July 11, 2013

Alaska Cruise Problem #1: Meds for Back Pain

I like the way travel disrupts my routine and often makes me learn more about myself. The Alaska trip brought two revelations. I'll discuss the first today and the second tomorrow.

Pain Pills for My Bad Back
Ever since fracturing a vertebra in my car accident two years ago, I've been more handicapped by lower back pain than by Parkinson's. I've tried a variety of pain pills and therapies ranging from acupuncture to reiki. I've discussed how NSAIDs -- aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve and Modil) -- are considered particularly dangerous for seniors.

The medical consensus: we're better off taking acetaminophen, like Tylenol . . . but cautiously. I tried CVS's "Arthritic Pain Relief," basically 650mg of acetaminophen. It didn't help much.

Before an earlier trip, I asked my internist for a prescription pain pill. I got Tramadol, which gave more relief. Later, when I tried to renew my prescription for Azilect (one of my Parkinson's meds), my CVS pharmacist raised a red flag; their database showed a danger for adverse drug interaction and I would need my neurologist's OK to proceed.

My internist didn't think there was real danger, but he prescribed Tylenol 3 as an alternative. I started experiencing some bizarre side effects and put the pills away.

As the Alaska cruise approached, I knew I'd want to walk more than usual. I figured I'd use some left-over Tramadol, since it had worked pretty well before, and my internist didn't think there was much danger of interaction with the Azilect.

A few days into this trip, I was feeling subpar. My stomach seemed off. My mood should have been better, since we were having a beautiful cruise. I thought the Tramadol might be the problem, so I stopped taking it. I felt even worse the next day and hoped I was only experiencing Tramadol "withdrawal." Sure enough, I soon felt much better.

What Happened in Skagway
That Tramadol withdrawal coincided with our stop at Skagway . . . the day I maniacally charged around town searching for a computer. I walked more that day than I had in months. And I was relatively pain free.

Nearly a month has now passed, and I haven't taken any pain meds. The back pain hasn't disappeared, but the discomfort is greatly reduced.

What happened? Six months ago, I started doing some core-muscle-strengthening exercises recommended by my terrific physical therapist. Right away, I sensed these exercises were going to help. (My brother had gone this route with great results.) I've been doing them faithfully ever since, and it's paid off. Here's a description of the two basic exercises.

What happened in Skagway made me realize I no longer need pain pills. It's time for me to get off my duff, stop feeling sorry for myself, and get out and walk more. My upcoming European trip will give me an opportunity to do just that.

Tomorrow, Cruise Problem #2.


Elaine Lozier said...

Thanks for the medicine info, I usually with cane can only take one ib per day at most and at nite, that is my problem, I am much overweight and not suppose to eat, but eating is critical even taking one advil or ib, reminded me to get my snacks upstairs!!!! I am going back and read all alaska since I really want to do this, we will see, I have the airplanes down, my husband goes to Math Conventions still, wheelchair and the econo plus are great. Thanks again elaine

James Douglas said...

Have you tried the chiropractics in Wasilla? I had some lower back pain in Wasilla and they hooked me up.

gleeson1929 said...

An update on Tramadol -- New research has shown that Tramadol is not as safe as first thought and the FDA has proposed putting in under the Controlled Substances Act. See http://bit.ly/1jxFWRV