Monitoring my pain to manage it

Home ThinkSpace Week 4: Pain Management Monitoring my pain to manage it

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  • Managing pain can involve monitoring frequency, intensity, and a host of other variables – with the idea that long-term observation can help pinpoint triggers and lead to more effective treatment. Below is my experience with tracking my migraines. Tell me about yours! How has it helped or hindered you in managing your condition?

    There are multiple headache diary apps and my GP immediately told me to start tracking potential migraine triggers (which include a long list of foods, all types of alcohol, weather, stress, sleep, et cetera). To my surprise, when I showed it to my neurologist (a diary I’d been keeping with some diligence for nearly 6 months) he barely looked at it, waved it off and said, “You get them or you don’t. You do! If you notice huge increases or a particularly strong correlation, tell me about it, but otherwise, just take your pills.” I still feel conflicted about his response, as I’m not sure if the diary is a proxy to help migraineurs feel in control (and it is helpful in initially gathering data/trends) or actually provides meaningful insight into the condition. (There are so many potential triggers, is it just one? Is it the combination? Does it depend on the amount/size of the trigger? Sometimes I’ve had a sip of alcohol that’s triggered it within minutes, other evenings I’ve had three glasses of wine and felt no effect).

    #deardiary #trackingthepain #monitoringmadness

    Samantha Kaplan
  • I tracked my migraines for years. I kept detailed diaries before such things as smart phones and apps existed. Sometimes I thought I had an idea of what my triggers were, and sometimes that knowledge failed me. Turns out, my triggers are emotional rather than anything I consume. (See my posts elsewhere about mind-body syndrome.)

    Anyway, a few things about triggers. I think for some people (my boss, for example, who can barely be around chocolate poor thing!) the triggers are consistent and obvious. For others you may have several triggers, and the accumulation is what gets the headache going. Maybe hunger is a trigger but only when there’s a low pressure front moving in on a day when you had too little sleep. Or a combination of wine and cat dander and fluorescent lights.

    Most of the doctors I have seen over the years had very little interest in identifying causes, with about three exceptions. One doctor was a bit obsessed with sleep’s impact on health and I did an 20-hour sleep study, which turned up only the fact that I was underslept. Another had a thing for allergies and an expensive allergy panel later, we discovered that I had no significant food allergies. A third ordered a scan of my spine and, while arthritis and compression was visible in my cervical spine (C2 – T1), that didn’t completely explain a lifelong experience of headache, though we worked with that for many months through physical therapy, injections, nerve ablation, and so on and on and on.

    Migraine causes are really hard to identify so I think doctors just love to throw drugs at them because that’s the easiest thing. If drugs help, that’s all you need. So it’s up to us to try to find out why they happen.

    #migraine #drugs #arthritis #paindiaries

  • I kept a small log of my pain for about a year and then gave up, which I’m embarrassed to admit because I know how beneficial it can be. I think the thing that it helped me with the most was that it forced me to us language to describe both the sensation and the intensity of my pain. And it forced me to do it with regularity and consistency which really helped me understand it better. This ties back into your “What do you call it” thread for sure, but I thought I would say that again here! I am not doing myself any favors by letting my logging drop off.
    #painlog #consistency #painlanguage

    Rachel Carriere

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