to walk. It’s painful to stand and it’s even painful to sit with your feet down.
In other cases, your feet are numb but somehow still hurt.
It’s hard to distract yourself. You constantly change position. I’ve been known to place a pillow under my feet to cushion them.
Peripheral neuropathy is its name - one of the diseases that affect your feet. And if you have it, you know that something isn’t right with your body. For, even if it’s only your feet, it hurts all over.
Patient.info lists some of the symptoms such as the loss of ability to detect changes in temperature and tingling and numbness, in their article, “Peripheral Neuropathy.”
According to nerveremedyreviews.com in their article, “Top 5 Nerve Pain Supplements of 2017: Which Brand Thinks You’re Stupid?”, 20 million Americans suffer from some form of neuropathy. This happens when nerves transporting information to the brain and spine are damaged or diseased. This article also discusses the different types of peripheral neuropathy and what causes each kind. In addition, they list prescription medications and supplements which are used to treat peripheral neuropathy.
Find more information by selecting the link below. In addition to expanding on the material above it also includes methods and tests used to diagnose peripheral neuropathy.
Make sure, as the Bible verse above says, to not only check with your physician for help with neuropathy, but also God. He is the God of all wisdom and will help you make decisions for treatment, and bring you comfort through your pain.
2 Chronicles 20:17 - You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.
There are many battles that we fight every day.
We battle to make it through a pain day.
We battle with our bodies to make them move.
We battle to exercise when we really don’t want to.
We battle with our food choices.
We battle with our minds to believe we can overcome chronic pain.
We battle to open our hearts to others.
We battle finding encouragement to try something new.
We battle with our internal organs to function normally.
We battle with our mind and to not let the negative take over our thinking.
And we battle to stand firm and not retreat and erase what we’ve accomplished thus far.
Chronic pain and emotional pain often walk together. It’s a battle to take that next step in our healing. We may fear the future when we learn that this is not a temporary battle, but one that will last for years.
To lift us up out of the mire of discouragement we must push forward. We must give each day all we have.
So what are some things we can do to prepare ourselves for battling chronic pain and depression? Select the link that follows to watch a short video entitled, “Depression and Chronic Pain Video – Treatment, Symptoms and Causes.”
Also from spine-health.com, in their article, “4 Tips to Help Cope With Chronic Pain and Depression,” you'll find four ways to address chronic pain influenced depression.
As you step onto the battle field remember as the Bible verse above says, you won’t have to face it alone. God will be right beside you.
Jeremiah 24:6 - My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.
When you’ve been battling chronic pain and illness for any length of time, your muscles begin to lose mass and break down. This in turn makes normal tasks seem impossible to do.
Maybe you used to be able to walk a mile without even breaking a sweat. Now it takes effort just to walk out to the mailbox and back. Or maybe you used to be able to perform your duties at work without even a thought of being tired. Now you’ve had to take a leave of absence or you’ve had to quit your job because you can’t perform the tasks you used to do.
This breakdown is due to lack of movement.
When you’ve been sick, experience an injury, or have had surgery, at first it is necessary to rest and follow your doctor’s instructions on what you can or can’t do.
However, as I stated in a previous post, in a medical study they took a group of medical students and confined them to bed for one week. They measured their muscles at the beginning of the study and at the end. In only one week of total inactivity, one-third of their body’s muscle was lost. There has to be a balance.
Though your lack of movement may not be from being confined completely for a week or more, you begin to lose that muscle mass very easily.
Another reason for lack of movement may be caused by your fear of hurting yourself more. In the back of your mind you hear yourself saying, “If I get up and do this I’m going to be setting back my recovery. I better not try.”
This is where physical therapy comes in. Therapists will take into consideration your current weakness and fear of movement. They will also give you advice on how to perform everyday tasks the correct way.
They will help you restore your mobility and reduce the pain you’re experiencing. According to moveforwardpt.com in their article, “Preparing for Your Visit with a Physical Therapist,” you'll find what to expect in the beginning.
Webmd.com in their article, “Physical Therapy-Types of Physical Therapy,” you'll find addition exercises and how to perform those tasks, along with some of the other treatments you may receive such as electrical stimulation.
Keep in mind that throughout your physical therapy God’s eyes will be watching over you. He will help you build your body up so that you can decrease your pain level and restore loss of movement.
For more information on physical therapy select the link below.
Proverbs 19:20 - Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.
There are many sources to help you find the right method for treating chronic pain and illness. The first source is your physician. They have the medical knowledge and expertise to help you.
There’s also internet research. Thousands of pages of documents are awaiting you. It can seem overwhelming, but start with the symptoms you have to point the way.
Web MD Symptom Checker is a great place to start. It’s easy to use and visually oriented. All you have to do is select an area of your body that’s causing a problem and Web MD Symptom Checker will help you with the rest.
The Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker is another source of information. Their symptom checker allows you to not only choose a symptom, but also enables you to select related factors and view the possible causes.
Another source of internet research is Google. You can type into their search engine a symptom or the name of a disease and Google will point you towards possible options.
Here’s one that many people overlook: the power of word-of-mouth.
The advice others give can be invaluable. They may have gone through the symptoms that you have and can pass on how they found help.
Word-of-mouth recently helped a friend of mine to learn about a treatment which uses radio frequency waves, called Radiofrequency Ablation or Radiofrequency Neurotomy, to enter the back or neck and burn the ends of nerves.
Though the healing process can be a little painful, this method can allow you to be pain free, in the area that’s been treated, for several months to more than a year.
Select the links below to learn more about both procedures.
There are other treatments for chronic pain and illness that can provide relief. One is chiropractic care. I have several friends who have told me of their positive experiences with treatment.
Another is massage therapy. A massage not only helps relieve pain, but helps to relax your muscles.
A treatment that I was told about is the use of essential oils. Lavender has been used for centuries for relaxation purposes and burns. Peppermint oil can help with nausea. I have used both of these oils successfully along with several others.
And the last treatment that I can actually pass on by word-of-mouth to you is acupuncture. For years I heard about its use, but it wasn’t covered by any insurance companies. That’s why I was surprised when one of my doctors suggested I try the treatment.
Acupuncture has come a long way from the stigma it carried. Acupuncturists are required to attend classes and be licensed. Treatment also focuses on causing the blood vessels to flow more easily. I can tell you that acupuncture has had a good result for me.
Seeing your physician, research and advice go a long way in providing weapons to fight our battle with chronic pain and illness. As the Bible verse above states, advice and instruction will in the end help you know which weapon to choose.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.