The January 2018 storms arrived a few weeks into my recovery from spine surgery. The changes in barometric pressure and the cold knocked me off my still unsteady feet. I no longer felt the surgical incision, the arthritis in my spine, and the neuropathic pain from nerve compression and damage as separate from the arthritis in my sacroiliac joint, hip, shoulders, wrists, and fingers. My entire body was painfully inflamed.
I did not want opioids or corticosteroids, so while waiting for the weather to change, I climbed under my favorite quilt, drank my turmeric and ginger tea, and read social media posts. Scrolling through Facebook, I saw an NPR story about the decision Theodore Price and his colleagues made to release a topical treatment for pain before clinical trials – Breakthrough Pain Treatment Or Snake Oil? You Decide.
I had used a number of the mind- body techniques that are in my repertoire. These techniques helped to keep my anxiety levels from going through the roof. They also helped me to stave off the slide into the pits of despair and the boughs of despond. They did not make a dent in the pain.
Neither did the array of topical pain medications in my possession. I have prescription patches, both lidocaine and diclofenac. I have prescription and OTC gels and creams. They are largely ineffective and sometimes down right irritating. I also have my own blends of carrier and essential oils. These at the very least leave my skin soft and smell pleasant.
I decided to visit Ted’s Brain Science website for an introduction to the science behind the product. I do know my “way around a methodology or two” and I have spent 40 years immersed in the prose of academic science, so I read Ted’s their published research.
I am familiar with the idea that nerves can become hyperexcited and continue to transmit pain signals long after the initial injury has healed. This can be called “false pain.” In other words I was fascinated by the research and could not resist trying Ted’s Pain Cream. As usual, I wanted the product as soon as possible and ordered it through Amazon Prime.
I have chronic muscle and joint pain for which I am prescribed and an oral NSAID. I have also used various topical creams and gels. I was very interested in comparing the effect of Ted’s Pain Cream.
After several days of use, the cream produced using Ted’s Brain Science appears to have dialed down the “false pain” that I was experiencing in muscles and joints. The pain from damaged tissues is carried to the brain along healthy nerves. False pain occurs when these otherwise healthy nerves become hyperexcited. As advertised, Ted’s Pain Cream appears to do something much more exciting than mask chronic muscle and joint pain. This is exciting news because when it is effective, you no longer need to use it.
I am familiar with idea of oversensitive and hyperexcited nerves because in addition to pain from damaged tissues, I also have neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is coming from injured or damaged nerves. This distinction is not important to most people because they have no experience with the neuropathic pain that comes from damaged nerves. A recent report estimates that only 10% of the US population does.
To the one in ten members of the population experiencing neuropathic pain, the distinction is very important. The treatment approaches that reduce the pain carried to the brain from damaged tissues along healthy nerves are not effective in treating the pain of damaged nerves.
Trying to ignore severe neuropathic pain is like trying to ignore multiple smoke alarms. I confess that I have shut off a smoke alarm by disconnecting the battery. I have spent decades looking for an approach that has the same effect on neuropathic pain.
Prescription medications have not provided a solution. Those of us with neuropathic pain that is severe enough to require treatment are prescribed drugs that were developed to treat epilepsy and antidepressants.
I have adverse reactions to antidepressants and therefore do not take them (though reading this literature has me designing a new experiment).
I do take the gabapentin that I am prescribed. Just before my recent surgery, I titrated up to 1800 mg per day. The Cochrane Review rates the quality of evidence that supports the efficacy of gabapentin in reducing the neuropathic pain some people experience when they have diabetes or after shingles as moderate.
Over half of those treated with gabapentin will not have worthwhile pain relief but may experience adverse events. http://www.cochrane.org/CD007938/SYMPT_gabapentin-chronic-neuropathic-pain-adults
I do experience several troubling side effects from gabapentin. These side effects leave me on the horns of a dilemma. I cannot assess with confidence the level of pain relief that gabapentin provides me. In order to do that, I would have to stop taking it and start again. I am unlikely to do that. I am not the least bit ashamed that the thought of my neuropathic pain increasing because I stopped gabapentin is too frightening.
My injured nerves are in the lumborsacral plexus. The pain that I experience from these nerves is not the “darkside” of neuroplasticity and memory. The pain is not the result of a memory of an injury that has now healed. The nerves are under constant pressure from the arthritis in my spine. The sciatic nerve is chronically compressed by the dysfunction in my sacroiliac joint. Sciactica is a form of nerve injury with which many people are familiar. For some it happens only once. For others it comes and comes and goes. For me it is constant. I often find it difficult to differentiate the pain from the joints and the pain from the nerves.
The nerves that are damaged radiate severe pain into the buttock, hip, leg, and foot on the right side of my body. The pain in my buttock makes sitting difficult. In addition to pain, the damaged nerves cause numbness and muscle weakness in my leg and foot. This makes it difficult to walk and limits driving.
Damaged nerves also cause the sensation of pins and needles as well as burning. The bottom of my right foot often feels as though it is aflame. I definitely empathize with those who have peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes. I can stand without assistance for only a few minutes.
In order to reduce the compression on these spinal nerves, I have been receiving epidural steroid injections for the past nine years. I have also had two decompression surgeries. I believe that some of these nerves are now so damaged that taking pressure off them does not silence their song of distress. The hyperexcitability of these damaged nerves is exponentiated.
Ted and his colleagues do not advertise Ted’s Pain Cream for the treatment of neuropathic pain. They do not claim that it can soften the pain from damaged nerves which are inherently hyperexcited. If this cream does reduce the volume of my nerve pain, “I will be over the moon.”
As advertised, Ted’s Pain Cream appears to dial down the volume of pain signals carried along hyperactive, but otherwise healthy, nerves from injured muscles and joints.
I will keep working on my diet. Reducing inflamation will reduce my pain.