Sunday, January 11, 2009

neck update & what I'm lovin'

Here is a photo, taken this morning, of the scar on the back of my neck...

Thought I'd share one with you since I haven't taken a photo in a quite a while. I think this is pretty much what it's going to look like from now on. You can't really tell from the photo, but the scar is indented, quite a bit. The scar isn't sensitive, I mean, I can kinda feel it when someone touches it, but not really. Toward the top of the scar, like in the middle of my neck, when I touch it, it feels like skin on top of bone with nothing else between. It feels strange. I can't really tell if I'm feeling the scar tissue or just the bone... I'm pretty sure there is no feeling left in that scar tissue area. Bottom line, it feels strange.

I've been going to physical therapy, and it has dramatically helped with my vertigo. The problem is that when my neck begins to hurt, which is like all the time, my muscles tense up and that makes the vertigo act up. PT has shown me exercises to relax those neck and shoulder muscles and how to build up the strength in them.

Then one day at PT, when I was very, very tense, big knots in my neck and shoulders, they put a tens unit on me.

Oh. My. Heck.

I fell in love. That felt so very, very good. And the good feeling stayed with me for hours afterwards. It really, truly helped. I could not wait for my next PT session, and getting the tens unit at the end of the session was worth all the pain of the exercises.

Then one day I said, "I want one!" I was joking. I don't know why I was joking, because yes, I could get one, and the PT said I was an excellent candidate for it. So this is what I'm lovin' Big Time...

I select "shoulder" and crank that puppy up to 6.0 or more, depending on the day, and it's heaven. Heaven, I tell ya.

If you followed the Wiki link above, you know now that tens stands for "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator," and I had to look up transcutaneous... an adjective meaning by way of or through the skin. The Wiki article also mentioned some history on this type of pain treatment, which I found very interesting...

Meet Scribonius Largus, a Greek physician who lived about 47 AD...

Word is this guy reported to all his pals that pain could be relieved by standing on an electrical fish at the seashore.

I even found this New York Times article from November 2006, "It May Come as a Shock," by Amanda Schaffer that discusses Scribonius Largus and tens units. Interesting reading. For me, anyway, since I'm using one. And in love with it.

I tried to find information on using a tens unit in conjunction with my neck situation, i.e., rods and screws. The physical therapist I see told me to keep the electrodes away from my neck where the metal exists. I know she explained to me why, but I can't remember. And I couldn't find any good information on it via a 'net search. I'll see the PT again in a month or so, as a follow-up, and will get the scoop then. Meantime, I'm following her advice, and the tens unit is helping me so very much. I am hoping to be completely off Vicodin soon. I still take a half of a 7.5mg tablet each morning... mornings are still the worst time for me, with my neck being stiff and sore from the night's duration. I also sometimes take another half tablet late afternoon, depending on the day. Usually if I'm in the office working, I need the afternoon dose.

The only problem with the tens unit is that I cannot place the 4 electrodes onto my shoulders myself, not where I want them. I can put them on the top of my shoulders, but the twisting and turning wrenches my neck a bit, and it's not the ideal location for the electrodes anyway. The other morning when I went into the office, I had my daughter put the electrodes on me, and then I wore them all day. I have to admit, they were driving me a little bit crazy after a few hours. But it was worth it. Anyway, last week is not a good example, because I was so sick with the flu bug I had, that pretty much everything was driving me crazy. Yuck. (By crazy, I mean barfing.)

While I've been playing on the computer & typing up this post, and drinking coffee, Kev's been drinking coffee, too, and also watching DVD's of the 6th season of "The Sopranos." He called me over to watch a bit from one episode... Tony was in the hospital, just had surgery. A woman comes into his hospital room. Turns out, she's a representative from his insurance carrier. She is evaluating his situation because she wants him to get released, you know, to stop the bills. He, of course, argues with her. She tells him he’s lucky, & that if the guys in the ambulance hadn’t done a “wallet biopsy” and found his insurance card they would have dropped him off at some other hospital, a crappy one for people without insurance.

Wallet biopsy. That was a great line, eh.

Anyway, he told her to leave, but I don’t want to repeat what he called her... if you’ve watched the show, you can guess... it wasn't very polite. But Kev and I both cracked up and felt one of those fist in the air moments. You tell her, Tony! She deserved it.

I'm still waiting to hear if my insurance is going to cover the cost of the tens unit I have. If they refuse, of course I'll argue with them, and having a pretty famous neurosurgeon (who I'm sure will support me), my family doctor and a well-respected physical therapist all recommend I own one, they'd better agree. Because this wonderful little unit is very expensive... but worth it.


  1. Great the tens unit is helping you. You may also want to consider using interferential for what is called "carryover pain relief". A tens unit sends out ( turns off and on ) 150 times per second whereas interferential does it 8,000+ times per second.

    Difference is when you turn off the interferential you may go days, weeks without needing another treatment.

    Also the purpose of the higher frequencies is to reduce resistance, the skin is a resistor, to allow better penetration. In your case with that large amount of scar tissue that would be a much bigger benefit.

    Just a suggestion.

    Glad things working good for you.


  2. Thanks for the info, Bob. I'm doing so well with the tens unit now, that I plan to stay with that and hope to eventually not even need it. And though using interferential sounds intriguing, I’m so broke now from 2008 that I can’t afford to contemplate getting one... coz I know I cannot afford it. *sigh*
    I'm looking forward to perusing your web sites/blogs! They look interesting.

  3. Thanks Julie and that is great. You might sometime try using the tens unit with a moist hot pack for prolonged relief. The moist heat draws more fluid/blood to the painful area which is a good conductor of electricity. As a result you should get better tens relief and coupled with the heat a longer carryover period. This is wonderful and ever can help then please don't hesitate to call.

    Hang tough!!