The Pain Study

I recently posted on Facebook that I had been chosen for a research study from the University of Washington to deal with chronic central nerve pain for those who are employed. Central nerve pain (or neuropathic pain) is caused by damage to the central nervous system, which is why you must have a brain injury, MS, be an amputee or have a spinal cord injury. My post created a curiosity for what this study will be about, and so I thought I would share a little more here!

The criteria are specific and the reasons for that are:

  1. Those are the most common categories that deal with chronic/phantom nerve pain.
  2. Being employed makes typical pain management harder to do.

Let’s unpack these two reasons:

Chronic pain is technically defined as pain that has lasted longer than 3 months and simply doesn’t go away. It may be better or worse some days, and it can be managed with different treatments, but it is always there. Those with brain injuries, MS, have had amputations or a spinal cord injury are all categories whose neurological systems have been compromised. Our neurological system is an intricate and vast computer system that operates our entire body. As you can imagine, when it has damage, it affects so many aspects. Nerve pain is not observed, but it is certainly experienced. It can be specific at times, and other times it can ride the electrical circuit of your system and wreak havoc. These specific categories for this study all have high incidences of chronic and severe nerve pain.

Since the categories were chosen specifically, then why the employment part? This is what the study is going to focus on. Professionals help individuals manage their nerve pain through medication, mind control, activity, rest and other avenues that can be utilized at times when pain levels increase. For example, if I have had a fun day away from home, I always know that the next day will be higher pain. The multiple transfers in and out of my vehicle, the jostling of uneven terrain that makes my body get tossed about, the long hours of sitting in my wheelchair and the act of balancing my head and shoulders that is so fatiguing are areas that raise my pain levels significantly. Since I know my pain levels will be higher, I have to take a “low key” day the following day.

“Low key” means a rough morning getting ready because my body will be pretty spastic and difficult to move. I will require more sleep because of the fatigue, a longer morning in bed because my body really won’t be as anxious to get in my wheelchair, probably a hot shower or electric blanket to calm my spasticity down, a day at home where I can lay down multiple times as needed or get into my bathroom often (high pain makes my stomach hurt) and an early bed time to get back out of my chair. These are just the physical manifestations of high pain days. They emotional side is that I am grumpier on these days. It isn’t that I am hateful, it is just that when I feel really bad my fuse is MUCH shorter and so I just seem to trigger quickly. I apologize to my kids a lot on these days. Cognitively, I struggle to focus and always feel I accomplish so little of what I wanted to get done as I mentally moved through molasses all day long!

As you can imagine, being employed with chronic pain can have severe consequences for work experience. Chronic pain is a huge factor in why many people are truly not able to work and be substantially employed. Their minds are willing, but their bodies fight them daily. It makes for a very difficult and discouraging work experience. When you are trying to work a job to pay your bills, it is not so easy to just go take a hot shower, or stay in bed all day, or even find other activities to keep your mind engaged and rerouted so as to not think about your pain.

This specific study will be working with professionals who are choosing the suitable candidates to test online treatments and pain management that we will go through and be taught how to self- regulate and manage our pain through these new methods….even AT THE WORKPLACE!

I got chosen, I match the criteria they needed, and next week I will have my initial online therapeutic session. It will last for 8 weeks, and I am praying it helps relieve some pain for me!

Thank you all for sharing my excitement about this and for praying for me!

Alicia

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