Released from the pain clinic!

Ok, I’ve not quite yet been discharged but I have been released from the pain clinic until 1-2 months before my surgery. This is a huge milestone for me and I am really happy. I am another step closer to a life without having to go to numerous medical appointments.  Another step closer to my ultimate goal of being self sufficient again. The plan is to stop for now, then 1-2 months prior to my surgery go back to work through the hospital phobia issues and make sure I’m in a good headspace pre-op. I have a feeling that if things go well I’ll finally get discharged from the service.

I was referred to the outpatients pain clinic by the hospital after my first episode of suspected CRPS in Oct 2011.  I’d had a massive flare up in pain and I tried to help myself, but I got to the point where I just couldn’t cope anymore as the pain was unbearable and I wasn’t able to get the help I needed. I landed up in hospital for 10 days and was put on bed-rest for a month before I started on the long road to recovery.  It took 5 months before I could be assessed by the pain clinic and by then I’d been to India for my first round of yoga therapy which was very successful so I was physically doing much better, but they determined I needed help to manage the pain. The pain clinic assessment was a reality check for me and looking back at early blog posts I can see how far I’ve come since then.

The pain clinic at Wellington Hospital takes a multidisciplinary approach but because I was already working with a physio, surgeon, doctor (GP) and had seen an occupational therapist, the focus for me was on pain psychology.  First I learnt about how pain works, about how to manage it and how to deal with the emotions that come with being in pain all the time.  He even taught me a few mindfulness/meditation exercises which I thought was great, I’m so pleased to see that meditation is being taught within the public health system.  I don’t have much family support and I don’t know anyone in a similar situation to me, so being able to talk about whats going on with someone has been invaluable.

I was doing pretty well until the second round of suspected CRPS knocked me out and I hit rock bottom.  My second flare up was fairly traumatic for a number of reasons, and it gave me and the pain psychologist plenty to work with. Its been over 18 months since then and I’m doing much better. I know my triggers and limits, I am able to manage my pain levels pretty well and I can deal with flareups before they spiral out of control.  Of course I still have my moments, but on a daily basis I cope pretty well with living with this hip pain.  I’ve also made great progress on dealing with the trauma associated with my last hospital stay. We did a few round of EMDR which was very interesting, I was skeptical at first but it really did work. 

Working regularly with the pain psychologist has made a huge difference in my recovery and I’m so grateful to have had access to the service.  I felt terrible at first that I had to see a pain psychologist as it made me feel so broken, but I am glad I went with an open mind and made the most of the opportunity.  If anyone reading this is struggling to live with their long term pain, I highly recommend going to a pain clinic.  Have a look at the services offered by your local hospital and find out how you can access them.  Many have pain management courses as well as the individual consultations.


The end of my rehabilitation program

Finally, the time has come to finish up the supervised physiotherapy at the gym and stand on my own two feet for a while. I’m really pleased as it means I can do the physio at a time to suit me but it’s going to be tough to keep it going under my own steam.

My instructions are:
Swim x2 per week
Yoga therapy x2 per week
Physio gym program x1 per week

It shouldn’t be that hard, but I’m really struggling. I’m only getting about 2-3 sessions a week so far. Some of the exercises I’m trying to do when I get the chance… Ie, in front of the TV or before bed. I need to take it a bit more seriously though as pre-op is really important and will increase my chances of a smooth recovery. There’s a good chance I’ll have to wait several months for my operation so I do need to work hard to maintain what I worked so hard to achieve.

Does anyone have any tips for keeping the motivation to do the rehab when life, pain and time get in the way?

A slap in the face by reality on return to NZ

After the yoga therapy course in India I travelled to Thailand and spent 5 days on the beach with my family. It was lovely to see the family, sleep in a big comfy bed, eat plenty of Thai seafood, swim in the sea and have hot showers. I had a lovely time and it was a fantastic way to end the trip.

The flight back to New Zealand wasn’t too bad. I got a surprise upgrade to premium economy which meant I could stretch my legs and recline properly. I used the heat pads on my sacrum and asked for ice during the flight which helped a lot with the hip pain and swelling on my thigh. It was a pretty good flight back and I didn’t have to take much medication which was great. On arrival the sun was shining and life was good.

Then “whammo” reality hit.

The first day at work was a Thursday and I spent most of it catching up with people and clearing emails. Not too bad. By Friday the jet lag kicked in and stress levels were rising as the backlog of urgent work became apparent. Mixed in with this was the joys of office politics and a restructure. Agh! By lunchtime my hip really hurt and I was wondering why I came back.

The weekend was crazy busy and physically demanding. The hip pain flared up and again I was left wondering – why did I leave India? It was so relaxed, calm and quiet there.

Monday brought a return to the rehabilitation program (physiotherapy 3x a week) and a surgeons appointment. It also brought an appointment slip from the pain clinic and a bill from my osteopath. A harsh reminder of the time, effort and money I put into keeping well.

Then it dawned on me… My work and lifestyle has a huge impact on my overall wellbeing and pain levels. If I could get away with working part time it would make a huge difference. Not something my employer would go for and probably not something I could afford. Ironically though, if I didn’t have to work so hard I probably wouldn’t have to spend so much on my health and well being! It’s a bit of a catch 22 really. Regardless, it was a good realisation to have as it has given me something to ponder and the motivation to manage my work/life balance very carefully.

The good news is the surgeon has finally agreed to address the hip impingement, he is happy with the progress I’ve made and thinks I’m ready for the operation. So I’m feeling very hopeful that I won’t be dealing with this level of chronic hip pain forever. I’m a little nervous about the surgery but am staying positive, focusing on pre-hab and looking forward to an actual recovery soon.