Other PTSD, sciatica and pushing through pain?

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
I am just wondering how does one balance both? Just as I thought I was getting hang on PTSD/managing flares, improving quality of life and so on.... this came. Since December it's been on and off battle, and my herniated disc/sciatica issue is getting worse. I'm 31 btw, sort of thought it's a bit early for so chronic issue. Anyway, I'm doing what I can and it keeps getting worse. Meanwhile, my insurance doesn't cover the treatment and what I make (which I thankfully had stable work for most of 2020) isn't enough to cover it either. Actually it would have been if it happened in spring, but now 2020 has finally caught up with my work as well. So temporarily I am making just enough for my bills/living. Great! But now I need to do something for my back.

I made a side business/online store etc. plan to make some extra cash, but executing it had been hard. I have a lot of pain daily, even with the pain meds I take. So there are days when doing the job I do have is hard enough. So it's a battle of priorities. I know that of course, it can be worse. I'm on this forum. So clearly, I've had harder years than this one. For some of them I've even been around this forum.
There are times in like you can't make it easy on yourself and you just need to push through. I'm guessing this might be such a moment. I keep making schedules and then the pain ends up dictating when I do things and I have to rearrange everything around it. Work in the better (though still not pain-less) moments, rest in those in which I can't.

But does anyone have better advice? Other than just pushing through? Advice for coping better with chronic pain perhaps? Today there was unexp[ected situation I had to deal with that included 3 times more walking than I've done in a while, plus some stress. By the time I was done my back was in a LOT of pain, and at the same time I was super anxious and I literally had a breakdown moment. Like, anxiety-dissociation-flare thing. Was in physical and mental pain and the 2 pushed me in this sort of fuzzy state where I couldn't think or breathe through the pain or do anything so took an hour in bed. Now I'm up finally, but still not in good state. Which means work I have done often is still something I can do(though in breaks between desk and bed because of my back) but then starting anything new and creative like side business is hard. I have of course broken it into steps, but normal steps. Now when I'm anxious and I need it broken in smaller steps, I'm too anxious to do it. I'm sorry. Maybe this is just a bad day and there is nothing anyone can say to improve it. But if there is a chance anyone has a good advice on chronic pain, then... might not help for today, but for future days. Any advice on coping with chronic physical pain will be appreciated, thank you! Not a newbie to mental issues but definitely a newbie when it comes to chronic pain...
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
but then starting anything new and creative like side business is hard.

My understanding is that both chronic anxiety and chronic pain negatively effect executive functioning which is something one ideally needs to have working well in order to tackle something like a new business. I have been toying with the idea of offering freelance services, myself, but because I was a small business owner once before and now have chronic pain in addition to my chronic, severe anxiety issues, I am currently in pause mode on that. I don't feel confident that I could handle it all and do feel confident that a job where I am on someone's payroll would be better for my stress level.

That said, if there aren't any alternatives other than trying to make things work or you just haven't tried these things, yet, I have found some things helpful for dealing with the pain from my sciatica and herniated disk.

1. Laying on/rolling my back around on a yoga ball -- Obviously, this is something to be extremely careful with. The first time I did it after a while, I got a serious head rush and my legs went numb. Slowly, I got to where I can lay back on it all the way and this has significantly reduced the pain I feel from my herniated disk.

2. Increasing core strength -- If you can use an ab roller, it's cheap and awesome. If not, weighted leg raises are really helpful. I bought leg weights on Amazon that are adjustable from 1-5 lbs each -- that is helpful for starting and building up and restarting and building back up. But whatever you can do to strengthen your core, the stronger the core is, the more it can help with stability that your back would normally provide and this should take some pressure off of that disk.

3. Heat -- I have a FAR infrared heating pad that I use often. I recently purchased a sauna blanket. If you can get a sauna blanket (probably a low EMF model to be on the safe side) this seems to be my new best friend. Due to a number of factors, there are chain reactions all over my body -- I have neck pain that affects my rib cage and hip issues that give me Charlie horses in my calves, etc. Being able to force the whole thing to relax at once seems to be really helping. If not a sauna blanket, I imagine that the larger the heating pad you can get, the better because of how pained areas interact with other areas. Baths are great, too.

4. Rest often but not for too long/find a balance -- I tend to be an extremist. Last winter when I was really struggling with pain, I was at the pool constantly, walking miles each day, doing my PT exercises and more bc my PT told me to. Eventually, I was told that I wasn't actually building any muscle because my pain level was too high. Who knew the body could prevent muscle building because it was in pain?? Anyway, I've also done the opposite, choosing to sit at my desk and not get physical exercise. This was worse than exercising too much. It has been very important for me to try and keep active while not being too active for the conditions I have. But there is no magic formula for that - it is very personal and something that requires a lot of awareness of activity vs. pain symptoms and recognizing the difference between muscle fatigue and pain, etc.

5. Keeping weight down -- When I originally herniated my disk, I was 50 pounds heavier than I am now. The damned thing never stopped hurting. Losing that weight and keeping it off has been one of the best things I could have done for myself.

6. Nerve Flossing - Nerve Flossing: How it Works for Sciatica and Other Conditions

7. Keeping away from inflammatory foods - 6 Foods That Cause Inflammation

At this point, I still have symptoms from the labral tears I got last year, hip arthritis, impingement and dysplasia, sciatica, two herniated disks, hypermobility, hamstring origin tendinitis, TMJ and I may still have calcific tendinitis in my glute, etc. and so I am also on gabapentin 3x a day for pain but it doesn't erase all of it. If I don't do what I need to do for my body, the pain hits pretty hard.

Best of luck to you. It sucks. I am sorry.
 
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RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
I just thought about something else. There is that pain/concentration/memory/organization problem that people tend to get. When I was working and commuting on public transportation 3 hours a day while searching for another job and hobbling around with my cane every day, I learned to do one very important thing to keep my cookies together.
First, I put an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes after I got up in the morning. When that alarm went off each day, I sat down and made myself a list of priorities for the day and scheduled them. It seems that every day that I didn't do this, I forgot something.
It was important that I did this in the morning because when I waited, my brain would get foggy or stressed and I couldn't think straight once the pain really got going.
 

Still Standing

MyPTSD Pro
I am soooooooo sorry you are having to deal with back issues. I have dealt with spine problems since high school. I had no choice but to live with the pain until I was having to crawl instead of walking at which time surgery was performed. That was the first of 9 spinal surgeries that I can recall. I just had 3/4 of my back fused last year and have a fused neck, as well. @RussellSue had some good suggestions. I would like to add a few more:

1. Try walking with a hiking stick or pair of sticks. It/they will help give you the support you need to stand straight instead of leaning forward. I used a cane for 30 years and recently the physical therapist had me change over to the walking sticks. I was amazed at the difference! And as a side benefit, the walking sticks do not carry the stigma that a cane does. You want to adjust the sticks so that your elbow and arm are in a perfect "L" shape.

2. If riding in a car for a long trip, stop and walk, every 30 minutes.

3. Alternate heat and ice packs on your back for 15 minutes each.

4. Lay on your side, when you sleep or rest, put a pillow between your knees. This will align your spine in a straight position.

5. Try using CBD ointment, capsules, or oils. These can be swallowed, or rubbed on the painful area. The latter will absorb into your body and help to dull the pain. I use a stronger dose that some retailers offer instead of a standard one.

6. There is a product that has just been made available, over-the-counter, here in the states, called Volteran Gel. This can also be rubbed onto the skin of the painful area of your back and help reduce your pain. It is used for nerve pain and arthritis.

There are no magic cures but I wish there were. I will say this, though, attitude affects chronic pain. I found it was easier to navigate the chronic pain with a sense of humor. Cheesy sounding, I know. But, for me, it helped to distract and it helped to prevent others from falling into pity for me. And with chronic pain, it seemed to come in levels. I would try to adjust to it and when a flare-up happened, taking me to another level, I had to work at living above the pain...not letting it take over my life. I had kids to raise and a job to go to. I remember I used to brace and carry my arms close to my chest to prevent that horrible nerve pain from going down them. I spent ten years living this way. In that time, my back was also failing. This was in the 1980's. When I consulted with Drs. trying to get someone to confirm the spinal issues, I was always diagnosed as being neurotic because I was a woman. So, I was forced to find ways to live with the pain until I was forced to crawl while taking care of my family and house. I just had to do what had to be done. It is tough. But, I can't say it enough...attitude plays a huge issue on how much one can endure. And it will also affect the depth of pain one is in if it is heavily negative. This is not to say that one cannot grouse about it all. Grousing can also be a stress reliever but it, too, should not become a focus of distraction.

I truly hope you are able to find a temporary relief for your sciatica and back issue. In the mean time, you have a place here to come to get encouragement and support.
 

Still Standing

MyPTSD Pro
Oh! One more suggestion. Referencing building up your core strength so that your lower back muscles will brace your spine, the best exercise you can do for yourself is swimming or simply water-walking. Walking laps in the pool will build up your back and leg muscles very well and at the same time, it will build good cardiovascular health, too. At the same time, the water takes a lot of pressure off your back and legs, allowing you to be more active in the water.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
Oh! One more suggestion. Referencing building up your core strength so that your lower back muscles will brace your spine, the best exercise you can do for yourself is swimming or simply water-walking. Walking laps in the pool will build up your back and leg muscles very well and at the same time, it will build good cardiovascular health, too. At the same time, the water takes a lot of pressure off your back and legs, allowing you to be more active in the water.

Great suggestion about the pool! I really miss living 200 feet from the gym pool. So far, I have not figured out how to set up a therapy pool in the RV I live in now but that does not mean I haven't tried. It also doesn't mean I am done trying. 😂

Being able to use a pool in my early days of recovery was extremely helpful. If that is an option @SeekingAfrica, it is really worth doing.
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
That said, if there aren't any alternatives other than trying to make things work
Yup. Of course, I would love for my daily work to be better paid and I am also actively searching for better/more work. But that takes time (especially this year) so in the meantime, the only way to try to get any treatment on my back is supplementing my income. It will be hard, but will also be useful for future life crises. I mean I'm fine with the regular supporting myself, but the medical issues not covered by insurance are above my budget, right now.
Increasing core strength -
Yees!! Trying to get back on track. I think it's the first time in 10 years I'm finding it really hard to push myself into exercise, this is the first week in a few. And I've been going actively to ballet classes for years, this pain is taking also some of my mental health coping through exercise. But I've set exercise goals for this week and so far it's ok. I mean, hurts like hell the first 15min, then it's slightly better... but generally after that my pain level for the day is slightly better.
That is the one thing I knew because of ballet. I've been using heat creams and heat bottle(like the one you use for cramps, just putting it under my back or hip).
. Rest often but not for too long/find a balance
That one I wish I had known. When this started it was just a back issue and I thought I was helping it by working sitting in bed as to rest it. Turns out, just made it worse. Then of course covid hit and I had couple of months setback of depression when we were in quarantine and that added to weight gain....
Keeping weight down -- W
As I said above:(. Year and a half ago I got in really good shape and lost like 18kg. From quarantine until now I gained it all back. Pain tends to send me to emotional eating first, which is not a problem in usual years, but now... I emotionally ate because of my back and the weightgain made the issue worse. I'm on a journey to get in shape again right now(as healthy as I can) but it's really hard when every single exercise is painful. Although, HARD and not impossible. As I said, this is a journey to get healthier that I'm just starting, I haven't given up at all.
First, I put an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes after I got up in the morning.
That I will try! I used to do it with my bullet journal and it made me feel more organised- and I was more productive. Stopped for a while, but now I'll try it again.
. I have dealt with spine problems since high school. I had no choice but to live with the pain until I was having to crawl instead of walking at which time surgery was performed. That was the first of 9 spinal surgeries that I can recall.
That sounds horrific, you're amazing for coping with that!! I am so sorry as well.
3. Alternate heat and ice packs on your back for 15 minutes each.
I will try that.
Lay on your side, when you sleep or rest, put a pillow between your knees. T
A friend with chronic back pain told me that one. It's taken me months to get used to it, as I tend to turn a lot in my sleep. But in the last month or so I've been feeling like the pain is more tolerable/less that way. And after a while, I've noticed that even if I don't have a pillow I don't twist like before but stay more straight on my side.
Try using CBD ointment, capsules, or oils.
Still illegal in the country I live in, last time I checked. I have a friend in another country that used it for anxiety and recommended it, but still illegal here.
There is a product that has just been made available, over-the-counter, here in the states, called Volteran Gel.
I know it. Actually, I believe the gel is based on the same thing that my pain killers are(so shouldn't use both)- diclofenac. But the same thing is in the over-the-counter pain killer I use, and that thing is magic. I'm in a lot of pain generally, without it it would have been a lot worse. Ibuprofen and such didn't really make that kind of difference, but this one did.
There are no magic cures but I wish there were. I will say this, though, attitude affects chronic pain. I found it was easier to navigate the chronic pain with a sense of humor. Cheesy sounding, I know. But, for me, it helped to distract and it helped to prevent others from falling into pity for me.
I'm sure it does. I mean, that's what I've learned after so many years with ptsd and anxiety at least. When you have health issue of any kind, if it lasts a week, a month, whatever, you can fall apart as much as you like. Or take days off and so on. But, when you have a chronic issue, however bad, eventually you just have to find ways to cope. Life goes on, and if you want to experience any of it, you have to learn and adapt. I'm currently finding all the tips I can and making myself goals and health plan- which seems to go in 3 categories- improve the state of my back, cope with it in the meanwhile, and on occasion- distract, so you don't get lost in negative thoughts. In one particularly bad night last week I made myself a list of supposedly motivational and inspirational movies about perseverance and I am planning to go through them all slowly, while dealing with this.
I truly hope you are able to find a temporary relief for your sciatica and back issue. In the mean time, you have a place here to come to get encouragement and support.
Thank you! I don't know if I will, but, I need to learn how to cope. And the messages in this thread are a great start! The messages from @RussellSue and @Still Standing guys were both so helpful and long(in an awesome way)! I was so unsure about posting this and I am so grateful that I did! I am so sorry both of you have been through so much pain as well! Thank you for the kindness and the tips! I will try to make a plan to keep both my body and my spirit in good state. Also next week I'll have another checkup up and maybe in few weeks if I can set aside the money- the therapy they recommend before resorting to other things like injections. All depends on what I can afford, so in the meantime I need to concentrate on what I can do (like all the things you guys recommended. Thank you again so so much!!!
 
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