Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year in Review and a Hopeful Look Forward

When I started this little blog I only intended to share recipes and meals being cooked in my kitchen.  Over the past nine months I have enjoyed discovering other similar blogs and what I have appreciated most is the combination of delicious recipes and personal stories.

I am going to branch out and follow the lead of some of my favorite blogs with a reflection of the past year and list some of my intentions for 2013.

A year ago I was in chronic pain and feeling hopeless.  There were so many blessings in my life (my husband, my daughter, we had recently moved closer to family etc.) but I had been in chronic pain for a year and was paralyzed with fear about what might be wrong with me.

It started as a sharp, stabbing headache at the back of head but quickly developed into a daily headache that wrapped around my entire head and spread across my face.  I woke up with it and fell asleep (or tried to sleep) with it. I woke up every hour or so through the night and continued the cycle the next day. The pain caused me to feel anxious and worried most of the time and I felt unable to enjoy the obvious blessings in my life.

Last January I finally saw an ENT (for months the headache had been diagnosed as "allergies" but allergy treatments had no affect) who referred me to a neurologist.  After a battery of tests she diagnosed me with occipital neuralgia and prescribed me Lyrica.  The good news was that the Lyrica gave me some relief from the headache.  It was finally manageable. I could sleep through the night. The headache decreased from a level 10 to a 2-3.  If I missed a dose it flared up again but for the most part the Lyrica masked the pain.

The bad news was that I could not try to conceive another child while on Lyrica.  This immediately led me to pursue any other possible treatments. Not much is known about occipital neuralgia. My best understanding is that the occipital nerves, which originate at the back of the head and wrap around the front, become aggravated by muscle spasm, swelling, lesions or tumors. Tests had ruled out lesions or tumors so that left spasm and swelling which in my case may be triggered by stress and scoliosis.  I sought help from a wonderful group of practitioners at a wellness clinic which provides chiropractic care along with massage, nutritional counseling and physical therapy.

Through dietary changes (mostly cutting out caffeine and sugar), vitamin supplements (extra vitamin D and B12 complex), chiropractic care, massage therapy and exercise (I now attend Pilate's and spin classes regularly) I have managed to cut back to half of the amount of Lyrica I started on but have not been able to come off entirely.

The other benefits I have received from all these treatments have been AMAZING!! I sleep better, have more energy, feel emotionally better and my posture is greatly improving. All of this also led me to address a lifetime of intestinal troubles.  This meant another round of tests which thankfully all came back negative but gave me no real answers.  With out a specific diagnosis I have cut gluten and dairy from my diet and have never had such a regular digestive system!

At the beginning of this month I tried a series of Botox injections to help the headaches. The theory is that the Botox relaxes (or paralyzes) the muscles around the nerve endings which will reduce the aggravation and hopefully eliminate the headache. Apparently it has been a very successful treatment for migraines.  Unfortunately, it did not work for me and I actually feel like it made the frontal headache worse.

Even though I still have a daily headache, I am feeling very hopeful about 2013. A year ago I was afraid and not very hopeful.  Today I am grateful for my journey with chronic pain, all that it has taught me and the positive changes it has caused me to make in my life.

I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions but several blogging friends have been listing their intentions for 2013 and have inspired me to do so as well.

My Intentions for 2013

  1. To remain dairy, gluten, refined sugar and caffeine free
  2. To attend Pilate's class at least once a week and be able to do a roll-up with out assistance
  3. To attend spin class once a week and increase my resistance and sprint speed 
  4. To incorporate more high-protein vegetarian meals into our routine by trying at least one new recipe a month
  5. To continue to seek alternative treatments for occipital neuralgia and stop taking Lyrica
  6. To blog at least once a week about new (or new to me) recipes and treatment of my chronic pain
  7. To take time each week to read or watch something inspirational (I would love to say once a day... but I want my intentions to be realistic and attainable!)

I am feeling very hopeful as I look forward to 2013! What a difference a year can make.

Do you live with chronic pain? What natural treatments have you found helpful? What do you do to stay positive?