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THE UP’S AND DOWN’S OF TAKING LOTS OF MEDICATION FOR PAIN…

I’m sure many of my readers like myself happily take pills if they help with the pain but of course none of them come without side effects and addiction.

Some easy mistakes you can make with your medications could actually be quite life threatening.

After reading an article about a man who died through taking too many paracetamol tablets, it made me really think about the amount of drugs I am currently taking.

Apparently he suffered from bad sciatica and was warned he was using too much paracetamol but as he thought the ones prescribed by his GP were too strong, he just carried on taking the paracetamol.

His brother said that he would have a drink every night with two paracetamol and then take another two later.

The post-mortem examination found a high level of paracetamol in the man’s blood and damage to his liver. The cause of death was liver failure due to paracetamol overdose.

Of course with paracetamol readily available from a number of shops, I’m sure a lot of people do not realise just how many they are allowed to take.

Many people take over the counter pain killers like paracetamol without even reading the dosage on the box. So instead of maybe taking one four times a day, they take double that. And at the same time they may also take the prescription drugs that they have been given by their GP.

Unless your GP has approved the over the counter pain killers then do not take them until you have either read all the instructions on the back or spoken to your GP.

BUPA wrote in their article about over the counter painkillers that if you have mild-to-moderate pain, start by taking a non-opiate painkiller (such as paracetamol) or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (such as ibuprofen). Take it regularly and up to the largest recommended amount. If that doesn’t work and you still have pain, try a weak opiate medicine such as codeine. If that doesn’t work, talk to your pharmacist or GP.

You can buy over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers in several different forms, including:

  • tablets, caplets (longer tablets that are rounded at each end that may be easier to swallow) or capsules that you swallow
  • a powder or tablet to dissolve in water
  • a liquid or syrup
  • suppositories – soft, shaped tablets that you put into your anus
  • gels or sprays that you rub into your skin
  • patches that you put on your skin

You can buy OTC painkillers from a pharmacy, supermarket or other shops without a prescription from your GP. You can only buy packs of 16 tablets of paracetamol from a shop or supermarket. If you buy paracetamol from a pharmacist, you can buy a pack of 32 tablets or capsules. Shops and pharmacies can’t sell you any more than a total of 100 tablets or capsules in one go. This is to help prevent people from overdosing or accidentally taking too many.

They also point out that any medicine can be dangerous if you take too much of it. If you take too much paracetamol, it can cause serious liver damage, which can be life-threatening. Sometimes, there are no symptoms until a day or so afterwards. Taking too many NSAIDs can make you feel or be sick or cause hearing problems such as tinnitus. Taking too much aspirin can cause you to hyperventilate (breathe abnormally quickly) as well as hearing problems, and you may sweat a lot.

It’s getting a balance with your pain killers that is important. I weaned myself off the opioids I was on and felt so much better for it but recently my pain has been so bad that I have needed the odd one. I was shocked at how different I felt while taking them and it certainly made me think twice before taking too many of them.

The NHS website points out that the type of medicines that you need to treat your pain depend on what type of pain you have. They say that for pain associated with inflammation, such as back pain or headaches, paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers work best.

If the pain is caused by sensitive or damaged nerves, as is the case with shingles or sciatica, it’s usually treated with tablets that change the way the central nervous system works.

The aim of taking medication is to improve your quality of life. All painkillers have potential side effects, so you need to weigh up the advantages of taking them against the disadvantages. The NHS website has a list of pain medications and the type of side effects you can experience with some of them.

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TEN WAYS TO STAY STRONG AND STAY WELL…

I have put together my take on ten ways to stay strong and stay well. I hope they work for you.

1. If you have been told to take things a bit easier or change your lifestyle because of your condition then embrace the change rather than thinking on the negative side of things. If your condition is life changing rather than life threatening then you can change things for yourself, just think positively. Look at how you can alter things to suit your needs then life will be simpler.

2. Join groups online or in person where you can chat and reach out to other people who have the same condition. Starting my blog back in 2007 was the start of my journey of acceptance that my back problem was here to stay and it wasn’t long before I had a few friends from around the world who were also suffering like me. Take advantage of the fact that you can meet and make friends with people within different cultures and languages. They become friends through the bad times and the good.

3. Get up and go. You must push yourself to make the effort to get up and go. Even during lockdown I would shower and pop a bit of lipstick and mascara on every day. It makes me feel human even if some days I do not leave the house. If I didn’t do it and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror I noticed how much worse I looked so it’s just a routine for me now. After a cuppa and taking my medications I shower dress and pop a bit of make up on and by the time I get downstairs I feel a completely different person.

4. Start a hobby. During lockdown I had a go at a number of new projects and hobbies. I learnt how to do cross stitch. I started doing adult paint by numbers. I made a sensory book for my granddaughter’s first birthday which took me ages but was so worth it. I have also written her a story book and have the next three lined up. I learnt how to make box cushion covers for my outside chairs. I became a dab hand at baking cakes using recipes where everything is put into one bowl then whisked up and popped into the oven, which saved me so much time and energy. I knitted a granny blanket for outside so I could sit out on our verandah even if it was a bit nippy. I made lots of handmade cards and numerous other projects. For me personally this is an escape route from my pain. My family want me to write a book on all I have made over the lockdowns (with instructions) as they are sure it would inspire others to take up a hobby. Do you think it’s worth writing it as you are the ones who I think would read it? Everything I made is done working around my conditions and pain. Everything I made was made the easiest way I could find to make it.

5. Help out at a charity either online or at the charity if you can. Did you know that studies have found that being a giver of something like your time can make you even happier than being the recipient of something. They say it is altruism which is doing something good for someone else which releases endorphins, in the same way as exercise does, as well as oxytocin, which is known as the ‘feel good hormone’. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a charity maybe helping in a library, or reading stories to school children. You would be surprised how much voluntary help is needed in the U.K. and the World. Even writing a letter to someone could make their day.

6. Walk, walk and walk. Walking is the most important thing you can do to keep healthy and fit. Buy yourself a fitness watch it will truly make your day when you see how many steps you have achieved. It definitely spurs me on when I am on a bad day to just take a short walk outside in the fresh air. I think we all know the benefits that walking can do for you but even more so in the outside where you can listen to birdsong and nature. We live in the country and its only a short walk onto one of many of the South Downs links but since the first lockdown I noticed a big change in the sound of nature outside. A great book to buy to help and inspire you with nature is The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021 by Lia Leendertz (Mitchell Beazley). It is a celebration of the coming year, I know we are nearly half way through but it is still beautiful. It features recipes, local customs, monthly gardening tips and what to watch out for in the skies and seas. It is beautifully written and illustrated and a perfect book for your coffee table. It is available on Amazon at the moment for only £6.64

7. Rest, rest and rest some more. If I did not rest every afternoon for a couple of hours the rest of my day would be very miserable. My body now knows I need that rest and I soon start to feel the need to lie down not long after my lunch. It does shorten my days but I feel so much better after it that I feel its worth my while. Most days I will sleep solid for about an hour but some days I just rest and read. I made my bedroom like a sanctuary so that I enjoy relaxing there. If I am having a really bad day then I use my Yoke Wellness Acupressure Mat on top of the bed or my heat pad. They all help with pain. If you can’t manage that time then why not try sitting in your chair with your feet up listening to a pod cast or songs. Just giving your body that short time to renew itself will make a big difference to your pain and how you feel.

8. Keep up with technology. I think this is quite essential for people in pain as it’s our route out of the discomfort we are feeling and without technology none of us would be here and reading this post today. There are lots and lots of free online courses, podcasts and downloads to keep you up to speed with what is going on in the cyber world. You might even find a home study course you have always wanted to do.

9. Create some time for yourself. If you are busy with a young family or trying to hold onto a job, or are home alone and suffering with a chronic condition it is essential that you create time just for you alone. I am lucky enough to have a husband that does lots for me but I still try to have a couple of hours of me time, usually over the weekend, for me to do things just for me. I try to create a type of spa treatment for myself and have a long soak rather than a shower and just treat my body to whatever it might need in nourishment. A lovely deep bath filled with the scent of lovely lavender or your own favourite oils and a few candles can immediately create its own atmosphere. Pop your head phones on, (but remember to leave the phone on the floor outside the bath) and lie and enjoy some lovely music. It will take you to another place for a while. Think sandy beaches, lovely sunshine, bird song and the noise of the sea and just relax and enjoy.

10. Finally writing, from writing a blog like this, writing letters to family, friends or a new pen friend, writing a book, writing a journal, writing a diary, making a note of your symptoms, writing a play, writing a poem, writing your life story or someone else’s life story or even a book from all your blog posts. Writing is easy, therapeutic and can be done almost anywhere and my life would be very miserable if I could not get onto my iPad or laptop and write. I struggle to write by hand as my hand shakes so I can only use a pen with a very thin nib to write with and it is not very neat but I can manage a key board with ease so this is how I do all my writing. People love receiving hand written letters so write that letter you have been meaning to write for years and start doing it regularly.