The Power of a Few Pain Pills

Last updated: March 2021

Pain can disrupt normal life in a way that can be devastating. Pain can also just be an annoyance. Sometimes pain can make you cry and, sometimes, it can only elicit a fleeting thought.

Increased osteoarthritis pain

Increasingly over the past year and a half or so, pain has become such a nightly companion that I did my best to ignore and deny it. I didn’t want to think about the pain so I would climb into bed and try to hurry up and go to sleep.

But inevitably, the pain in my knees and legs would build up and erupt during the night that I might cry out in agony even before I consciously woke up. I know this because my husband would witness this cycle.

The source of my increased pain is osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees. Although I live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis — both conditions which can cause severe pain — it has been the OA that wakes me up at night lately.

Experiencing different types of pain

In the beginning with RA, I would wake up crying because the pain in my hands and arms was so extreme that I figuratively dreamed of cutting my arms off just to find relief.

Over the years with MS, spasticity in the legs has brought on tears when it’s tightened its grip so firmly that just touching the related muscles made me whimper.

With OA, I’ve experienced pain associated with standing still, pain that limited my ability to climb up or down the stairs, and pain that prompted me to sleep in a recliner for months on end before I sought help with an orthopedist.

Other than a steroid injection, my rheumatologist has not had much to offer regarding the knee pain until recently.

It’s the pain associated with legs that lock up at night in a straight position that effectively prevents the simple act of rolling over in bed. When this happens, I have to wake up enough to reach down to my knees to grab the back of them, or to grab the cloth of my PJs, to try to coerce the muscles, ligaments, and cartilage to allow the knee joint to bend. Only with bent knees can I change position enough to roll over and go back to sleep with newly readjusted pillows to keep me propped in a safe (reduced pain) position.

In need of some relief

In recent months, knee pain has invaded my life such that I emphasized its severity with my rheumatologist at our last visit. It was a virtual visit so she couldn’t poke and prod me. But, I told her more than once HOW VERY MUCH PAIN I had been experiencing. I even suggested that I would be interested in trying an oral pain medication just to find some relief.

She prescribed 14 days worth of opioid medication (28 tablets). The first night I took one tablet and I slept through the night for the first time since I could remember. Rest achieved during the second night felt equally as rewarding. The third night I tried only half a tablet and that worked well too.

With each night’s good sleep, I began to feel better during the daytime too. I was less tired. I was less cranky. My body didn’t jump to overreacting with any bit of painful stimuli. I began to feel more relaxed and at ease. My overall health — mental and physical — seemed to be improving each day.

My life was invaded by pain

Wow, I didn’t realize just how much pain had invaded my life, both waking and asleep. I had become like that proverbial frog in the pot with the slowly increasing hot water that doesn’t realize it’s being boiled alive. All it took was a few half-tablets of pain medication to allow me to turn down the temperature and safely get out of the pot.

Those original 28 tablets of pain medication lasted me two months and I’ve just recently requested a refill. Now that my nighttime pain is under control, I’m ready to see the orthopedist to discuss how we can reduce the daytime pain I experience.

For me, I needed a jump start on breaking the pain cycle. What have you discovered that has made a greater positive difference than you expected in your journey with RA, OA, or both? Has there been anything you can point to that has improved your overall well-being in a way that surprised you? Please share your story in the comments.

Be well,

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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