Friday, October 5, 2007

Peripheral vs Central Nerve pain

Peripheral pain is a bummer. It's the pain you experience with arthritis, diabetes, nerve impingement in your joints. It can be never-ending and totally debilitating. I'm not taking anything away from it as I write this.

But I want to record the difference between peripheral nerve pain and pain that eminates from the spinal cord: central nerve pain. As you've heard me say before, I don't really have the words for it, but my lack of vocabulary doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

EMGs and SSEPs (nerve conduction studies) test for peripheral neuropathy. I had these tests done this summer. Tiny electrodes are placed upon your skin ... or through your skin to test muscle reactions and how fast the impulses given the nerves travel to the brain. They hurt. The electrodes do. And they surprise you when they happen.

I had read in my support group about how bad EMGs were going to be. I was prepared for something really bad. The jolts of whatever charge they use make your muscles quiver or spasm.

But the odd thing was, even though I bled all over the paper sheet covering the table in the neurologist's examination room (she'd previously assured me there would be no bleeding), the pain was just not that bad. It was completely bearable. It was felt like stings or burns, needle pokes or little shocks like touching an electric fence. I told the doctor that none of it really bothered me too much. I believe that was because I had central nerve pain with which to compare the two sensations.

My situation is not as bad as many sufferers I've read about, but truthfully, I experience central pain every day, so those little jolts of electricity or needle stabs were not about to bother me much.

I only thought to record this tonight because, as I was sitting tonight watching TV, I got a sudden, lancinating pain in my right, smallest toes. It straightened my leg out and I felt that direct access to the brain. As if I were having dental work done and the dentist hit a nerve in my toes. It only lasted four seconds, and I can breeze through them now because I know they only last a very short time. But the experience reminded me of the difference between that intense sensation and the EMGs/SSEPs testing.

Yes, those lancinating pains are perhaps just like the dentist hitting a nerve in one of your teeth and we ALL know what that feels like.

But for me, the lancinators are not the worst thing I deal with. The worst thing is the long, deep, black tunnel that my brain can start down, which is always connected with sleep. Going to sleep or coming out of it.

Maybe because I walked across the road to take a picture today, maybe that was the reason I had painful sleep this afternoon. Prior to falling asleep, again I had the heavy, painful feeling that my neck could not hold up my head.

I laid down and had, once again, the sensation that something is wrong with my breathing. Not my lungs though. I can fill them deeply and fine. But perhaps my diaphragm? I can't find any peers who also have these sensations. It is a scary thing, but I fell right to sleep anyway.

And I woke up in that painful, black, brain place. The good thing was that I was lying flat. I forced myself up from bed (it had only been a 45 minute nap) and started supper and that really helped to clear things up. I wish I had better words to describe these events. It is my lack, not our vocabulary's.


Zoe said...

~Many a hug for you tonight~
I've been wading about on your blogsite and realize each time I come how very much we have in common- I can so deeply appreciate the frustration you're expressing here of not quite having the right words to explain what you knoW- is real- and not imagined!!! ARRRGH!

How many! times! I have been there!
And in fact, I may be able to somewhat relate to the long dark tunnel between here and sleep-

The way I describe my experience is that of feeling like I'm drowning. (I think mine is directly related to having POTS and the cranio-cervical instability.)
But whatever it is and wherever it comes from, no doubt we'll both be forever grateful when it's over-

I'm glad to hear your surgeries are planned and will keep you close in my heart and prayers. Rest well my friend~ and God Bless You!

Zoe said...

ps! I forgot to ask- have you tried using the Aspen collar at night? Mine helps me some-

Scott said...

I'm sorry. That sounds so bad.

Anonymous said...

i slept in my aspen for seven months... do you have a "neck pillow"? a tempurpedic pillow with the big bump at the bottom of it. i cant sleep w/o mine and when i have to it is never good.

By His Grace said...

I sure do need to give that a try, I really did try a few times but didn't think I was having any problems on that night and wasn't getting any benefit from the collar. I'll let you know how it works! Thanks everyone!

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