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I don't know what to do

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Old 05-01-2008, 06:10 AM   #1
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parapluie HB User
I don't know what to do

Hi everyone,

Over the past little while, I've been posting on the Addiction boards because I spent the last 2 months tapering off of percocet after having been on 2 every 4 hours for 4 1/2 years. The reason I was on it in the first place was because of extreme pain that I get in my right side, seemingly in between two ribs. No one has ever been able to pinpoint the exact cause, although a couple of my doctor's are leaning towards blaming it on a nerve being pinched between two ribs.

I have scoliosis and I actually broke my back 4 1/2 years ago (which is why I started taking the percocet). I've had many, many other back problems since then and it wasn't until December that things started to settle down. It was at that point that I chose to come off of the percocet. I've been off of it for over a week now and the pain has, in the past two days, reached a point where I can't deal with it. My doctor prescribed me some Tylenol 3's to take in case the pain got out of control so I'm able to manage it with that for now.

I'm only 20 years old. I don't want to doom myself to taking a narcotic every day for the rest of my life to control my pain. I want to look into alternatives. One thing in particular that I've been wondering about is a TENS machine. I don't really know a lot about it - it's actually my mom who brought it up with me. If anyone has any experience using one, I would appreciate some insight as to how it works/whether it's helped you or not. Any other suggestions on how to manage pain without medication would be greatly appreciated. I desperately do not want to be on medication for this and I'm willing to try anything to avoid having to do that. Having said that, the pain is unbearable. It changes me into a different person, makes me want to literally rip my hair out and I pretty much just don't trust myself when I hurt that much.

Please reply! I'm pretty desperate here.

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Old 05-01-2008, 06:51 AM   #2
Arthr Itis
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Re: I don't know what to do

First off, welcome to the pain board. Second, sorry you are here. I tried a tens unit a few years ago and all it did was make my situation worse. I don't want to discourage you but don't get your hopes too high. I understand why a 20 year old person doesn't want to live on meds. Trust me, I'm 56 and I don't want them either. Sometimes we are given a situation that we don't like and we have to make a choice between being in pain or being on meds. The doctors don't know exactly what is causing all of my pain so there is no easy fix. That gives me the choice and I've chosen not to live in pain. We don't have the right to end our lives so it's the narcotics.
Hang in there you will get through this.

Old 05-01-2008, 06:55 AM   #3
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Re: I don't know what to do

Originally Posted by parapluie View Post
Having said that, the pain is unbearable. It changes me into a different person, makes me want to literally rip my hair out and I pretty much just don't trust myself when I hurt that much.

Please reply! I'm pretty desperate here.
Hello, and welcome. Sorry to hear about your pain! Unfortunately, I cannot help you with a TENS machine, but I can offer some support about pain mgt in general.

Sounds like you have it pretty rough. To me, PM is about making a "choice".....A choice to live without suffering and as normal as the meds will allow you. As you've experienced, PM isn't all about the advantages, as there are disadvantages as well. You have to ask yourself, do the "pros" outweigh the "cons" or do the "cons" of PM outweigh the "pros."

For me, it's a no brainer. I would suffer immeasurably without PM. I have chosen my path, and I'm convinced I'm better off for it. You have to choose yours. I have a lot of respect for your for trying to live without meds. However, you must realize that the biggest part of PM is education....Educating yourself and those closest to you what PM really is. Many, many people live fairly normal lives under the close supervision of pain meds....You are not alone!

With all due respect, the fact that you've been participating on an "addiction" board is just one of the issues. PM is NOT addiction. It is tolerance and dependence. Addiction is when one uses the meds recreationally and for pleasure. Conversely, tolerance is what happens when the human body becomes dependent on something....Could be caffeine or it could be narcotics. With tolerance, unfortunately comes an increase in medication levels at times. Due to the chemical nature of the meds, one becomes dependent upon them.

Only you can make the decision if pain meds are the right choice for you. It sounds as if you are in really bad shape, and I'm extremely bothered by the quote that I highlighted at the beginning of my post. If it's that bad, you need pain meds, and QUICKLY.

My suggestion would be to call your Doc and explain everything in detail in your own words EXACTLY how you feel and tell him you've tried this route and you didn't realize how bad it would be. I would get back on the Percocet and then explore other options. If you choose at some point to try something like TENS or whatever, you should have this alternative method ready to go as you ween off the narcotics. One of the keys to PM is to stay ahead of the pain....Once things get real bad, it's very difficult to control the pain.

I will be interested to see what my peers think. There are some GREAT people who regularly participate on this board who have a vast degree of experiences. I would listen to all. Good luck and I hope you feel better.


Old 05-01-2008, 07:42 AM   #4
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Re: I don't know what to do

Hi Para: Welcome to our section of the boards. I'm sorry you had to seek us out, because that means that you too suffer unrelenting pain, and well, lets just face it, it sucks.

I've used a TENS Unit. I've had two back surgeries, and I used it for my lower back. It helped me A LOT. I've been able to reduce my meds quite dramatically due to the TENS. My problem, however, is that my insurance refused to pay for it, and I was forced to send the unit back. I am using other modalaties to deal though including massage, biofeedback, heat, ice and psychotherapy. My PM Clinic is what I would call a "one stop shop" and they deal in all types of modalaties in the same building. It's great that I don't have to go out looking for these services, they are right in the office.

I don't know about whether or not a TENS unit can be used on the rib area. I think you can't use it near or around the heart area. So this is something you would have to discuss with your doctor.


I would suggest speaking with your doc to see if it is an option for your type of pain. If it is, then he can prescribe it for you, and more than likely, will set it up for you to have a consult with the TENS Unit provider. I met mine right in my PM's office. They came to me. I don't know if that's how it's done all over, just my experience.

Also, if I may address your reluctance to use medications. This is something that I personally have been struggling with. There is a great thread here on this board about ACCEPTANCE. Give it a read! I'm still not there yet. I've been "hung up" on taking narcotics ever since my first injury, and for the past, oh I would say 5 or 6 months I have been cutting back on my medications. I'm 48, and just can't imagine taking meds forever, but unfortunately, there are days I can't even get out of the bed without them.

I'm still grieving the loss of the person I was. You know, super wife, mom, teacher, sister, daughter, etc. Like I said, it just plain ole' sucks.

Good luck to you. I hope you get things resolved.
\lm/ = "I Love You" in Sign Language

12/10/04 MicroD & Hemi Lami 100% Success
09/05 Re-injured post Katrina
06-07 In Pain Mgmt. trying to deal
3/9/07 2 Level PLIF due to CES

Old 05-01-2008, 07:58 AM   #5
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Re: I don't know what to do

i too have had great success in using the TENS unit for my RSD flares in my knee. this is actually the ONLY thing that even begins to knock down the burning pain i have when it goes off. i would very highly suggest you at least give it a shot,it really was the best thing i could have done for that particular pain process. its just kind of a hit or miss type thing with it like anything else we try and use to manage pain. but just make certain to actually obtain a referral to a good PT place that has alot of experience in using them. they will evaluate you and really tell you the best ways to use it. placing the elctrodes in the exact right spots really are important in getting the most out of it. so going to a professional really helps there. they just walk you thru it and try various posistions before they send you off with it. it helped me alot doing it this way vs like just buying one off the net and trying to do it myself.

i agree with ex,getting to a good pain clinic really would help you in many ways to try and find out which modalities would work best for your particular pain issues. they just simply treat pain all day so they are much more 'up' on the best types of treatments for any particular pain process. i am sooo grateful i found my current PM. there are just alot of alternatives other than using any real meds at all that also don't give you the sometimes nasty side effects that you can get with certain types or classes of meds used to treat pain.

but DO give that TENS a shot for at least a few weeks and work with it and see how it goes for you. i really was not expecting it to really work as well as it did for me when i tried it. you just never know what is or isn't going to work just for your pain til you give it a go ya know? glad to have you here hon. i do hope you will stick around. there are many many very helpful and caring people here who really do know alot about pain management. keep us posted on how things are going,Marcia
3-22-01,herniated C-6-7
11-20-01,placement of hardware for failed fusion
9-22-03,removal of cavernous hemangioma that was inside spinal cord. Neuro damage to L hand L leg and R leg.

Old 05-01-2008, 11:27 AM   #6
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parapluie HB User
Re: I don't know what to do

Wow thank you for all the replies. I know that eventually I may have to suck it up and take medication, that's just a last resort for me. Having been on percocet for 4 1/2 years and then being off for more than a week now, it's amazing how much it affected me. It changed who I am and made me tired all the time. How I felt when I was taking them was certainly better than being in pain and if I had to choose between living in pain and having to take medication to function, it wouldn't be a difficult decision for me. I think part of the reason why I'm so hesitant and wanting to try everything else first is because I'm already on a lot of other medications and to add one more to the pile just isn't something I want to do.

I've been to a pain clinic before, about a year ago. The doctor that I saw there suggested that I have an intercostal nerve block done and see if that would help. I was supposed to call and book that to be done but before I got a chance, I ended up in the hospital for a completely different reason and was literally in and out of the hospital having surgery until December. I called the clinic today to ask about booking a time to have the block done now and the receptionist said that she would speak to the nurse and call me back so I'm just waiting on that. What makes me weary about having this done is that it's impossible to predict how long it will last. It can wear off within a month or last as long as a year. If it worked, it would absolutely be worth it for me but I live in Canada and the wait times to get in for an appointment at this clinic are kind of ridiculous. For me, the ideal situation would be to have the nerve block done, have it work and last for at least a few months at a time and just have some pain medication on hand for when it starts to wear off so that I'm not in pain during the time it takes me to have another block done. I have however learned over the past few years that my "ideal situation" rarely works out.

I know that I was never "addicted" to the percocet, just dependent. What I have a difficult time with is what other people think, specifically my mother. I still live at home and will until school in August and so I get to hear all about what she thinks. She believes that I don't need this medication at all. The other night when I was in excrutiating pain and needed to take something, she literally treated me like I had been shooting up with heroin for the past 4 years and not taking a legal narcotic for legitimate pain. I have never ever abused it and I've always taken it as prescribed. But it got to the point where she won't let me have the percocet back because she doesn't want me to have the temptation there. I've tried to explain to her that I don't even want to take it and only ever would if I was in a lot of pain, but she still seems to believe that it's a psychological addiction. She is the only one who feels this way. I have a boyfriend of 2 1/2 years who I literally tell everything to and he's extremely understanding and will support me in whatever I need to do to live pain free (or at least with less pain than I have now).

I have an appointment on the 21st of May with a doctor who has been seeing me since I was 10 and knows everything that's gone on since then. I think she would be a great person to talk to about this so I'll definitely be having a discussion with her. Other than that, I'm just hoping that I can have that nerve block done as soon as possible just to know whether that's an option for me or not.

Thank you again for all the responses. It's really nice to know that I'm not alone in this. I'll definitely be sticking around here.

Last edited by parapluie; 05-01-2008 at 11:29 AM.

Old 05-01-2008, 11:33 AM   #7
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Re: I don't know what to do

Para: Welcome! I am sorry for the reason you have had to come join us here, but I'm glad you found us. We are a diverse little family with all kinds of pain issues and all thoughts and theories on meds and other modalities for pain management. But the one thing we all have in common is the pain itself.

This is just my personal opinion and you've gotten other's already, and I am sure many more to come. Please feel free to disagree. I won't be offended in any way. I just want to share what I have learned. Take from it what you like, and disregard the rest. Everyone here, has amazing insight and experience to share. This is probably going to be a little long winded, but it's a complex issue and I'm long winded anyway!

I am 46, started my journey with chronic pain at 38 yrs old. Not as young as you, but certainly never expecting this life altering whammy at that age, if ever. I went through what I believe we all have, in the beginning. We all started with pain of some sort that was causing us to not be able to live the life we had lived, up til then. It was debilitating and restricting our very quality of life.

I absolutely agree with what everyone else has said about making a choice. And it is one of the most difficult and maddening choices a person ever has to make, because it involves either living with unGodly pain or living on a med regimine that is misunderstood by the masses, even physicians, sometimes.

I certainly do not envy you, being 20 years old and being faced with this decision. I would advise you, or anyone in your shoes to find a good Pain Management physician. One who has a diverse line of treatment modalities in his/her repetoire. At your age, I would try every modality available for your kind of pain and then choose the plan that best helps you, to have the best quality of life that you can. It may be meds, it may be therapies and devices like a TENS unit, or it could be all of these.

Just don't rule out any options, because of stereotypes and other people's prejudices and misguided judgements about what medications are socially acceptable. Nobody but you and your physician have to know what you put into your own body. People who do not live with pain, every day of their lives, have no right to say what is right or wrong for those of us who do.

Learn all that you can, about the pain that you have. So many of us here have never been given a true diagnosis or have been given several different ones, by several different doctors. Always doctor is perfect, they do not always have the right answers, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs, before you find a prince. (or princess) Your best bet is a PM doc, who regardless of your actual diagnosis, is willing and able to treat the most important part....THE PAIN. If you don't find one the first time, keep looking. They do exist. I know, because I have one.

Don't let anyone tell you how you feel. Not even a doctor. They can not possibly know, unless they have somehow, morphed themselves inside of you and felt your pain. And to date, I have never heard of one who could do that.

Most importantly, don't ever give up. You may never find a way to end the pain completely. I know that sounds terribly depressing to you, but it is a fact that we all have to consider. If someone can find out what is wrong, and fix it for good, then all the better. But, in the mean time, don't let it keep you from living. Do what you have to do while you are searching, so that you have a quality of life. If that means meds, then so be it. I don't think there is anyone here, who has given up hope that there is an end to this.

I hope I have been of some help to you, and as I said, this is just my personal opinion. I wish you the very best of luck in your quest for answers. I am more than happy to support you when and if you need it. Again, welcome. And please post often. This is a wonderful place for people like us!

I wish you peace, and relief from the pain, cmpgirl

Old 05-01-2008, 07:28 PM   #8
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Re: I don't know what to do

Hello and welcome to the boards. I come from a little different perspective, in that I am a recovering drug addict and I am also a chronic pain patient. You might wonder how in the world can a recovering addict take pain meds. Well thankfully, I guess, it was not my pain meds that I EVER abused. I do want to say that it sounds like you are definitely NOT an addict. This is a good thing for someone who does have chronic pain. I am relatively young, at age 34, but my pain journey started 5 years ago when I was 29. I am at the point now where I have "nearly accepted" that I will have pain the rest of my life. Trust me it has not been an easy journey and I'm still not that happy with it.

However, I have a wonderful doctor who is very understanding and knowledgeable and works with me. That is probably the key to a great doctor right there. I had to make a very difficult choice last year to start the fentanyl patch or not. If you are not familiar with this patch, it is an extremely potent narcotic available in a patch form. When it first came out it was only used for people that had cancer pain. I have exhausted nearly every option, medications, modality, treatment, etc. It was only after this 5 year journey that I said, "OK I surrender to the pain. I know what is available and could possibly help me." Well I decided to go on the patch, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made. It doesn't take all the pain away, and me being a recovering addict, don't ever need all the pain to go away(while on medication). Just to let you know if you take more medication than you have pain, you then possibly risk experiencing a "high" or euphoria from the medication. This is when addiction can begin. I don't want to scare you just make you a little more informed in case you had never heard it before.

I know what you mean about making the hard choice about starting on narcotic medication possibly for the rest of my life. It sounds like you might be best suited to start on a LA(long acting) pain medication. These would include: Oxycontin(oxycodone), Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin(morphine based), Methadone, fentanyl patch(Duragesic), or Opana(oxymorphone). The good thing about LA meds is that they deliver a steady dose of narcotic medication, you cut way down on the # of pills you take, you are not clock watching(as much), you don't have the ups & downs of the short acting med, and you just feel alot better(not as many spikes in your pain). I know what you mean about your mom not liking what you are taking. My mom freaked out too when I told her that I was going on the patch "oh my god your going back on narcotic meds, I had a terrible reaction to the patch, your going to be manic on that, blah, blah, blah." Well you know what it was the best decision that I made. My mom does not however know that I take Percocet, she still thinks I take Lortabs(hydrocodone). I don't really want to hear any more from her. Like I told her, "look at how much I am able to accomplish and do now that my pain is controlled, I'm not sitting or laying on the couch all weekend in terrible pain, I'm much happier(well not the last couple of days) but the majority of the time" So there are a lot of things to consider and ONLY YOU can make the decisions. We will be here though for support and to answer any questions you may have with your journey.


Old 05-02-2008, 02:50 PM   #9
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Re: I don't know what to do

you have gotten some really great advice from people who DO care,trust me. i just had a question for you about a comment you made referring to your mom not 'letting' you actually have your own medication? is that actually what you ment,that she HAS it in her possession and will not give it back to you? i am just wondering about this since it IS a huge legal issue not to mention sooo wrong. i just was wondering about it. marcia
3-22-01,herniated C-6-7
11-20-01,placement of hardware for failed fusion
9-22-03,removal of cavernous hemangioma that was inside spinal cord. Neuro damage to L hand L leg and R leg.

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