Sunday, July 21, 2013

Are You Financially Prepared for a Disability?

Worried About Losing Income DisabilityMany people aren't aware that disability is the number one cause of financial distress among families today.  People aren't prepared  for financial losses due to an injury or long term illness which often causes people to lose part of their income, especially, if you are used to living pay check to pay check each month.  In fact, the number of households that are currently living pay check to pay check is quite staggering.  Financial experts often recommend that people have a minimum of 4 to 6 months worth of salary tucked away.  Many people think that they aren't at risk for becoming disabled, unless they have a job that puts them at risk.  Did you know that 1 and 4 people will become disabled before they are able to retire?  No one ever expects or thinks that it is a remote possibility that they could be forced into an early retirement, have to take long term medical leave, or even deal with an injury that forces you take a lower paying job.  Just FYI, it takes roughly 30 to 36 months for a disability claim to be approved by the government.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  I am not a financial planner or adviser.  The opinions reflected in this post are my own and are based upon my own health and experience.

Open a Savings Account

A savings account is a great way to put money aside for a rainy day.  You never know when you need additional money to cover medical expenses, monthly expenses due to a layoff or disability, or even need money to pay day to day bills.  I  personally recommend making it hard to get to the money so that you aren't constantly withdrawing from this bank account unless it is a true emergency.  Using this method, can help you determine if you really need something vs getting something you want.  It isn't as tempting when you don't have the money in your checking account or cash to cover what you want.  When you set up a savings account, you can have your employer send a certain amount of money each paycheck to your savings account and the rest of your paycheck to your everyday household checking account.  Many financial experts recommend paying yourself first.  In fact, most recommend paying yourself the first 10% of your check.  If you tuck away 10% of your paycheck each month, you will be surprised how quickly the money will accumulate if it is left untouched.  Taking the money directly from your paycheck prevents you  from over spending or not putting away the money for a rainy day. 

Invest in a Short-Term Disability Policy

Getting a short term disability policy can help with unexpected issues.  The policy usually helps cover your everyday living expenses while you are unable to work without you losing all of your personal income.  A short term disability policy is for people who suffer from an illness or disability that keeps you from being able to work for a short period of time.  Talk to your human resources department to determine if your company has a group policy for short term disability.  If your company doesn't offer a short-term disability,  you can easily get a private policy.  In fact, check with your auto insurance company to see if they provide short-term disability policies.  Most people don't realize that having multiple policies often gives you a discount which helps make the plan more affordable.  

Invest in a Long-Term Disability Policy

Many people aren't prepared for long term illness or disabilities that could prevent you from working.  A long-term disability policy picks up where your short term policy ends.  Getting a long-term disability policy can prevent you from losing your house, car, or lifestyle that you enjoyed before you became disabled.  The long term policy has many great benefits and can protect you and your family from financial issues in the event that you can no longer work or do your job.  If you can't return to your original position and have to take a major pay cut, a long term policy will continue paying your payments at a reduced rate(check your policy for exact details).  Check with your human resources office to determine if your company has a long term disability group policy (you get lower rates).  If not, contact a private company to get benefits. 

Check With a Financial Adviser Before Cashing in Your Retirement Funds

If you become disabled, it is possible that you may be forced to cash in any retirement accounts that you have.  However, before cashing in a retirement policy you should consult a financial planner for assistance before making the decision to cash in your retirement.  Remember once you have exhausted all over your assets, then you no longer have a back up plan.  When you cash in your retirement , it is best to put the money into a separate bank account so that you aren't over-spending each month.  The money should be used to cover your basic living expenses so that you can try and stretch your funds as far as possible.  You also talk to a financial planner if cashing in your retirement will put you into a higher tax bracket.  

Save Your Tax Refund Check

If you are one of the lucky people who actually get a tax refund, you should either save it or use it to pay down your debt.  I know that most people often times splurge on items that they want; instead, of putting money aside for an emergency.  

Preparing for the Future

Short and long term disability policies are a great investment, in case something happens that you and leaves you unable to work.  This is the one thing that I personally failed to do because I considered these types of policies to be too expensive and I never imagined being unable to work.  A policy like this would have covered my current situation and I wouldn't have to feel so guilty for not being able to work.  

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Are you prepared financially if you are unable to work due to a long-term illness or disability?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Listen to Your Body, When You are In Pain Your Body is Telling You to Slow Down

Relaxing While Reading a BookYikes, it has been a while since I have written anything on this blog.  The weeks seem to be running together and I have been busy  lately.  Last Tuesday, June 11th, my daughter had surgery and I had to  go to the doctor on Wednesday to see my pain management doctor.  The week before my daughter's surgery, my upper back started hurting really bad, it has been a while since I have had my upper back flare up so bad that I couldn't get comfortable no matter what position I tried.

I am not sure what I did to cause my increased pain.  However, if I knew for sure what I did I would make sure that I wouldn't repeat the same mistake or task again without being more careful.  I found it very difficult to get comfortable or be able to even lay down to rest.  Laying down for a few hours during the day helps decrease my pain, in addition to the pain medicine that I take in the morning usually makes me drowsy.  I attempted to contact my doctor on Friday to see if he could call me in a script or squeeze me in that afternoon.  Of course, my doctor and his nurse happened to be out of the office and wouldn't return until Monday.  The pain was so intense I considered going to urgent care or to the ER.  Instead, I choose to just deal with the pain because I didn't want them to turn me away or do a bunch of tests for a diagnosis that I already have.

Finally, the doctor's office returned my call on Monday, June 10th and said that if I was hurting that bad that I would need to come into see the doctor.  When I spoke to the nurse, I thought that I was going to be okay and that my pain was improving; however, after sleeping in a hotel bed and sitting at the hospital all day on Tuesday I quickly changed my mind.  Every day I can feel back spasms in my upper back.  It feels as if the muscles are on fire.

On June 11th, while sitting in the waiting room at the hospital I decided that I probably should take care of my upper back issues.  After all I don't want it to get any worse than it it already is.  So while my daughter was in surgery, I called my doctors office and scheduled an appointment to see my pain management doctor the follow day.

He looked at me kinda funny and asked how everything was going because I was in his office sooner than normal routine schedule.  I told him that my upper back was hurting and that the pain was bad enough that it has been affecting my sleep.  I would toss and turn in bed all night long and my pain medicine wasn't taking the edge off of my pain.  Tossing and turning isn't exactly my idea of fun as I try and attempt to find a comfortable position to sleep in, plus it keeps my husband awake at night.  He suggested that we try cortisone injections in my shoulder blades and upper back to try and help control my flare up.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I will be getting cortisone injections at all because they are subject to my deductible.

While I was in the office, I talked to my doctor about what my orthopedic doctor said about surgery.  I told him that my orthopedic doctor thought that I would be a good candidate for a spinal fusion.  I asked him if he felt that a spinal fusion would help with my pain.  He agreed with my orthopedic doctor.  Finally, two doctors on the same page.  :)  He also recommended suggested trying radio-frequency procedure which is a form of spinal decompression which is supposed to help relieve the pain.  The only down fall it is usually not covered by most insurance companies and only has about a 50 to 60 percent chance of working. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I left the doctors office with another prescription in hand and guess what this prescription also makes me sleepy.  Being sleepy during the day takes away from me having a productive lifestyle and the ability to provide for my family.  However, on the bright side my new prescription for a muscle relaxer has allowed me to get some restful sleep the last few days.  I hate taking so many pills to make my pain go away.

Lately, I have been feeling bummed out and depressed because I feel like I can't contribute to my family like I could a few years ago.  It is hard knowing that I can't help provide for my family the way I once was able too.

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Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and should never replace getting appropriate medical care.

Friday, June 7, 2013

It is Important to Take Care of Yourself During a Flare Up

Relaxing in ChairThis week has been fairly challenging for me and my pain has increased dramatically in my upper back.  Even though, I don't always verbalize my additional pain.  I would hope that others notice my change in pain levels.  I know that I probably should verbalize it but I hate to feel as if I am constantly complaining about my pain.   I always think others around me can sense that I am in pain.  The last few days my upper back has decided to flare up.  A few years ago my vertebrae in my upper back showed that I had arthritis.

Disclosure:   This post is for informational purposes only.  The opinions reflected in this post are my own and may differ from your own.  This post shouldn't replace any medical treatment that you may need for your flare up. 

Arthritis is often something that most people think of older people having and not younger people like myself.  However, when you are injured your body tries to heal itself and if it is unable to fully heal your body tends to age and break down sooner than if you were uninjured.  When I get an arthritis flare up in my upper back, my muscles begin to spasm.  I also feel an intense burning sensation and major pain in my spine and muscles.  So far my normal course of typical treatments that I use during a flare up hasn't helped to ease the pain.  In fact, it has kept me up several nights in a row and it is even more difficult than usual to find a comfortable position to sleep in.  Even sleeping during the day has been challenging.  

Last night I tried putting the heating pad on my upper back, to see if it would help ease the pain.  However, it didn't seem to help or reduce my pain.  Generally, laying flat or sleeping also helps to ease my pain but even that doesn't seem to be working.  I have been waking up in the mornings with the same pain that I felt when I went to bed.  I am already taking pain medications on a daily basis and it doesn't even touch the pain.  If this pain lasts much longer, I am going to have to break down and go see my doctor sooner than my scheduled appointment.  

If you find that your normal methods of pain isn't relieving your flares, you should go see your doctor for an evaluation.  I am thinking some of this flare is caused by some additional stress that I have been dealing with this week.  When I tend to get stressed out, my muscles tense up and begin to spasm.  Once I have set off that chain reaction, it takes several days for things to settle down and in the past I have been prescribed heavy duty muscle relaxers to help ease the pain.  I have been resting as much as possible the last few days trying to relieve the symptoms of my flare up.  Hopefully, things will calm down over the weekend and I won't have to make an emergency trip to see my doctor.  

It has been a few years since I have had my upper back checked out because I usually my pain is more localized in my lower back.  My previous doctor said that my upper back is a direct result of me compensating for the problems in my lower back.  However, next time that I have to have an MRI done, I will ask my doctor to do a full spine assessment.  So that we can see what is really going on in my upper back and neck.

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What relieves your pain during an arthritis flare up?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Being Overweight Can Cause Your Chronic Pain Symptoms to Increase

WomanLast year I was laid off from work due to my chronic low back pain, I was disappointed that I could no longer do my job but something had to change.  I was tough and worked through my pain for a long time and early last year pain was starting to increase when I was doing certain tasks at work.  I decided I wasn't doing myself any favors by continuing to do the things that were causing me additional pain.  It has been a hard road since I was laid off from work and I have had to make a bunch of adjustments so that I follow my doctors restrictions at home.  This hasn't been easy, I have always been fairly active and loved doing many things that I can no longer do.  I had to take the time to grieve the things that I could no longer do.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  The opinions reflected in this post are my own and based upon my own experiences.

As I have switched from an active lifestyle to sedentary lifestyle, I have noticed that I am continually adding a pound here or there since I stopped working.  Doctors urge you to watch your weight and I realize that the more weight that I have to carry around and support, the harder my joints have to work.  The harder my joints have to work the more pain I tend to feel.  So in light of my weight gain, I am making a commitment to try and do what I can to keep additional pounds from creeping onto my waistline.

This commitment is going to be difficult since I am very limited to the type of exercise that I can do without causing any additional pain.  In the past, I have tried walking on the treadmill and riding a stationary recumbent bike.  However, using these exercise tools in the comfort of my home have caused me to have additional pain.  The bike tends to be a bit easier than the treadmill, since I can sit down while exercising but a few months ago I noticed that it was making my upper thighs and hips hurt more.  

So this leaves me with one option basically, I am going to have to watch what I eat.  Once, again I am going to attempt to use myfitnesspal, to track my calories and to help me be thoughtful of the type of food that I am putting into my mouth.  I love this mobile application because it not only tracks your calories but it can help you determine how many calories you need a day based upon your height, current weight, and how much weight you want to lose.  The app also allows you to connect with like minded people who are trying to lose weight and they even have support groups.  

I started this new journey on June 1st and I hope that I don't fall off the bandwagon like I did earlier this year.  I am currently seeking to drop a few pounds and attempt to eat healthier.  

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Would you like to join me on this journey?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What is an MRI?

MRI MachineWhen I went to my primary care doctor shortly after I re-injured my back in 2009, my doctor sent me off to have some x-rays taken.  Of course, I know that x-rays don't always show the real picture and often don't give doctors a real picture of the damage.  X-rays are designed to show doctors problems with the bones.  When the x-ray results came back and they revealed that I already had arthritis and disc degeneration going on in several areas of my spine.  However, they didn't show my doctor what was causing my lower back pain.  I asked my primary care doctor for recommendations for a specialist in orthopedic medicine and spine care.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and the opinions reflected in this post are my own.  Your opinions may differ from my opinions.  I am not a doctor or health care provider.

After my initial visit, the orthopedic doctor that I saw sent me to have an MRI done on my back.  An MRI is a simple test that uses magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to generate a picture of your organs and body structures.  MRI's typically show information that can't be found on any other test such as X-Rays, CT Scans, and Ultrasounds.  MRI's were typically done in the hospital but now you can find independent diagnosis center who can perform an MRI, while saving you money.

I was nervous when I went in for an MRI because I wanted it to reveal my source of pain.  I was scared that the MRI wouldn't reveal any information or give the doctor any indication of my pain.  The technician came out and called me back to get started on my test.  I had to change out of my clothes and remove anything metal that I had on.  They allowed me to lock my belongings up in a locker and take the key into the room where the MRI machine was at (they did this same thing at the hospital that I had an MRI done at as well).  Then the technician had me climb up onto the table.  If you haven't every seen an MRI machine before, it looks like a hard bed that moves in and out of the machine and a curricular donut looking tube that they move you into so that they can perform the test.  

Once you are on the table, it is important that you don't move and follow the instructions of the technician.  If you are claustrophobic, you might want to mention this to the technician because there isn't much room around you inside of the tube.  The office that I went to had headphones and put on my favorite radio station while I was having the test performed.  The music helped drown out the noise from the machine, I will be honest it is loud and you can hear the machine spinning and pulsating around you.  At the hospital, I didn't have the luxury of listening to music while they perform the test but I tried to sleep while they were performing the test.  

If your doctor has ordered an MRI and you are on a budget, I would suggest that you use an independent MRI facility.  They are typically a 1/3 of the price that the hospital will charge for an MRI.  Most insurance companies will pay for independent MRI diagnostic centers, check with your insurance company to find a list of providers that can perform the MRI.

Have you had an MRI done?

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What is a Discogram and Is It Painful? - My Experience

IV in Hand for DiscogramWhen my doctor suggested that I have a discogram done to help figure out where my back pain was coming from since my MRI didn't reveal a clear picture of what is going on with my disc at L5-S1.  I came home and immediately started researching a discogram procedure so that I would be fully educated before I made the decision have the test done on my back.  In December of 2011, I decided to go ahead and have the discogram done since I had maxed out my medical benefits.  So my doctor ordered a discogram.  The discogram was scheduled for an outpatient procedure at the hospital.  The test does require a small dose of anesthesia to help you relax while your doctor performs the test, so you won't be able to eat or drink anything before your procedure.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and the opinions reflected in this post are my own experience   Your opinions may differ from my opinions.  I am not a doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist. 

My test was scheduled during the late afternoon so I wasn't able to eat or drink anything before the procedure.  In fact, most doctors prefer to take care of patients who have other medical issues such as diabetes or blood pressure issues first, so if you are scheduled later in the day don't be surprised or alarmed.  I arrived at the hospital and got checked in.

The nurses called me back to a room and took my vitals.  It seemed like I waited forever for my doctor to arrive, he came to talk to me before he did the procedure.  Then once he finished, the anesthesiologist came in and asked me a bunch of questions.  Make sure that you answer the questions honestly to avoid possible interactions.  A nurse will place an  IV in your arm and begin giving you fluids before you go back for the test.

When the doctor and anesthesiologist are both ready to perform the discogram, you will be wheeled into a room that looks similar operating room and it has a high tech x-ray machine.  The anesthesiologist gave me a dose of antibiotics to help prevent infection.  After the dose of antibiotics, I was given a mild sedative so that I was relaxed but still alert enough to be able to talk to the doctor.  They want you to be relaxed but awake  so that you can tell the doctor what you are feeling while he performs the test.

The doctor cleaned my back with iodine and laid the blue paper over my back.  Then he took a needle that was filled with dye and inserted into my back.  The doctor uses a high powered x-ray machine called a fluoroscope, it is a high-tech x-ray machine that allows the doctors to be able to see where they are injecting the needle into the spine.  Then the doctor guided the needle into L5-S1 disc, my disc that appeared unhealthy on my MRI.  When he injected the dye into my disc, I immediately felt that all too familiar pain that I have been feeling on a daily basis.  I knew that this was where my pain was coming from and the source of most of my back pain.

My doctor decided to inject L4-L5 as well, to make sure that I was in fact feeling the pain from just one disc.  When my doctor injected into this disc, I only felt pressure and it wasn't painful at all.  This means that this disc is fairly normal.  After he finished, I was immediately transferred back to the rolling bed and sent off to have a CT Scan.  

A CT Scan is performed so that your doctor can see the discs clearly after the dye was injected.  A CT Scan doesn't take very long and is a high powered x-ray machine that takes cross-section photos.  Once you are finished with the CT Scan, you will be transferred to a recovery room.  While in the recovery room, the nurse comes in and takes out your IV.  You will also be offered something to drink, while you wait on your CT Scan films.  You can also get dressed. 

I was released after I was able to keep my drink down and no longer felt dizzy.  They wheeled me out in a wheel chair to the car and sent me home with some pain medication.  I expected to be very sore after the procedure based upon other people's experiences that I read about before I had the procedure done.  However, I remember feeling a bit sore but I didn't feel worse than what I do on a normal day.

A discogram is a diagnostic procedure that doctors perform to find out if you have a problem with your discs in your spine.  During the discogram, it is important that you concentrate on what you are feeling so that you can explain what you are feeling to your doctor.  You are looking for that familiar pain that you experience on a daily basis.  When your doctor injects the pressurized needle that is filled with a harmless dye.  Your doctor will then inject the dye into your disc that is suspected to be causing you pain.  There are only three outcomes for this test:
  • You feel pain
  • You feel pressure
  • You feel nothing
If you feel pain, explain the pain to your doctor.  Does the pain resemble what you are feeling on a daily basis or is it a different type of pain?  

I hope that this post has been helpful.

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Have you been told that you need a discogram?  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Three Doctors Three Different Opinions on Whether Back Surgery Would Be Beneficial

Low Back PainMy sinus infection seems to finally be gone and I didn't start feeling normal again until Friday.  Thank goodness because it was rough not feeling good for an entire week.  On Friday morning, I went to see my orthopedic surgeon since it has been a while since I have seen him.  He sent me to a pain management specialist for treatment and didn't want to see me back until I was finished with his treatment plan.  I haven't seen my orthopedic doctor since October 2011 and I wanted to update him on my condition.  Plus, I wanted to know what his opinion was on my back since I have had two doctors telling me two different things regarding back surgery.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  The opinions and information in this post are based upon my own opinions and experience.

The visit went well but I left his office even more confused than ever.  He said that I was a good candidate for surgery if my insurance was willing to pay for it.  He said that I would need another MRI to confirm what type of surgery would be best based on the new the MRI results.  It has been about 18 months since I have had an MRI.  He said I have two options: spinal fusion or disc replacement.

The thought of having surgery at this point terrifies me and my gut instinct tell me that I would probably end up having multiple surgeries if I had surgery on my back.  I don't have any nerve pain at this point but if I did I wouldn't second guess having surgery.  I really just want to avoid having multiple surgeries n my back just like my grandmother.  She has had multiple back surgeries on her back and the surgeries never fully took her pain away.  I don't know what her surgeries were for or what caused her to have surgery in the first place.

My surgeon thinks that having surgery would resolve my pain and that the chances of making my pain worse is fairly slim.  However, my pain doctor said that a surgery would only give me a fifty to sixty percent chance of recovering from my back pain.  Then you toss in the state doctor's opinion.  The state doctor told me that he wouldn't recommend that I have surgery on my back because the disc above L5 wasn't fully healthy and that if I did surgery it would put too much pressure on the disc above resulting in the same type of pain years down the road.  My orthopedic surgeon disagree with his diagnosis and thought that my L4 was healthy enough for surgery but wanted to confirm that via MRI.

Yikes, three different doctors and three varying results.  I hate to keep going to the doctor for verification on the outcome of my back.  I want to avoid having surgery if at all possible but I also believe in  having a quality of life that is worth living.  If I had two doctors that gave me similar information then it would make the decision to have surgery or not on my back easier.

I have tried researching and talking to people who have back issues that are similar to mine to get their opinion, even though I know they aren't a doctor or seen my MRI.  I am just looking for success stories.  So far what I am seeing, is people have about 50% success rate.  If that is the case, then is surgery really worth trying?  It is all so confusing.   

The only alternative option would be to place a spinal cord simulator in my back to help relieve the pain so that I don't have to live on medication the rest of my life if I decide surgery isn't my best option.  Of course, this is another option, if I end up with a failed back surgery.

My main source of back pain comes from my L5-S1 disc in my lower back.  However, I also have arthritis and disc degeneration in upper back as well.  I wish that I never listened to the doctor's advice over 10 years ago when he told me that my MRI didn't show any significant damage and that I was young and would heal.  Here I am years later and my situation never improved.  I wish I would have pressed the issue then to find out the source of my pain.  Of course, that doctor thought I mostly had muscle injuries and that there wasn't anything wrong with my spine.  I realize that I am not a doctor and my long term muscle damage could have resulted in disc problems due to my body making compensations for sore muscles.

I have to seriously think about whether or not surgery is the best option and try to decide if it would be logical to seek another opinion.  I am just afraid that I would have a fourth doctor tell a totally different opinion.

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What made you decide to have back surgery?  If so, was your back surgery successful or not?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prevent Possible Drug Interactions - Ask Your Doctor If the New Prescription Will Interact With Your Current Prescription

HeadacheI apologize that I haven't kept up with my blog over the last few days, I was woken up by a pounding headache at 4 am on Saturday morning.  This headache wasn't your typical headache, it was one that felt like your head is going to explode from all of the pressure.  I tried to go back to bed after I took some over the counter medication but my head was pounding and I started feeling nauseated from the pain.  So I grabbed my microwavable moist heating pad and heated it up in the microwave.  This seemed to help ease the pain and I was able to go back to sleep.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and the opinions reflected in this post are my own.  Your opinions may differ from my opinions.  I am not a doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist.


When I woke up my headache was gone but a few hours later I it felt as if it was going to come back at any moment and I wasn't feeling very well.  My husband convinced me to go to the doctor since my face was tender to the touch when I had my headache.  So off to the doctor I went.

The doctor said that I had a pretty serious sinus infection, in fact, after several days of antibiotics and a steroid shot I am still not feeling normal yet.  When he started talking about prescribing medications, I immediately asked him what he was planning on giving me.  I wanted to make sure that it didn't have any interactions with my other medications.  I am glad that I asked because he was planning on giving me something that contained the same drug that I was already taking for my chronic pain.  This could have been dangerous to my health.

It is important to make sure that you voice the medications that you are taking, especially, when the doctor that you are seeing isn't familiar with your chronic condition.  Even though most doctors offices, will ask you what medications you are taking.  It doesn't mean that the doctor treating you paid attention to the noted medication in your chart.  It is best to speak up and tell the doctor what medications that you are taking to avoid possible drug interactions so that he can prescribe something that is compatible with your other medications.

Using the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions can help catch the drug interactions.  However, if your main pharmacy is closed, the pharmacy you are filling your new prescriptions won't have all of your medication history and might miss possible drug interactions.  If you have any questions or concerns about possible drug interactions, be sure to ask the pharmacist who is filling your prescription.

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How do you avoid possible drug interactions when seeing doctors who aren't familiar with your chronic condition and the medications that you are currently taking?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What are the Advantages of Keeping a Pain Journal to Document Your Chronic Pain Symptoms?

Doctor writing down notes in your chartMost people with a chronic illness will need to see a variety of doctors on a regular basis.  This is important not only for your continued care but it is a way for your doctor to really get to know you and your case.  When you go to see any doctor, make sure that you are honest and tell them everything that is going on with you when it comes to your illness.  In fact, I like writing down things so that I make sure that my doctors knows about it.  Often times in the heat of the moment, you forget to mention something important to your doctor.  Having it written down keeps you from forgetting to tell your doctor important information.  Some people find it helpful to keep a journal and write down daily synopsis of their daily activities, especially, when it comes to increased pain or new symptoms.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and the opinions reflected in this post are my own.  Your opinions may differ from my opinions.

A journal can be useful for several purposes and can be used to help your doctor to determine your pain triggers.  When you are adding entries to your journal make sure that you include the following items:
  • Type of activity that you were doing - Be as descriptive as possible.
  • Rate your pain - Use the pain scale that you often see in your doctors office to rate your level of pain.
  • Use descriptive words to describe your pain -  Jot down if your pain comes and goes, feels like pins and needles, muscles spasms, or constant.  
  • Location of the pain- Describe the exact location of your pain, especially, if it isn't always in the same spot.
  • Note the Time of Day - Writing down the time of day will help your doctor determine when your are most like to see a spike in your pain levels.  Of course, it is possible that your pain varies on a daily basis but your doctor is looking for specific times during the day when you see a consistent spike in pain.
  • Treatment - Write down what you did to help reduce your pain.  ie - take pain meds, if you used ice or a heating pad, did you have to lay down,  or take a break, massage.
When you go to your doctors appointments, make sure that you take your pain journal with you.  If you keep your pain journal on the computer, you should print out a copy and give it to your doctor.  Make sure that you sign it and put a date on it so that it shows the date that you gave it to your doctor.  This can help prove any deterioration of your health or allow your doctor to see when any new symptoms began.  A journal also allows you to communicate with your doctor beyond what you tell him during an office visit (often the visits only last a short amount of time).

Keep a Copy of all Important Medical Documents in a File Folder

I have found that it is important for me to carry around frequent medical documents so that I can easily bring them to all of my doctor's appointments and meetings.  I bought one of those plastic file folders to sort my documents so that I can easily find things.  It is nice to be able to pull out a document and hand it over to a doctor so that he can view it or make a copy of it for your medical chart.  For example, I went to a state doctor and I had a copy of the doctors report in my folder.  I was able to quickly pull this document out and allow the doctor's office to make a copy for my doctor to read over and  file into my chart.  It is also great for taking on job interviews or meeting with people who are helping you look for jobs as well.

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Example of the file folder that I purchased to keep my medical documents in.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sleep Deprivation Can Increase Your Symptoms and Make Your Chronic Pain Feel More Intense

Sleep Deprivation and Chronic PainPeople who deal with chronic pain often times struggle with getting enough quality sleep, I know that I personally have trouble falling asleep at night because I can't seem to find the right position  or I can't comfortable at all.  I hate tossing and turning in the bed at night because I know that it interrupts my husband's sleep while I attempt to find a comfortable position to lay in.  So I end up laying in one position for a while, even if it is uncomfortable, before turning over again in the attempt to find a more comfortable position.  When I can't sleep I often times will play games on my phone, chat with my followers on Twitter, or read a book.  This irritates my husband to no end.  I don't do it on purpose and I would go to sleep at a decent hour if I was able to get comfortable and actually fall asleep.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  I am not a doctor, health care provider, or counselor.  If you have any health concerns, please talk to your doctor immediately.  The opinions reflected in this post are my own and may differ from your own opinions.

I remember when I was pregnant with my youngest, most people are aware that women who are towards the end of pregnancy often find it difficult to get a good nights sleep.  If you recall when you were 8 or 9 months pregnant, you too couldn't find a comfortable position to sleep in, you toss and turn to find a somewhat decent sleeping position, or you are suddenly woken up by hip or back pain in the middle of the night.  This is how I feel every single night even though I have given birth to my son almost two years ago.  I came up with this analogy in hopes that women might be able to somewhat feel what I go through each and every day.  Granted pregnant women eventually get to end their pain, suffering, and sleepless nights for the most part after they give birth to their baby.  However, my problem is constant and ongoing.

When I can finally get to sleep, I usually have to wake up in a few hours and get my kids off to school for the day.  This not only interrupts my sleep schedule but it also annoys my husband because I end up going back to sleep for a few hours during the day.  I wish I could find a happy medium and a balance but rest/sleep is very important.  In fact it is important that your body get quality sleep so that you experience the deep sleep stage which is necessary for proper mental health.  Sleep also helps promote healing and leaves you feeling refreshed and well rested.  When you bordy is in this deep sleep phase, often referred to as rapid eye movement or REM, your body not only makes you feel better physically but it also helps people cope with stress more effectively, helps you recover from illnesses or pain, and helps you solve problems (promotes healthy mental health).  

If you are sleep deprived, you are not only physically tired but it can cause you to suffer from other health issues including depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.  Not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to analyze and solve problems, increases your pain, makes you feel more fatigued, decreases your ability to fight off illnesses, delays your immune systems response time, can increase your symptoms of depression, and can impair your memory.

Don't continually deny yourself sleep or use caffeinated drinks to constantly cover up your sleep deprivation.  Continual sleep deprivation is not only bad for your overall health but it increases your pain symptoms (as if they aren't already bad enough) and affects your moods.  I know that I am more cranky when I am tired.

Take care of yourself, you only have one life to live.  Dealing with chronic pain isn't easy but it is important that you know that you aren't alone on this journey.  If you are feeling alone, please find me on Twitter or leave me a blog comment, I will do my best to help connect you to an online support group or help you find additional resources in your area.

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Genesis 2:18
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."   

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night?  If so, how do you overcome your sleep problems?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Does Weather Changes Really Affect our Pain Levels?
This year the weather patterns are constantly changing this year and as a chronic pain suffer, the constant change tends to cause me more pain.  Especially, on days right before a cold front or storm is on it's way.  Today is May 2nd and one would think that the weather would finally be on a consistent warming trend that usually takes place during the spring.  However, this year it seems as if winter will not go away.  Today its in the mid 40's and we are supposed to have a record low in our area tonight.

It seems as if my pain levels tend to change according to the weather.  In fact, my pain increases when it is cold or rainy outside.  Of course, my pain levels are also dependent on what I do throughout the day.

According to WebMD, the studies indicate that there is really no correlation between weather changes and pain levels.  But at a chronic pain suffer, it often feels as if the weather is in fact related.  Do you tend to agree?  

During bad weather or drastic weather changes the barometric pressure often changes right before it happens.  However, these changes are supposedly only slight changes.  When the barometric pressure changes, it changes the way the air moves around you.  When the air is heavier it is said to put more pressure on the body (this takes place when the barometric rate drops suddenly), causing your joints to swell slightly.  Scientist don't have any physical evidence that points towards a direct correlation.

Other medical experts think that many people are down and a person's mood changes, when it is rainy or cold.   This causes a person to become hyper focused on their pain or feel sorry for themselves which causes their pain to increase.  I notice that when it is cloudy, I tend to want to hibernate and hide under the covers to stay warm.  However, I don't find myself feeling down and out.  Do you think it is all in our mind?

Some even think that our increased pain is due to a flare up, that just coincidentally happened right before a storm or weather change.  While this may be true for one or two episodes, I don't feel that this is a good explanation for the increase pain.

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Does the weather affect your pain levels?  If so, how does it change your pain levels?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fighting Two Battles: Chronic Pain and Allergies this Past Week
I haven't written very much over the past several days, I haven't been feeling very well and writing was very difficult for me.  I was planning on going to the doctor this morning if I was still feeling the way that I felt on Friday.  On Friday, I felt as if I was living in a fog and I couldn't concentrate on anything.  I decided to take it easy and rest most of the weekend.  I spent time a majority of my time just relaxing or reading.  In fact, Friday night I surprised my husband and went to be early (something I haven't done in a very long time thanks to pain + insomnia = painsomnia).  I slept all night and woke up still feeling exhausted and run down.  

I felt a little bit better on Sunday and this morning I woke up still feeling a bit under the weather.  In fact, I could tell that I am battling some sort of sinus/allergy issue.  I decided to hold off on going to the doctor and try taking a decongestant to see if that helped me before making the trip to see the doctor.  It seems like it has helped me some.  I haven't felt as if I was in a fog today.  Thank goodness because I wasn't sure how I was going to get any work accomplished if I had to work inside of my "fogginess". 

Sometimes, we just have to listen to our bodies and take the time to rest.  I managed to get a really good nap  today and it seems as if that helped as well.  If you suffer from chronic pain, remember that your body is constantly fighting against itself to keep your inflammation and pain under control.  This compromises our bodies ability to fight off an infection or cold.  As our body is working overtime to fight two different battles, it is important that we take the time to rest.  

I tend to get quite a few sinus issues during the spring and this year I have been steadily taking Claritin to help keep my allergies in check. For the most part it seems like it helps, plus I am not exposed to countless germs that most people are exposed to on a daily basis.

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Do you find yourself getting sick more compared to when you  were healthy?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help me Fight A Disability Claim?
If you plan on filing for Social Security disability, I think it is wise to hire a lawyer to assist you with your case.  Most people think that they can't afford a lawyer.  However, at the same time you can't afford not to have a lawyer, especially, if you are unable to work or find suitable employment to meet your physical restrictions.  Remember that if you find yourself out of work due to chronic pain you aren't alone. 

Disclosure:  This article is for informational purposes only and shouldn't be substituted for legal advice from a lawyer or legal professional.  I am not a lawyer or a legal professional and the opinions reflected in this post are based on my own experience. 

Did you know that according to American Chronic Pain Association that chronic pain tops the list at number 1 for all adult disability claims.  I had no clue that chronic pain was number 1 but after thinking about it for a few minutes, chronic pain covers a wide variety of illness and diseases ranging from back pain, migraines, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, unknown pain syndrome, depression, joint pain, nerve pain, cancer, and I am sure that I am missing more invisible illness or diseases that cause chronic pain.

Social security is a pain to deal with but it was created to help people like you who can no longer work due to a physical or mental illness.  It is important that you continue to seek care from your doctor so that he or she can continually document your case.  A well documented case will help social security determine if you are able to receive benefits or not.  Make sure that you are open and honest with your doctor and tell them everything.  When talking to your doctor treat them as if he or she is your best friend and hold nothing back.  

Most people who have previously applied for Social Security benefits will tell you that it is normal for social security to deny you and sometimes they will deny you multiple times before you are granted benefits, even if you have an extreme case.  I find this practice to be absurd but there were people before you who abused the system and Social Security needs to know that you are serious about your medical decision.  So don't get discouraged or give up once you receive your first denial letter, in fact, at this point you should seek legal counsel immediately.  You only have a short period of time to get your appeal back to Social Security before you have to refile.  Hiring a lawyer at this point is a good idea and they can even file the appeal for you.  

Make sure that you continue to see your doctor on a regular basis and maybe even seek a second opinion from another doctor.   The more documentation that you have the better.  

Most disability lawyers don't require any fees upfront and you don't pay for their services unless you win.  Then the fees attorney fees are deducted from the money you would have earned from Social Security disability from the moment you first filed.  Social security also sets the fee that a lawyer can take from your back payment for his or her services, this fee is usually no more than 25% of your earnings.  Most lawyers will even meet with you to discuss your case for free and they won't take on your case if they don't think that they can help you, after all they don't get paid for fighting for you unless you win.

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Did you hire a lawyer to assist you with your disability claim?


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Don't Let Chronic Pain Keep You From Exercising Your Brain
I meant to write a blog post yesterday evening; however, I ended up with a huge headache that wouldn't go away.  After several hours of dealing with a pounding headache, I decided that writing a new blog post was going to have to wait.  Yesterday it dawned on me that most people who suffer from chronic pain or from an invisible illness no longer work or get out of the house unless they have too.  If you are out of work, you know that a majority of the time you are just sitting around  the house idle and don't engage in anything that challenges you mentally.  

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  I am not a doctor, health care provider, or counselor.  If you have any health concerns, please talk to your doctor immediately.  The opinions reflected in this post are my own and may differ from your own opinions.

I know that I tend to sit around the house and watch tv, listen to music, play on the laptop or my phone, play games, read books, crochet, and write.  Most of these activities require very little thinking skills, except for writing, some days it is a challenge coming up with a topic to write about..  It is important that you stimulate your brain activity so that you keep your brain sharp.  Taking care of your brain is important, especially, if you take a bunch of medication to dull the pain.  

Keeping your mind active can help you manage and cope with your pain.  Most importantly daily activities can give you something to look forward to each and every day.  In fact, I just started reading books around the first of the year.  I wanted to find something to do that didn't require physical effort and that I could do when I was lying in bed awake at night.  I have found books to be a great way to pass the time.  Reading is not only fun but it can increase your vocabulary and you can live through the characters.  Often times, the characters draw you in and you begin to think and feel the way they did in the book.  

I have found a love for books that I haven't had before and my favorite books lately have been mystery books.  I find myself addicted to the story line and want to find out what is going to happen to the character next.  

What are some ways that you can keep your brain active and help decrease your chances of dementia related diseases, including Alzheimer's. 
  • Exercise - If you are still able to get some form of exercise, then try to stay as active as it is physically possible.  Find exercises that don't increase or aggravate your pain levels.  Any exercise you can do will  help increase the blood flow to your brain which encourages your brain to make new brain cells.
  • Eat Foods That Promote Healthy Brain Function - If you can't exercise due to increased pain, it is important that you eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy-balanced diet.  Eating healthy foods not only help keep your from gaining weight but you can even reduce your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for other health problems.  Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to determine which foods are best for you to eat, I know that some foods can aggravate people who have chronic pain.
  • Remain Socially Active -  Having a chronic illness or pain often times keeps many of us housebound.  I know that I tend to stay home unless I absolutely have to go some where, especially, during the week.  However, I try to remain as social as possible using my computer or cell phone.  Most people have access to social media and can maintain a healthy social life by bringing people into their home using the computer or a cell phone.  Social media is a great way to find people who have similar situations or interests.  In fact, you can even find support groups online and you can get to know other people who are in your shoes.  Being social allows you to help others and gives you the opportunity to have friends who understand you and your condition.  If your spouse works, he or she might not can communicate with you during the day.  Having other friends can keep you from getting lonely.  
  • Stay Mentally Active - It is important that you stay mentally active and find hobbies that help give your brain a workout.  Don't be one of the few people who spend all of their time laying around every single day and spend all of their time watching junk on television 24/7.  Instead, find other ways to stimulate your brain since you aren't working and don't have to solve problems on a daily basis.  Have you ever seen your grandpa or grandma working on crossword puzzles?  I remember that my grandpa loved working on the crossword puzzles that were put in the paper each day.  He would spend hours working on them and trying to solve it.  He did this to keep his mind sharp and it gave him something to do each day.  If you don't enjoy crossword puzzles, don't worry there are plenty of other ways to give your brain a mental workout.  Try these brain building activities: stay involved in the learning process and become a life-long learner, gardening, crossword puzzles, memory games, play games, attend plays or lectures, enroll in a class, learn a new skill, learn to play a musical instrument, read a book, don't drink alcohol, get enough sleep, vary your daily habits, ect.
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What is your favorite way to pass the time?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Who Should Be Allowed to Use A Handicap Restroom Stall When Using a Public Restroom?
Handicap Restroom Sign

Do you use the handicap restroom when you are out in public?  I have been trying to make a conscious decision to start using the handicap stall so that I have the hand rails available if I need to use them.  There has been times when I have occasionally been given those ultimate glares or dirty looks.  I am sure that as I start using the handicap stall on a regular basis, that the looks and glares will increase.

Disclosure: This post is for informational purposes and is based on my own opinions.  Please refer to the ADA website or contact an attorney for more information on using a handicap restroom.

The looks and glares don't really bug me but I hope that I don't ever run into someone that actually decides to give me a hard time about using a handicap stall, especially, if I don't have my youngest some in the restroom with me or don't have an assistive device.  As I started yesterday, I am not currently using a cane or any other assistive device to make getting around easier so my condition isn't easily identifiable to others.

I have noticed that the handicap stalls in the restrooms usually have a toilet that sits up higher off the ground, which helps me.  A toilet that sits higher off the ground helps me so that I am not having to struggle nearly as hard to be able to get up off of the toilet compared to a traditional toilet.  The hand rails are nice to have in case I need help pulling myself up.  At this time my back isn't so bad yet that most of the time I don't have any trouble getting up and down from the toilet.  I dread the day when I have to make changes to my own personal bathroom at home to accommodate my needs.

What is the Proper Etiquette for Using a Handicap Restroom Stall in a Public Restroom? 

I was researching the proper etiquette when it comes to using a handicap bathroom so that I know what to say to someone in the event that they decide to confront me.  The ADA provides provisions for public places to offer handicap patrons with the facilities to accommodate their personal needs while a patron or as an employee at the store.  However, the ADA doesn't limit who can use the toilet.  So a mother with her child in the stroller or someone in my condition has the right to use the handicap stall if it makes it easier for me to use the restroom.  It is proper etiquette to allow someone who is in line with a wheel chair or another assitive device with preferential access to the handicap stall when there is a line.

Have you been confronted for using the handicap stall in a public place?

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