Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Am I Trading One Pain for Another?

back by cillenj
It's been three weeks now since my carpal tunnel surgery and I'm already back to using my right hand without any restrictions from my doctor.  I was worried about a post-operative flare-up right after surgery, but thankfully that didn't happen.  What is happening right now is an unexpected shift in my experience of my pain symptoms.

I hate to say this, but I think I may have traded one kind of pain for another.  Let me explain:

When I first started having body-wide fibromyalgia pain after a trip-and-fall accident in 2004, my attention was drawn to all of my pain, all over my body.  I was simply overcome with pain.  Initially, this was quite overwhelming at times.

But as the days have turned into months, and the months have turned into years, my perception and experience of my pain has changed.  It seems my brain just can't continue to be focused on all my pain at once.  So instead it picks the most painful areas and registers those as being in pain.  I think the rest of my pain has been translated into an overall feeling of overwhelming fatigue, which I guess makes some sense since living with chronic pain is very tiring.

Mind you, this is just a trick my brain plays on me.  My body-wide pain is still there and it doesn't take much for me to be reminded of it. Just a simple touch can bring it back into my awareness.

But now that I have removed the source of my right hand pain, the compression of my median nerve, it appears my brain is readjusting its pain barometer.  As a result, it feels like my brain is reevaluating which body parts should be labeled as priority pain centers. All I know for sure is that my balance has been upset and now there are areas really hurting that haven't been on my radar for a while now.

So far, prime candidates are my left hand, which is really bothering me even though I've had carpal tunnel symptoms there for the same amount of time.  I can only surmise that with the focus off my right hand, my brain is paying much more attention to my left.  My neck is also screaming out in pain now and my low back is very unhappy too.


Ordinarily I would wait this out and hope *fingers-crossed* that everything would get settled back down with time.  But I have scheduled surgery for my left hand on October 12, which means I am going to confuse my body and brain even further.  I'm counting on my body focusing on the post-surgery increase in pain in my left hand for a week or so afterward.  What happens after that will be anyone's guess...

Don't get me wrong.  I am enjoying my right hand and its more symptom-free status.  I welcome being able to use both of my hands to garden, cook and do arts and crafts more as the result of less pain.  I'm even hoping that maybe, just maybe, a decrease in hand pain might help decrease my overall pain level. (A girl can dream, right?)

Where ever I end up down the road, right now successful carpal tunnel surgery seems to be causing some kind of  pain perception shifting effect throughout my body.

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deb aka murphthesurf said...

Great that the surgery did you some good. And I can relate to the pain shift problem you are currently experiencing. I call it brain and soul overload. Too much for one brain and one soul to handle....so they focus on the loudest pain available. One of the reasons I have not undergone recommended surgeries is I have always known that my surgeries will go on and on forever. RA never stops doing damage in my case. But if your hand surgeries can give you back things you love to do...it is well worth it. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers through this next upcoming surgery.

Rairy said...

Personally something I noticed with my carpal tunnel repair was a shifting of pain based on a shifting of workload for my hands. Post repair of my right hand resulted in increased left hand usage and pain. Changing hands and favoring a hand can cause shifting in posture and balance which can cause flares in otherwise normally quieter pain spots.

I also struggled with a return to pain state after the surgery drugs and heavier meds wore off and were tapered. For a brief few days some of my normally always complaining pain spots were completely quiet. The return of pain seemed more intense as I returned to my normal non-narcotic pain meds.

Give it time. Lots of time. More time than the docs say. Let your body heal and then heal some more.