A painful day at the gym

This year's experiment: "Just how pain-free can I get?" is taking an interesting turn. I'm not very happy with the Omega-3 for inflammation relief experiment, but the "getting in shape" experiment is progressing nicely.

After being "good" for two weeks, working out 3 times a week while pacing myself and not doing too much, I seem to have reached a rather dangerous point in the journey. I've had pretty good effect of this experiment, the pain has been better, I am getting in shape and enjoying the exercise.

Now I can either get lazy or get reckless.

Getting lazy is quite natural, as soon as the pain gets better I forget why it's so important to keep moving and stay in shape... Getting reckless is probably just part of my enthusiastic nature, "YAY! I have no pain, now I can lift just as heavy weights as I could before I got RA and broke my back!!"

On Friday I got kind of carried away and optimistically joined a pilates class. Having heard nice things about the pilates instructor at my gym I thought it would be nice, soft, core training... bouncing on a pilates ball and smiling with happy people.

Turns out that was the other pilates instructor...

The class I walked into was led by a fast paced french lady who bossed us around with a manner not unlike a drill sergeant. After 20 minutes of being whipped from one impossible position to the next, I was fast regretting my choice of activity, but unfortunately there were 19 sweaty people between me and the door... and they looked strong!

My choices were simple:

  1. Pick up my mat and thread my way past all the strong and sweaty people to get to the door in a demonstrative show of defiance...
  2. Try to hide behind the potted plant in the corner and pray that the scary instructor didn't see me... or:
  3. Play along and look like I was doing the exercises even though I wasn't able to do hardly any of them

I chose option 3, and now for three days I have been paying the price of that decision. I hurt in muscles I didn't know I had! Maybe I got some exercise, but I'm not actually sure it was worth it... *phew*... really need to work on the "pace myself" part...

No pills!

Wow!!! I just had one of those "A-ha" moments... I looked at a box of ibuprofen and realized that ... I haven't had to take any painkillers for quite a while, at least four or five days!? That may be a new record since my straight edge experiment in september... which ended shortly after I wrote about how well it was working - having gone 5 weeks with low pain and no meds.

The last months have been tougher, and I've had to take painkillers almost daily again. Scandinavia winters will never be easy for my body I guess, and moving right in the coldest part of the year may not have been a good idea. But now something is helping, even though it's been freezing cold and I've been working quite a lot. I have a little pain but not above 5 on the VAS scale... Hoorrayy :D

The funny part is when I realize this without even having thought about whether I was taking medicine or not. The pain simply hasn't been so bad... out of body, out of mind: Yay!!!

Share your thoughts...

Dear readers, there are now more than 5000 people reading this blog every month, and I see I need to start organizing the content better!

This is where I need your help...

How should I organize the material to make it more easily accessible? Would you prefer tags or folders that make it possible to search the entire site for certain keywords, or perhaps a system based on what kind of pain condition you have or different stages of pain management?

Many people have asked for advice for caregivers, so I might add a category with advice for friends and family of chronic pain sufferers.

Otherwise, maybe a "readers top 10 list"? Do you think the sidebar navigation is helpful, and are there certain page elements which are annoying or not functioning well?

Please let me know what you think, I'm all ears :-)

Pain-free greetings from Anna

Inflammation and pain

Week 3 of my pain reducing experiment is finished and I am not keeling over yet, Yippee :D

The two last weeks of gradually building stamina with micro cardio workouts have had a good effect on my pain levels, but what my new physiotherapist told me last week seems to be a key topic...  Chronic pain and inflammation go hand in hand (or nerve fiber in nerve fiber?).

There are gradually more studies being done pointing in this direction, and though medical science hasn't found all the answers or explanations yet, there seems to be potential for some real breakthroughs in treatment of chronic pain in this area.

Due to my RA (which these days is not active, and is acting a lot like fibromyalgia) I seem to be especially prone to out of control inflammatory responses in muscles, tendons and joints. And it hurts.
Now instead of bombarding my body with immunosuppressant or anti-inflammatory drugs I want to try to take small steps in the direction of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I'm not ready to go all out and start on a full anti-inflammatory diet yet. I'm already gluten-free and that's quite a lot of hassle the way it is.

But I figured I could start with taking anti-inflammatory omega-3 supplements and let that be my incremental pain-reducing activity this week.
  • Omega 3 helps decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines - small secreted proteins which help regulate the immune system and inflammatory reactions.

I have tried several kinds of supplements earlier, this time I am going hardcore and testing a 6 month subscription of the anti-inflammatory olive&seal oil compound supplement OliVita which is especially structured to enhance the natural anti-inflammatory properties of both. So as of today.... Twice a day. Me and the good'n healthy (but slightly yucky) oil have an inflammation-busting date!

Pain Police

While I'm still working on my "cardio for pain-relief" experiment, today I was stopped by the Swedish police and had to blow into a breathalyzer. Since I don't drink alcohol (for health reasons), this is always a laugh, but this time I had a hard time exhaling as long as the device wanted me to.

After my first attempt the policeman looked at the display of the breathalyzer and smiled. He said "It says here that you've passed the alcotest but you failed in cardio. It says you need to get out in the forest and go for a run to build stamina."

Little did he know that I'm so low on spoons that I can hardly walk to the store and back these days... and that cardio training is part of my current pain management program! But we both a had a good laugh and I asked him for some advice on swedish traffic regulations before driving home. All in all an uplifting encounter and a good reminder. I'm on the right track!

Working out

Yesterday I had my first session with my new PT and coach, Kristine, who is a physiotherapist AND professional football player (how cool is that!!!?) Her first reaction on hearing my health story was... "But you're not normal!"

... eeeh... yes. She's right of course... I'm actually an alien in disguise...

But what she meant was that I had a special story and a great attitude. That was nice :) We talked for a while and made a plan for my rehabilitation, then she examined and gently massaged my back. She said that it seems like some of the muscles in my upper back are inflamed. They're extremely sore. She told me that newer research on inflammation and pain indicates that inflammation over time may change the structure of the muscle and even fuse the nerve fibres to the muscle in some way. I'm not sure I understood, but it sounds very relevant to understanding chronic muscle pain, so I hope I can learn more about it.

Being out of shape but extremely enthusiastic and slightly backbroken, my main challenge while starting to exercise after a long break is to pace myself. I need to build muscle slowly without overexerting myself, so for the first two weeks I'm not allowed to do harder stuff than warm water training, Pilates, and short cardio workouts on the cross trainer. It's hard to set boundaries like that, I love working out and being active, so I tend to just jump in and do as much as I can, and then collapse... really need to work on that whole "patience" thing...

I was back at the gym today to participate in my first class of warm water training - which turned out to be really fun. Lots of people waving their arms and dancing underwater, a cheery instructor showing us how to use all kinds of funny flotation devices while we're pumping our legs and giggling. But it was hard work!!! I'm sore all over, feeling muscles I didn't even know I had... Still my regular pain isn't worse than usual, so it doesn't seem like I've gone too far. Carrying a bag of groceries set off my neck injury again though, so I'm still in pain for the 4th day in a row.


But the sun is shining, and spring is coming... so I think that I'll get through this winter too:)