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Do your pain meds affect your ability to feel a "natural high"?

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Old 06-25-2011, 05:35 PM   #1
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Do your pain meds affect your ability to feel a "natural high"?

Since the onset of my now 6-year struggle w/chronic pain, I have gradually noticed that I no longer feel a "natural high" when I would normally do so. Such as when preparing for a vacation or even doing something small that I used to really like to do such as renting a movie. I was wondering about the fact that, because pain medications are all derived from opium (like heroin), do they reduce your body's natural production of endorphins b/c they attach to the endorphin receptors in the brain? Thus, you may experience a "high" for the first several weeks you take pain meds but then we all know this goes away quickly. I have gradually reduced my meds from Oxycotin + Percocet for BT to just Percocet 5 mg 3x daily + Motrin. So I am on about the minimum amount I can get by on and I am just barely getting by on this. The problem is that I really miss the way I used to feel. Of course, I understand that being in pain is not compatible with feeling good but there are times at least when the pain fades into the background. The fact that I have not been able to do my walking which I love and used to practically live for has also really dragged me down. I replaced this w/pilates but it is not the same for me. I just had my third rhizotomy to the SI joint and I am still a bit swollen, sore and recovering. I am hopeful that in another week or so I will be able to so some walking. So no exercise endorphins either. Anyone else care to share their thoughts or experiences on this? Also, if I just stop the Percocet I was wondering how long it would take for me to feel "normal" again? many thanks. Lisa

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Old 07-05-2011, 09:11 AM   #2
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Re: Do your pain meds affect your ability to feel a "natural high"?

Hi Lisa. This is the mind body connection that docs talk about. There is the pain we feel which is very real and then their is suffering. Suffering encompasses not just the pain, but the loss of things we used to enjoy doing, the emotional pain from the inability to do simple things, having to ask for help etc etc. Suffering is the mind aspect of living with chronic pain. The higher the expectations to be normal given very abnormal circumstances the more disapointement your likely to experience. It really is the glass is half full or half empty. You can rejoice in 50% relief or be disapointed by 50% failure. That's entirely up to you.. You just had a couple nerves destroyed and your looking to feel normal? Having nerves destroyed isn't normal so it sounds like your kind of setting yourself up to be dissapointed.

As far as no longer feeling natural highs, I haven't found that to be true at all. In fact the only time pain is completely out of my head is when I'm deeply enjoying something and distracted by what I.m doing. We are all adults, we all know sex produces endorphins and thats what I'm talking about. As far as excercising, You just have to find the best way to do it for you. I have similar impact problems having 3 failed fusions from L1 to S1. I was able to find something that removed the impact but still allowed me to excercise. It's an inexpensive Gazelle Tony little does infomercials about this thing. You can buy them at sams , walmart, any Big store for about 69 bucks for the basic version. It's more of a cross country sking type motion but it's great cardio. I also don't hang on to the hand rails , instead I use light dumbells and do hundreds of curls, , tricep extensions,etc etc and this forces me to keep my core tight in order to keep from falling off the thing which has huge benefits for bad backs. I do get the runners high or pain relief when I do that. Sometimes I hurt so bad nothing gives me relief so I simply excercise, seems like it can't get worse so why not and within 7 minutes, Im dripping with sweat and can think about something other than pain. So even after 11 years on opiates, 8 years with an implanted morphine pump, I still feeel the good stuff in life. We went to mexico a couple summers ago for our 20th ranniversarry and aside from the brutal airplane, airport, stuck sitting for hours part, I had an amazing time just relaxing in the caribean. I do the same at the beach loally. Nothing like the sun and fresh air to make you feel better.

It does become really easy to only focus on the bad, what we can't do, what we have lost, But if we do that we are liable to loose the other things that are important like spouses or partners that would stick around if we weren't doing our best to drive them away in our misery. So you really have to make a conscious decision to make the most out of every day, appreciate the small things and find alternatives to what used to be your favorite pass times .

I'm disabled but still work part time just to get out of the house. The benefit of that alone is too much to get into. The absolute worst times on my CP experience was when I didn't have hope, didn't think things could still be good and was stuck at home pretty much home bound and bed wridden prior to the pump implant. Now I feel very fortunate for all the things I still have, My beautiful wife that really understands the relief intamacy can bring, my family, my friends at work and just being able to excercise once I got the pain under control to the point I could really start doing my part. Excercise, loose weight. Find a counselor or address it if you having problems with depression or coping. The flat affect your talking about where you don't feel joy, can be caused by high dose or the wrong med combos, but it's also a major symptom of depression. Fortunately anti depressants have an effect on pain so you may benefit in multiple ways from the right cocktail of pain meds and anti depressants not to mention counseling. Forums are great for ventin and sharing info. But they don't really make you confront your own problems. Like how much of the suffering is from the physical pain Versus what you feel is unfair and other things that make you miserable. Basically one on one couselors will call you out on any pity parties and make you face what you can change simply by changng your point of veiw.

I totally get it. It used to make me angry when people would tell me at least you can still walk. I mean really, can't you see what condition I'm in. But I do get it now. Being stuck in a wheel chair would be much worse.Not being able to get out the house a couple days a week would be much worse even though I pay dearly the 2 days after I work. But the interaction with other adults is what keeps me sane. Good luck and I'll get if your still in the angry stage, Any life changing health event has stages just like grieving. I hope some day you can look back and say you know that guy was right about a couple things.
Take care, Dave

Old 07-05-2011, 07:11 PM   #3
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Re: Do your pain meds affect your ability to feel a "natural high"?

Thanks so much Dave for your thoughtful reply to my post. After days of no one responding I was worried that I had offended the PM community w/the topic or something. I think that you are correct about how the pain itself can impact mood. I notice that even when I feel good pain-wise, it's hard to allow myself permission to feel good emotionally b/c my hopes will soon be dashed by another bad pain episode. My mom even said on one occasion when I told her that I was feeling better, "well I've heard this before". So my entire family knows that things, when they are good, tend not to stay that way. I do work full-time (which is a miracle) and have been determined not to give up my job and my income. I have a Ph.D. in my field of study. I went to school for 9 years to get it. I'll be danged if I'm giving it all up. But, I've given almost everything else up and this affects me pretty profoundly. I am trying to slowly put other things back into my life as I can manage them. And I also do not look disabled. People have no idea of my pain level by just looking at me and I feel so very alone with it. Thanks again for your advice and kinds words. Much appreciated.

P.S. I'm going to Maui in one week! A 12-hour plane flight from DC. I have researched it. Medical evidence suggests that it will not kill me.

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