Monday, December 10, 2012

CRPS Thanksgiving stress and Increased pain Levels - Is there a correlation ?

CRPS patients often ask me why their pain levels seem to increase around holiday times.

Not just for the few hours that that their dear loved ones are visiting you and sharing their very favorite "home remedies" that they are sure will "cure you" of all their "supposed pain issues" because; "they too once had real bad pain so they know exactly what you are going through". 

Sound familiar? Have you been given the list of home remedies from the family? Sure to cure your chronic pain? Maybe even a list of names of their favorite Doctors? 

Or maybe you had the always fun conversation that starts out, "I know a guy who had the exact same thing as you and he went to this guy and he was cured in a New York minute", and the next thing you know five people in the room are all loudly discussing your situation and trying to figure out the names of the "two guys", the one who was miraculously cured and the amazing healer. 

Holiday gatherings can be difficult places to be for chronic pain patients for a number of reasons, the ones listed above are just a few. There are also;

1) The problems that come with your not being able to eat certain foods because they make your pain worse, they interact with your medications, or perhaps because of your pain, medication side effects, etc., you just have no desire to eat. Trying to explain, or even having to explain, any of the above can be stressful, difficult, and frankly just something you are tired of having to explain.

2) The stress of a typical gathering of relatives at holiday time can be high for a "normal" person, a healthy person; extra people in the house, people are tired from traveling, not getting enough sleep, too many people in too small a space, old grudges always seem to surface, and this large group of people who would not normally gather together were it not for the fact that they happened to be born into the same family, can drive everyone's stress level through the roof. But for someone living with CRPS stress can be a serious pain trigger. 

High levels of stress trigger the body's fight or flight response. Basically our brains are hard-wired with this response to protect ourselves from harm. When this bodily reaction is triggered, it initiates a sequence of nerve cell firing and chemicals (like adrenaline) in preparation for our body to Fight or Run. Here is where things get problematic. Our brain gets a little one-way, seeing everything as a potential threat. Our bodies undergo changes as well, 

There is overwhelming evidence that over-activation of our fight-flight response can lead to disorders of the autonomic nervous system because we cannot fight, we cannot flee, and it all leads to an cumulative build-up of stress hormones. 

How does this relate to the symptoms of CRPS? Check that out on American RSDHope's CRPS Symptoms Page   The fourth main symptom CRPS patients deal with involves the Limbic system;
Insomnia & Emotional Disturbance. 

Is there a way to be aware of the build-up ahead of time? To educate ourselves when our bodies are "gearing up" so to speak for an over activation of the response? If so, what do we look for?

According to Doctor Neil Neimark at the Mind Body Education Center, yes, there are clues to look for, symptoms that you should be aware of. They are;

Physical symptoms like tension in our muscles, headache, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, deep sighing or shallow breathing. 

Others may experience them as emotional or psychological symptoms such as anxiety, poor concentration, depression, hopelessness, frustration, anger, sadness or fear.

Excess stress does not always show up as the "feeling" of being stressed. Many stresses go directly into our physical body and may only be recognized by the physical symptoms we manifest. Two excellent examples of stress induced conditions are "eye twitching" and "teeth-grinding." Conversely, we may "feel" lots of emotional stress in our emotional body and have very few physical symptoms or signs in our body.

(information from The Mind Body Education Center)

So now that we are aware of what to look for, know the type of situations that we might find ourselves in that can bring out the stress in ourselves (based on past personal experience), what can we do once we have triggered these responses? To quiet our bodies back down? To lower our stress level and thereby lower our pain level? Does it take hours? Days? Weeks? Do we have to remove ourselves from the situation entirely or can we just go to a quiet corner for a few moments and utter Kramers "Serenity Now" chant a few hundred times and we're good?

end or part one - 

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