After weeks of pain that registered a blissful 2-3 on my pain-o-meter, I woke up last week to a full-blown 6-7 pain situation. I believe it was a Caudal Epidural back in February along with a new ‘script for nerve pain (Cymbalta) that had been responsible for the break in my pain cycle. (All on top of the narcotic I take daily.) Finally, after three years of working to put an end to my chronic pelvic pain, I believed I had reached a major turning point. For the first time in three years, hours in the day would go by without my even thinking about the burning, stabbing, throbbing pain that had become my constant companion. Don’t get me wrong; the pain was still there, just at a much lower volume—a volume that allowed the noise of my daily life to occasionally drown it out. Now the volume was turned up again, and I felt defeated. Luckily, I’m not one to be defeated. I had made a promise to myself that no matter what it took, I was going to live the one life I got without pain.
A few days after my pain levels ratcheted back up to the higher end of my pain-o-meter, I set off for my weekly appointment with Julie, my physical therapist. (As far as PTs go, I hit the jackpot; Julie Sarton, D.P.T., is the director of the UC Irvine Medical Center Women’s Health Therapy Program. Julie is an amazing therapist with a wealth of knowledge. Stay tuned for guest blog entries from her!) Julie was as disappointed as I was when she heard about my flare up. “What had I done to cause it?” I wondered out loud. Then Julie gave me a dose of her invaluable advice. It wasn’t what I had done, but what I wasn’t doing that most likely had caused my pain levels to increase.
What I wasn’t doing is regular self-treatment. I was going to weekly PT, taking pain meds, using suppositories to calm my muscle and nerve pain, getting regular nerve blocks and trigger point injections--I had even gotten the big daddy of all injections: an Epidural. While my meds and the injections play an important role in the objective of breaking my cycle of pain, the treatment aimed at actually healing my muscles and nerves was the manual physical therapy that Julie carried out once a week—once a week, that’s four times a month, sometimes three or even two depending on my travel schedule (as a writer, I’m on the go a lot). I always felt better after my PT sessions, and it was obvious that the PT was helping, but if I was going to beat this thing, my angry nerves and muscles needed to be placated more frequently. The only way for this to happen was to take matters into my own hands.
There were a variety of reasons for why I hadn’t hopped on board with self-treatment: doubt that it would make a difference, not wanting to add chronic pelvic pain to my daily routine (crazy, since CPP was a daily part of my life!), and pure laziness. But, something Julie said that day at PT really resonated with me. She said, “My patients that respond best to treatment are the ones that self treat on a regular basis.” This wasn’t the first time Julie had explained the importance of self-treatment to me. Actually it was something she touches on in every session, but this time it finally sunk in.
Julie had told me about a dilator on the market that was an effective self-treatment tool. It was called THE CHRYSTAL WAND ACRYLIC KEAGAL EXCERCIZER. It’s available on amazon.com for only $24.99. What is so great about the CW is that the tip is curved to really reach the muscles that need attention.
As soon as I got home from my appointment, I bought a wand. At my next appointment, I had Julie show me how to use it. And for the past week, I have faithfully self-treated with it. I keep my wand in the fridge so that when I insert it, it's nice and cool, and instantly soothes my inflammed tissue. Using the wand is not painful at all. On the contrary, the stretching affect it has on my muscles feels good. While I'm massaging the muscles with the wand, I feel an instant decrease in my burning and soreness. And since I'm the one in control, I know exactly how much pressure is too much. Sometimes, however, immediately after my self-treatment sessions, I do experience a spike in pain, the same as with physical therapy. But, the next day, after a good night's rest, I wake up and can absolutely feel a difference in my pain. The volume is definitely a bit lower than it was the day before. Julie advised me to self-treat every other night. So, every other night I go into my home office/sanctuary from the world, light a candle to help me relax, lie back on the sofa, turn on an episode of Top Chef, and get to work. Afterward, I soak in a nice hot bath, then I pop in a suppository and it's off to sleep. Good times!
Julie has been on a much deserved vacation, so the next time I see her, which is this coming Friday, I'm going to ask her if she can feel a difference in my muscles. I'm betting she will. Also, I'm going to take my wand with me to the appointment, and show her exactly how I've been using it. I want to make sure I'm not doing more harm than good. We all know how testy the pelvis is! I'm hoping that waving my new magic pelvic pain wand around on a regular basis will do the trick. Abracadabra! Pelvic pain be gone!