Chronic Lyme pt8 – And the months went on…and there was pain

As generally easy as the treatment was, the months were not. My pain multiplied and escalated. I still experienced the strange “bone” pain, but it spread to other parts of my body to the point that there were days that I couldn’t even pinpoint where it hurt. It felt like everywhere. There were times when my feet and ankles hurt so bad in the morning I couldn’t get out of bed and put weight on them. I missed a lot of work due to pain. There were times that people would just look at me and knew I was hurting. It was a constant pain, a deep pain. For me, Lyme pain was not the kind of thing you could ignore. It wasn’t excruciating to the point that I wanted to cry out, but it was very there, always there.

I have given birth twice. I have multiple tattoos which took hours and hours to complete. I have been pierced. I knew pain. I was ok with pain. Those types of pain. I have always been able to endure that pain because I could, somehow in my mind, grab a hold of it, and then push it off to the side and ignore it for the duration. Maybe because I was getting something out of it. Maybe because it was my choice to go through those pains. Maybe because I knew it would end. Lyme pain isn’t any of those things. It is constant, and nagging, and just enough to not be ignorable. And you don’t know when or if it’s going to end. Ever.

Pain medication: I got a steady supply of Tramadol. My job won’t allow any narcotics, but the narcotics didn’t do anything for me anyway. So Tramadol it was. It did lessen the pain, IF I took it on a schedule. It wasn’t something I could take when I started hurting, like an aspirin for a headache or ibuprofen for sore muscles. I had to take it every 4 hours on the dot, or the pain crept back in full force for hours. And although Tramadol is a non-narcotic, it did make me a bit loopy for a while. I could actually feel it come on like a wave about 10 minutes after I took a dose, and it would last for about 30 minutes after that. That did affect work a bit. (The biggest reason for no narcotics was my line of work at the time required full faculties at all times. We had sleep rules, shift length rules, and how long before a shift we had to be sober rules.)

Acupuncture: After a few months, my doctor suggested acupuncture, so I gave it a try. It was wonderful. Expensive, but wonderful. I was apprehensive on my first visit. I’d never done it before and those needles! My first visit, the acupuncturist, did a full client intake, which took about 45 minutes prior to the treatment. She asked a bunch of questions that, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relate to something somehow. She felt my pulses and looked at my tongue. We went over my diagnosis, my symptoms, my pain, and my treatment. Then I got on the table.

The first time was 250 needles. I was on my stomach, and they went from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and everywhere in between. Ears, toes, hands, everywhere. I only felt 5 of them and only 2 hurt, which she promptly removed. She explained that that spot wasn’t ready yet, and moved on. She told me they usually shouldn’t hurt, and if they do, it should pass within seconds or be removed. Like massage, forcing the body, or chi, can do more harm than good. The goal is to guide the body, gently, and without pain.

The needles stayed in for an hour. I dozed comfortably. And when she was done removing them all…I didn’t hurt! No pain. Zero. I hadn’t been without pain for months! It was amazing! I was very relaxed, and very grateful. And NOT IN PAIN!

She suggested weekly appointments, and I agreed. And the pain stayed away. I didn’t even need to take the Tramadol. It wasn’t until about 3 days after that it started to creep back in. By the evening of the 3rd day, I started on the pills again and counted the hours til my next treatment. I ended up going every 4-5 days for the worst months. There were times she worked on the front of my body. Sometimes she used essential oils…I remember peppermint and eucalyptus and lavender. Sometimes, when it was especially bad, she would hook up electrodes to the needles and do some light electricity. Sounds crazy, I know. But it worked great on the really painful areas and, while the initial “shock” was, well, shocking, the whole experience was rather pleasant and extra relaxing.

Tramadol pros:

  • Easy and accessible.
  • The prescription was covered by my insurance (minus the $5 copay) and it reduced the pain to a tolerable (read: ignorable) level.
  • The non-narcotic nature let me continue to work.

Tramadol cons:

  • It did make me loopy for short periods of time.
  • It didn’t take all the pain away, and if I forgot to take a dose, it took longer to find relief again.
  • Also, I was tied to a prescription drug which was less of a concern for me then, but would be something I’d think longer and harder about nowadays.

Acupuncture pros:

  • It took the pain away, completely, for days.
  • It was relaxing and allowed for some “me” time.
  • There were no negative side effects.

Acupuncture cons:

  • I had to go somewhere, which wasn’t always easy the way I felt at the time
  • It got pricey. At about $70 a visit, out of pocket, there were times the money weighed heavily on me.
  • It took time. An hour per visit, two times a week is hard to carve out for a mom with two little ones at home.
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