Some of you might know that I’ve just started a three week pain management programme to try and help me manage my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Well, we had a rocky start and a few issues with the hotel but today is day three and things seem to be going a bit more smoothly. The rest of the group are lovely and friendly which I think will really make a difference, particularly as the weeks go on.
Whilst I’m not going to be sharing everything we’ve been doing, there are a few things that I think other people with chronic pain might find helpful and some other info that you might want to know if you’re considering coming.
First of all, there are two versions – one run in a hospital and the other in a hotel, mine is the hotel version so I can have care with me. This meant that I was assigned an accessible twin room. Thankfully I am able to walk a little way otherwise I think I’d have had to go home again… The room is tiny, the twin beds are essentially one big bed and I can’t get my manual or electric chair to the bed. There certainly isn’t space for transferring. Ditto for the toilet and the shower is so tiny that anyone much bigger than me would struggle. It does have a shower seat but when it’s down there’s no space for your legs… It’s certainly been an intimate experience when my carer has showered me…
The rooms that the hospital use all seem to be on the lower floor and there is a wheelchair platform lift as opposed to a regular lift. We used this once when we arrived and I think we broke it. No one asked how heavy my electric chair was and it was only when I was going up it in my manual yesterday that I noticed we were probably 100kg over the maximum weight… This means that if I want to go to reception or the restaurant we have to go to the far end of the building and then out the fire exit, through the car park and back into reception. This isn’t great but thankfully isn’t raining… Although the fire door gets locked from the inside at night so we have to arrange for someone to meet us there and let us in. Last night we also discovered that a door between the main corridors and rooms and the fire exit gets locked at a certain time so we couldn’t get in that way… This poses questions about how I get out in a fire as it’s the only ramped fire escape… Questions that so far the hotel have been unable to answer…
Up to now we’ve done some one to one work with a physio, an OT and a psychologist and had some talks about what pain is, the psychological element of pain and such things. In one of these sessions, we were shown a really interesting Ted Talk which shows the role of the brain in interpreting pain:
This is not to say that the pain is “all in your head”, you are not making the pain up but your brain has an important role in pain. As Moseley explains, your nerves send signals to your spinal cord which passes them onto the brain for interpretation. It is here that our bodies decide whether something is a threat or not.
In people with chronic pain, the messenger system which conveys sensations to brain can become over sensitive and sends more messages to the brain about stimuli and sensations. The spinal cord also becomes really good at hearing these messages so it picks up on quieter messages and hears them more loudly.
We’ve also been looking at how prior experiences, beliefs, culture and relationships affect how we feel pain and how we think about it.
One of the really interesting points was that when you are experiencing a pain flare up, your body reacts in a very similar way to how it would if you were being chased by a lion – flight or fight mode. This explains why your temperature changes, why your heart races, why you can struggle to breathe etc when pain is high.
I’ve also been given a few different physio exercises to try and strengthen my weak muscles and stretch out the tighter ones which we’ve been practising in my room. Of course this all means increased pain right now and fatigue but it’s different pain to my normal pain so I’m taking that as a good thing! And I get to do hydro which is very exciting!