What It’s Like: Injections for Chronic Pain (TRIGGER WARNING)

Since this topic involves needles, I thought it responsible of me to mention that images and discussion of these objects will be used repeatedly in this post. I personally know people with high level phobia of the buggers, if you’re the same, you may want to skip today’s entry.

Needles. Who likes them? Particularly when you get stabbed repeatedly at the back of the head?

Me.

When I start to lose mobility in my neck, my exercise performance is falling back, and I start to depend too much on pain relief (to the point of bed ridden), I yearn for them. This was my fourth time having them done, and I see this treatment regime as one invaluable to keeping me at baseline.

The concoction is that of two compounds: Cortisone and Botox.

Yep. Botox.

Botox is botulinum toxin, and what it does is causes the muscle to relax (not full out paralyze like you see in plastic surgery – given more spread out in lower doses). It’s only used after numerous attempts of rehabilitation of the muscle group, and shows plateaued recovery. Cortisone is used to relieve pain and inflammation in a specific area of your body, and can be used in joints (treating things such as arthritis).

The reason I have these injections is due to a car accident. I had a weak jaw muscle before the accident (my right jaw joint popped out); I was told so long as I don’t play any sort of sports that would cause a hit to the head, I’d be fine. Well, when you’re rear-ended by someone going 60 KM/h and are the second car of a four-car accident, that counts. I also lost the ability to lift my legs when lying down, and I had to walk with cane for many years.

After years of different treatment regimes (including braces to get my jaw back in place) and me doing things at home, I got the lower half back in order (still some issues, but nothing too intrusive). I still couldn’t move my neck or my mouth very well. Years later, I found out I was dealing with undiagnosed whiplash. This is when it was recommended to me to consider injections to help continue the healing process.

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Very pleased the year and a bit was over. It got my jaw back in place, but TMJD didn’t go away.

I receive Botox once a year with Cortisone (the most expensive treatment), and get Cortisone by itself every 3-4 months to keep inflammation at bay. Apparently you can build a good sort of tolerance with Botox in the muscular system so that less is required each visit. That’s really good, because the cost is insane. I’m hoping as I continue, the same will be for the Cortisone.

I started this treatment last year, and as I continue everything that I’m doing to improve my health, I won’t have to return as frequently. Everyone is different, but I can say with 110% certainty that if you don’t do preemptive care to strengthen your body, this very expensive bandage will continue longer than required. The physiotherapist doesn’t give you those exercises to do home for nothin’, yo!

Both are covered through MSI if received through NSHA, however, there is at least a year’s wait list. I was on this wait list, but my condition deteriorated to the point I had to go private. The rigmarole for insurance was a mess (thank coffee it was sorted), and it’s still very expensive to go private due to having to pay up front (I’m talking two-and-a-half month’s rent for some). This is due to Botox and the special training MD’s are required to get to be able to legally do these shots. To my understanding, Cortisone doesn’t make the muscle stop contracting inappropriately. This is what creates the inflammation; all it does is deflate inflammation. Botox does both in one go by not allowing the inflammation the first place.

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These worked out to be eight total injections.

Your first appointment is usually a consultation explaining where the pain, and a plan for what you need. You won’t have to do consult after that, you go in and get your needles.

After payment and paperwork is all cleared, they’ll take your blood pressure. The doctor will then ask you to sit in a comfortable position, sanitize the site, then inject a freezing agent. For me, this is at the base of my skull in the back of my neck. It feels like a light sting. The doctor will then inject slowly into different trigger points, last time being a total of eight times. Three in my head (around the muscles and a nerve that causes too much tension in my jaw), and five along the length of my shoulders (the trapezius). The Botox went along my shoulders and the Cortisone into my head. The most pain that I felt is when a muscle is knotted, and the needle hits that area.

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This chair was so uncomfortable. I had to switch to one that had me sitting up.

Everyone’s reaction to injections is different. For myself, I start to hear things more loudly with a tinny sound effect. I feel a bit woozy, and have a hard time keeping myself upright. I have to sit in the room until this passes, usually 20-30 minutes. The first few hours after the procedure, the back of my head feels so weird due to the freezing. Any light touches (even resting against the back of a chair) feels bad. When it’s a Botox day, I can’t put any pressure on the area for at least four hours (that means no lying down). I also can’t do much lifting because it’s as if I’ve lost all my strength.

I do get what’s called rebound flare for roughly 12 hours after the procedure. This is where my neck cannot turn at all, and I have tolerable pain. My shoulder muscles are visibly swollen. All I can take for this is Tylenol, but I tend to tough it out (I get terrible nose bleeds from Tylenol). All symptoms (other than dull ache and fatigue) are gone by the next day. I have full results within a week. I’m a bleeder, so I do notice some small scabs where I was injected, luckily no bruises (that’s also very common).

It’s now the third day after my appointment, and other than a bit of stiffness and a tiny bit of pain at the injection sites, it’s already showing results. This time next week, I’ll have the full benefit.

A day of flared pain for a huge gain.

 

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