Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Remedy

I have FINALLY figured out what has been causing my chronic pain which started in 2009, and I am *so* excited to share my story.

A year ago I was contemplating whether I would be unable to work. I had such pain in the tendons in my legs that I would limp about. I have an exercise habit but was reduced to a painful mile of walking. I would attempt to ride bikes and pay for it for a week or two. My symptoms mostly manifested as Achilles tendinitis, IT band syndrome, and tennis elbow. My legs were by far the worst; riddled with dozens of tight little knots which caused tension on my tendons. If I bumped my legs the pain was sharp and shooting. If my boyfriend tried to apply some pressure to loosen them, I held back tears of pain but it did help relax in some way. He spent hours trying to work out the knots. We had met through biking and I had pretty much given up on ever mountain biking together.

I mapped my body in March of 2015 and this is what it looked like. The dots are painful lumps I could feel with my hands which hurt with any pressure applied, and the scribbles were very tight and painful areas. The pain was constant, varying from dull to sharp.

I had been to the doctor for what felt like a sprained ankle back in spring of 2009. It always flared up if I tried running. By 2011 it even affected my biking. So much so, I started a loooong list of remedies including:

  • Physical therapy in two 5-6 month terms which included lots of trigger point therapy and some dry needling
  • Professional bike fitting
  • New cleats, different cleat positions, platform pedals
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Shoe inserts of various types
  • Active Release Therapy
  • Foam roller/LaCrosse ball
  • Rest
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • 2 week course of ibuprofen
  • Yoga
  • Vegan diet
  • High-dose curcumin
  • Hyalonuric acid
  • High-dose fish oil
  • Magnesium
  • Espsom salt soaks
  • Doxycycline (Lymes??)
  • Guaifenesin for fibromyalgia
  • Cold therapy
  • Heat therapy
  • Very light and easy bike rides
  • Kinesio tape
  • Strength training
  • IgG food allergy testing and dietary modifications
  • Blood tests to rule out autoimmune and inflammatory disorders
  • Energy medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Ignoring the pain
The only thing that offered a few days worth of relief was the Active Release Therapy. Otherwise results were very temporary, typically just an hour or two after the work was done.

The lessons I learned in the past few years are definitely worth recognition. I eat and sleep far better than I used to. I feel healthier all around. I've spent many hours in reflection and realized that there are more important things in my life than another medal for a bike race. 

There was a point when I really wanted a diagnosis or a name to put on this "condition". I will admit to feeling very depressed. I figured there had to be a reason and I would leave no stone unturned. In discussion with my doctor, we called it Fibromyalgia. I tried a month of antidepressant therapy early this year, which is supposed to lessen the pain signaling. I just felt foggy. 

In looking for alternative treatments for Fibro, I came across the guaifenesin protocol. The theory is that the lumps and bumps are accumulated metabolic debris. I adhered to the strict protocol for months but the lumps and bumps were still very much hanging on. I seemed to be improving in other ways, though. I was able to do very easy/aerobic bike rides and walks. I found that if I kept my heart rate quite low, I could at least get out and enjoy being on 2 wheels which is my absolute favorite activity. 

Out of frustration, I started comparing Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome one evening in late August of 2015. I joined an MPS group on Facebook and came across someone who said their MPS went away within a couple of weeks. They suggested reading about TMS  (Tension Myoneural Syndrome) and Dr. Sarno. I blew it off. I mean, I had real, palpable, painful tendons and muscles!! A few days went by and I saw another reference to TMS. I recalled a friend sending information to me about Fibro treatment last spring. One article was from Oprah magazine and was titled "The Migraine in My Butt". I had felt somewhat offended and set it aside at the time. Now, with my curiosity sparked, I picked it up. It was about Dr. Sarno's work! I decided maybe this was something worth looking into. After all, what did I have to lose?

I listened to Healing Back Pain during my bike commutes. I felt very open-minded. I decided to just go with it and apply the back pain information to my leg pain. I began journaling.

Within a few days, the pain was receding. DAYS. No pills. No painful/tedious treatments. It was almost embarrassing to be quite honest.

When all of this started, I was in school to be a nurse. I had a mortgage and three kids at home. I was working 20-30 hours every week to make ends meet. And I was in an incredibly stressful relationship. Other factors that I'm finding may have contributed are the more traumatic things that happened in my past, from varying types of abuse to my best childhood friend being stabbed to death. You see, I always say I'm grateful for everything I've been through. And I am! It's just that I've never really dealt with any of it. I've been afraid to. Afraid I'd forever fall apart. Afraid I'd slip into a sobbing mess and never come out of it.

All of the testing I've had done to rule out physical problems came back normal. 

Apparently, the mind is fully capable of causing pain in the body to serve as a distraction. My leg pain was nothing compared to what I had stuffed way deep down.

With this new knowledge, I started testing the waters. I went mountain biking Labor Day Weekend. I rode with the guys, on my singlespeed bike, and I rode hard! 4 days in a row!! I felt fine! I resumed strength training a couple times per week. I even ran a few times. No pain. 

A couple of times on longer rides I have felt a twinge, and I tell my body it's fine. There is nothing wrong. I reflect on what is stressing me out currently. One night I slept horribly and had been stressed over a long to-do list which I'd imposed upon myself. The next day I had knee pain. I see the connection now. I have dragged this monster out into the light and it can't hide any longer.

One of my favorite podcasts had Dr. Schechter of MindBody Medicine on an interview. I bought one of his books as well as his workbook, and found them both to be quite helpful.

I journal almost every day. I acknowledge my stresses and my own role in perpetuating it. I write to those who abused me in my journal and find it to be a great outlet. I meditate.

Last weekend I took a big step in testing this theory. I signed up for a 6 hour mountain bike race. This wouldn't have even been a consideration before August. I mean, 6 hours of mostly singletrack? I've barely rode mountain bike in the past few years. Typically an hour in I would be unable to pedal due to sharp, stabbing pains. 

I arrived at the venue slightly nervous but more just wanting to see if I am truly over the years of chronic pain. I was not competing with anyone. I wanted to feel the energy of a bike event and be around the fantastic group of people that go to mountain bike races. I wanted to ride my bike through the autumn woods and soak in the sights and smells. 

My goal was loosely to ride 2 of the 15 mile laps if my body was doing fine and if I was having fun. The first lap I wondered what I had gotten myself into, because although I had ridden that particular course several times over the years, I was unaware they had trails so rocky and rough! By the end of the first lap I decided I could at least meet my goal. I had a few little twinges of knee pain and experimented with the power of my own mind, reassuring myself that there is nothing wrong with that knee and that my body, in it's amazingness, loves moving through space on a bicycle. After the second lap I took a little break to visit folks and grab a bite to eat. This was nearly 30 miles of tough stuff and I had definitely not done anything like it in over 2 years. I looked at the time and realized I could very easily do a third lap. Heck, why not?? I was still having a great time, after all!

I've recovered just fine. I felt the sore muscles that one would expect after such an event and to be honest, I relished in it. What a change in such a short time!! And now I am free to plan events without fear. It's really so exciting. I feel I have my life back, and with much more gratitude in my heart.

To end this long story, I found the perfect quote:

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.
—William Shakespeare

Ride on!!

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