RSD – Suffer NO More

Pat Patrola

Pat Patrola

Reactive Sympathetic Nerve Disorder (RSD) can be a debilitating disease. If you or someone you know has suffered with RSD, you know this fact all too well. However, there is hope and that hope lies within each of us who have the misfortune of encountering this disease.

As is often the case, I was diagnosed with RSD after an injury. Mine started after a break to my left wrist. Never having experienced a broken bone before I was at first merely irritated that my wrist had become so sensitive to anything that touched it. I remember cursing when the sleeve of my sweater would fall down and touch my wrist and I would grit my teeth, curse and pull the sleeve up off of my wrist, all in one fell swoop. Unaware of RSD at the time, I just coped and couldn’t wait for it to heal and get better.

Finally I got my cast off and began the usual physical therapy to rebuild lost muscle mass and strengthen my hand and wrist. Whenever the therapist would touch my wrist, I would quietly wince and try my best to bear the pain. I have always been one to hide my pain, as I don’t like the sympathetic looks and responses of others, who in my estimation, know nothing about what I am feeling. Again, as I said, I thought my pain was ‘normal’ and that to acknowledge it was just childish and a moot point.

This went on for quite some time, until one day one of the therapists was working on fitting me for a custom wrist brace. I am a small person, with very small wrists, so it was difficult for her to fit me with a standard brace. The caring person that she was, she noticed my wincing and started asking me if different movements bothered me. After exploring what did and did not hurt, she realized that I was likely suffering from RSD.

I asked her to explain what RSD was and what the cure for it might be. She told me that the prognosis was very dim as few people ever really resolved the problem, but instead just learned to live with it and manage it with pain meds. Well, she quickly realized that I wasn’t accepting that as an option and then told me that some people got so bad that they scrubbed floors to get rid of it. I gave her an odd look, I’m sure, as I didn’t quite understand what that meant and so I asked her what I should next to confirm whether or not I did indeed have RSD. I was sure that she was wrong anyway and just wanted to hear someone else’s opinion.

She set up an appointment for me to visit an orthopedic surgeon to have my wrist further examined. He examined my hand and wrist for edema, noted my responses to movements, handling, etc. and took x-rays. When he viewed the x-ray, he was alarmed at the amount of bone loss around my break. His exam confirmed that I was indeed suffering from RSD and so off to the pain management clinic I was sent.

As anyone who has gone through that experience can attest, there is a whole arsenal of pain meds, nerve blocks, therapeutic exercises and more out there and I was quickly put on several severely addictive drugs. Although they somewhat curbed the pain, they certainly didn’t remove it and I knew that this could only be a temporary fix, as your body can only handle these types of drugs for a short period of time. I also knew that the drugs could easily become addictive and additionally I wasn’t really interested in a quick ‘fix’ for the pain – I wanted to eliminate it once and for all!

I was also prescribed a tens unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) for pain relief. This also did very little for me and I was vehemently against getting a nerve block. Thus, out of medical options that I would consider, I started thinking about the problem.

As it was explained to me, sometimes after trauma to an area of your body, the sympathetic nervous system takes control. The sympathetic nervous system, when functioning normally is your body’s way of keeping you from doing things that might cause further trauma to the injury; by giving you pain sensations whenever the area is stressed. However, in some people, sometimes, for unknown reasons, the sympathetic nervous system stays on guard after all danger is gone. It then begins reacting to any stimulus as a threat; thus, giving you pain signals at even the lightest touch.

During my days of contemplating all of this I suddenly remembered what my therapist had said about scrubbing floors and it hit home. All at once, in what seemed like a flash I intuitively understood what I had to do. I grabbed my scrub brush and pail and decided that the bathroom floor was a good place to start.

I scrubbed that floor countless times over the next several weeks! And as I did I found that I could use my wrist more and more. BUT and this is a very BIG BUT (pun intended) – I wasn’t just scrubbing the floor. I was using what I now know as brain entrainment. As I worked, it hurt like hell, so I was talking to my nerves and telling them that they had better get used to me scrubbing the floor, because I intended to keep on scrubbing and doing everything I’d ever done before, regardless of what they (my nerves) thought!

Another key point is to never give-in to what your nerves are telling you! When it hurts, you KEEP going and you KEEP talking (cursing, whatever) BUT, you must KEEP going as if your life depended on it – because it does! When you reach the point where you are absolutely certain that you cannot continue – keep going for at LEAST another 5 minutes, more if you can force yourself to continue. You must be firm in your stand against the sympathetic nerves and be sure that they KNOW that you are making the decisions from here on out – NOT THEM!

At some point, my overly sensitive nerves finally got the point and gave up on aggravating me. It has been years now and I use my wrist and hand pain-free ALL day – EVERY day.

I suspect that the task that will help others suffering from RSD will be different depending on where the nerves are acting up. If it is a leg, then find a task (perhaps bike riding or deep massage) that might aggravate the nerves. If it is an elbow, consider doing wall push-ups. Whatever the case, please don’t just accept the medical ‘verdict’ of living a pain filled life – it is your life – take charge of it now.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before doing any of the above exercises, please be sure that you are indeed dealing with RSD and that there is no other underlying problem causing your pain. This exercise is intended only to eliminate the unnecessary pain caused by RSD.

Stop managing symptoms–take control of your RSD!

Pat, an accomplished writer, believes in encouraging people to success by respect, accolades & treating others as she would like to be treated.

The information provided in this article is from the author’s own personal experience. This article is not intended to be used for the purposes of diagnosing, curing or healing RSD or any other ailment. This article is also not intended to take the place of any medical doctor’s advice or treatment. The author is not a medical professional of any kind and does not dispense medical advice; nor does she prescribe or recommend the use of any technique as a form of treatment, either directly or indirectly, for any medical problems without the advice of a physician. The intention in providing the information included in this article is to offer information of a general nature to help you in working with your own licensed doctor/medical practitioner in your quest for health. In the event that you use any of the information in this article, which is your constitutional right, you are solely responsible for the outcome. The author however assumes no responsibility for your actions and/or any consequences thereof.

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