Let’s get physio.

Here’s a video showing a typical minute in the life of my calf muscles.

Yesterday I added to my Panini sticker book of health professionals by seeing a neurophysiotherapist for the first time. It was mainly about leg pain and my twitchy calves, but also about my general clumsiness, fatigue and my general state of affairs.

My fasciculating legs are a remnant, along with my doublevision, of my last BIG relapse in 2008. While other symptoms have fallen by the wayside or make occasional quick unannounced visits like an unwelcome relative (I’m talking about you, vertigo), my painful legs have been a problem for the last decade. I’m not saying the twitches are painful in themselves, but there’s a correlation: the more painful my legs are, the twitchier they’ll be.

I reckon seeing a physio is one of the best healthcare experiences you can have, as it’s pretty hands-on. It’s just nice to hold someone’s hand, even if they are jerking your arm around. I had my balance, my range of movement, my reflexes, and what sensations I was (or wasn’t) feeling assessed. Most importantly, I got to talk everything out, relaying everything I’ve been through from day one, to someone who genuinely listened.

It also helped me get my head round things. I’ve been using the word ‘pain’ as a box ticking exercise; it’s a convenient way to describe an unpleasant sensation, but it’s not pain in a conventional sense. If it was the pain of a headache, burn, tooth or even a bad back, I could rationalise it, no matter how intolerable – my pain threshold is pretty high (ask my dentist).

This is the pain of extreme discomfort; the pain of an itch you can’t scratch or the ache of an amputee’s phantom limb. At its worst, it’s torture.

I was asked to describe the way my legs feel, and after thinking for a while, I said they feel charged; they have an electricity about them. I’m pretty sure if I listened carefully enough I’d hear the crackle of static or the hum of an overhead power-line. If they wake me up in the night, the charge builds up over a period of about 20 or 30 seconds before discharging in a spasm. Only one leg at a time will be a problem. If I gently touch the sole of my foot or my calf muscle when they’re at their most sensitive, they’ll recoil in a hyper-reflexive instant.

Again, I thank my lucky stars for MS nurses because it’s only this year when I mentioned my legs in one of my nurse appointments that anyone has taken them seriously. Even my neurologist has dismissed them in the past as a twitch that everyone gets (really?) just like a twitching eyelid.

At least now I can take baclofen a couple of hours before I go to sleep and combine these with stretches and exercises to ease my way into the land of nod. I also have a series of follow up appointments with the physio to look forward to.

Post script:

After writing the above, a mildly arthritic big toe joint has decided to flare up. This is causing me no end of agony from the attached leg alone. When I saw the physio, it was after a fairly comfortable morning of working from home, so typically, I couldn’t demonstrate the worst case scenario. Today’s a different matter, it’s like my whole leg from the knee down is on fire. My reflexes are kicking in every time my foot touches something, making it pretty hard to walk. I’ve taken my baclofen early, and I’m taking ordinary painkillers for the toe, so fingers crossed I’ll get some sleep, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

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Dental mentalism

I went to the dentists yesterday.

I love the dentists.

I am seen by student dentists in their final year at university and because of this, I a) get free treatment and b) get some of the most careful attentive care possible. Everything is double-checked by a doctor from the university dental school and ninety-nine times out of a hundred they agree with the opinions of their students.

Over the last year and a bit, I have been seen by five student dentists, *ahem!* cutting their teeth in the real world (sorry). Apparently my gnashers are beautifully clean, and amazingly, it’s rare for them to treat someone with a full set of their own 32 adult teeth. I also like to think I’m a good patient, so we get along fine (I swap stories with the nurse regarding our children). Early on in their placements the students are understandably nervous, but soften up like ageing fillings after a number of visits.

I have been treated for hereditary gum disease over my course of treatment and this is finally starting to clear up. Except for one 10 millimetre pocket next to one of my back teeth. This means that there is a void where my gums and teeth don’t connect for a whole centimetre down into my jaw.

I will have to have this pocket and the surrounding teeth deep cleaned to give the gums a chance of re-attaching and healing up. I will also have to have three small fillings. Three appointments in all should cover it.

What’s this got to do with MS? I hear you ask.

Well, most people have a local anaesthetic for deep pocket cleaning. I will request to forego this. I’ll just grit my teeth (sorry, again) and bear the pain. I know I can do it, I have done it before, albeit down to about 6 millimetres.

The reason is this: I am fed up with numbness and weird sensations. I have plenty of that to deal with on a daily basis. Also, I have developed such a high pain threshold these days, that I am prepared to endure the few minutes of sensitive sharp cold bone and nerve pain of the dentist than have a morning of slack-mouthed numbness and tingling. I may even see if there is a chance of doing the same for the fillings, but we’ll wait and see on that.

I don’t think I am being particularly “hard” or macho or anything. I think the psychology of the dentist makes you expect the pain to be worse than it actually is, in the same way that a wasp sting is in no way comparable to the panic stricken flapping and shrieking people make when one of the little creatures enters their airspace.

Don’t get me wrong, it will hurt…

…I’ll just have to grin and bear it. 🙂