I first heard the words Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fixed Dystonia back in 2009; I had just been admitted to hospital with unbearable pain, colour changes, temperature fluctuations and a hypersensitivity to touch in my right leg. I would spend the following six months confined to a hospital bed learning to retrain the damaged nerves. It was a hell I would not wish on anyone. I am one of the lucky few, whilst I never achieved full remission, the pain eventually reduced to a tolerable level which only flares up if I lie down on that side of my leg for too long or bash it. Unfortunately I was rediagnosed with CRPS in summer 2015, this time it had manifested in my left shoulder blade and arm. Once again it had been caused by repeated injections to the same site which resulted in damage to the nerves.
CRPS has been a condition I have fought for many years, generally I have a good handle over it. I know what to avoid and how to help myself as much as possible. Yet every now and then I have days and nights like the last 24 hours. It is hard to describe the agony in which I have spent it in. The night before last I simply bumped my thigh whilst getting out of bed. The pain at the time seemed excessive for such a little bump, but I presumed if I lay down and rested for a few minutes it would die down to its usual level of simple discomfort. Instead with each minute that went by the pain intensified as did the spasms.
I made the decision yesterday not to leave the house, I knew I would be fully reliant on my wheelchair and that even the lightest breeze would reduce me to tears. Instead I kept myself fully medicated on Tramadol which dulled the pain slightly but nowhere enough. I needed both my walking sticks to hobble the few steps to the toilet. Each accidental brush from the cat as it went past left me biting back screams and in yet another wave of tears.
The spasms and pain kept me up for the majority of the night. I managed just over three hours sleep in the end. The spasms twisted my leg into positions that resulted in multiple subluxations, and my nerves flaring meant that I could not bare the touch of clothing, the mattress beneath me, or a duvet. It’s hard to explain to someone this type of pain, at the point of time I would have jumped at the opportunity to have the nerves severed. To be honest, even right now at this time of writing when the pain is slightly reduced but still horrific I would beg for it to be done. Let me put in perspective for you, full blown labour is easier to deal with.
Whilst the pain is improved today I am still struggling. I feel as if someone has sliced my leg open multiple times from my thigh down to my soles and has rubbed vinegar into the wounds. The constant spasm in my thigh has left me exhausted and desperate for a relief that seems as if it will never appear.
I know that in a few days time in all likelihood I will be back down to my usual levels of pain and spasms, but there is a niggling fear at the back of my mind that it won’t reduce further. That fear is more terrifying to me than anything.
Today I was up in London to see my neurologist to get my six weekly injections. I was looking forward to speaking with him as this time round my botox had been 7 weeks apart. Normally this would have resulted in severe facial, neck and arm spasms but for a change I have been okay. It is only over the last few days that I have felt the familiar tugging sensation around my eyes, jaw and neck. Whilst I have had spasms in these areas it has been easy to cope with. My arm has been spasming/twitching more but still at what I consider an acceptable rate, so I was eager to discuss with him aiming for 7 weeks again. Now as luck would have it he’s not working that day in 7 weeks time, so my appointment is as usual in 6 weeks, but this something I would like to aim for.
I am not fond of needles at all. In fact watching the doctor draw the botox up each time is enough to make me want to run screaming from the room. Every 6 weeks I turn up at the hospital racked full of nerves, if the injections did not make such a big difference on my quality of life then I don’t think I’d go. I trust my neurologist completely however, and after two and a bit years of having him administer my injections I feel confident in his skill. You can imagine how sky high my nerves rocketed today when upon arrival I was informed that my neurologist was absent. The doctor filling in for him was perfectly pleasant, however having never met him before, I found it hard to sit still in the chair whilst he injected me.
Today was my first round of injections since developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. On my GP’s advice I tried covering the area that was going to be injected on my back with topical local anaesthetic. I find it hard just wearing clothing over my shoulder/arm at the moment so was dreading having a couple of needles being inserted. As I have mentioned before I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3, this unfortunately means that local anaesthetic does not work for me. I had been hoping that as it was a topical one and not an injection that it would be slightly different and would work, however I discovered very quickly that this was not the case. I cannot describe what my arm has felt like over the last few hours, it has been a mix of a burning and pin and needles sensations. I am hoping that this will die down as the evening wears on.
Hopefully my neurologist will be at my next appointment and we can discuss our next steps.
Back in 2009 I was admitted into my local hospital with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in my right leg. I stayed in hospital for a total of six months and still suffered with the condition for a few months after that. The condition meant that despite the fact that I could see my leg so I knew it was there, I didn’t feel like I was connected to it. It would change temperature, colour and sensations. I could not bear even the touch of clothes, and was not able to move it. As a result I had intensive physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy, which thankfully worked a treat for me. I had to learn to move my toes/leg/walk again and retrain my brain to understand that the floor or clothes etc. were not actually harming me.
Due to what I went through with the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, I can understand how/why my Neurologist has recommend an intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation treatment plan. I completely get how it will hopefully (fingers crossed) help with my symptoms in my arm and leg. What I am curious about is how it will help with my facial spasms and eye spasms!
When I had intensive therapy before, I basically had to bombard my nerves constantly. I was given exercises to do every hour (in the day) if the physiotherapists were not with me. This meant standing and putting my foot on the floor or running brushes up and down my leg etc. They were all extremely painful but it was by forcing myself to do this constantly that my nerves resumed normal activities. I am expecting that my upcoming treatment will be similar, I am presuming that I shall be made to do movements/activities that will bring on a spasm repeatedly in an attempt to retrain my brain. To me this makes sense, however with my facial spasms they tend to be pretty random, though sometimes I feel this has something to do with eating. Again my eye spasms are random and vary between the length of time they last, with the shortest being seconds long and the longest being 15 hours.
I know that I cannot get any answers to my musings until I am there and taking part in the treatment programme, but I am so curious! The whole disorder intrigues me so much. The human body is such an incredible thing, and although we know so much about it, when it comes to the brain we know very little. New things are discovered all the time, and each new discovery allows for more research to be done. We learn more and more each day. I may not even get the answers during my treatment. One small thing could trigger another. I can’t wait to see what my treatment plans does for my dystonia! Its a big unknown but hopefully one with a positive outcome.