Generational pandemic losses

By: Ellen Lenox Smith

As we attempt to stay safe, we also are hoping to see the light at the end of this long tunnel with hopes of returning to some form of normalcy. My husband and I are in our 70s and have faced issues that the younger generation has not and vice versa. We are clearly all dealing with many similar issues – working to keep hands clean, wearing masks, social distancing, and losing activities and connections to people we have enjoyed in our lives. But let’s take a moment to understand just a few of the differences one is experiencing depending on their age.

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In August, we hosted a question and answer session about telehealth and accessing pain care during the COVID-19 pandemic with Jeffrey Fudin, PharmD, DAIPM, FCCP, FASHP, FFSMB, a pharmacist who specializes in pain care. Below, we recap some of his answers — and share his responses to a few questions we didn’t get to.

Q: What equipment do I need to do a telehealth visit and will it work with Wi-Fi?

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My silent wait

By: Ellen Lenox Smith

During this pandemic, many of you are experiencing what those of us have had to learn to live with a chronic condition. You are wearing masks, washing hands frequently, isolated from many, avoiding stores, crowds, and learning to live an altered life until this pandemic lifts. And when that happens, you will get to go back to a version of the life you knew. And I and others in circumstances like me will get to return to the help we need to live a better quality of life that has been put on hold.

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Can my medication be refilled virtually? How do I know if my insurance covers telehealth? Is my privacy protected when I connect with my doctor online?

On Monday, Aug. 24, at 1 pm ET, pain expert Jeffrey Fudin, PharmD, DAIPM, FCCP, FASHP, FFSMB, will be answering your questions about how to access pain care via telehealth.

To submit a question in advance of the webinar, please email emily@uspainfoundation.org.

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By: Stu Smith

Over the past few months, the American public has been provided a great deal of scientific and medical information relative to COVID-19. We have learned from the nation’s best scientific minds that for the overwhelming majority of the general population, this disease presents a minimal threat to health and well being. The vast majority of healthy individuals, when infected with COVID-19, appear to experience physical symptoms, not unlike mild flu or a common cold. On the other hand, this virus can produce painful and debilitating symptoms when contracted by the elderly or those with underlying conditions. In fact, this virus has proven lethal for many in these vulnerable categories. Clearly, those suffering from chronic medical conditions, or disabilities find themselves at great risk, should they become infected. As the risk to patients requiring caregiver support escalates, the burden placed upon them has increased exponentially.

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by Gwenn Herman, LCSW, DCSW

Many patients are trying out telemedicine for the first time as a result of COVID-19. But figuring out the technology can be overwhelming, and you may find it difficult to get your concerns and needs across in a remote setting.

Below, I’ve outlined some tips for how to get the most of your virtual appointment.

  • Before you have your appointment, take the time to write out your questions and concerns.
  • If possible, don’t attend the telemedicine session alone. It is helpful to have someone with you. Sometimes it is hard to remember everything that is said to you when you are in pain and nervous about a visit.
  • If a caregiver will be on the call with you, share your list of questions with them. Have them write down the doctor’s instructions. They can also be an advocate for you. Remember to introduce your caregiver to the doctor.
  • Situate your webcam where you feel comfortable, for example, lying on a mat on the floor, propped up in bed wearing your street clothes, sitting in a chair with pillows, leaning against a wall. If needed, have a glass of water or tea with you. It is an important opportunity for the doctor to see how you acclimate in everyday life and not in an office setting.
  • Secure a private place for the appointment whether you are in your home, office, or car. It is important not to have distractions or background noise. Ensure that there is adequate lighting, so the doctor has a clear view of your face. Have ready X-rays, MRIs, medical reports, a list of medications, herbs, oils, vitamins, supplements, medical cannabis, and reactions to them ready for your provider.
  • A medical appointment can be very intimidating when pain is invisible, especially if this is your first time using telemedicine. Remember, it is your body and you have a right to quality care.
  • It may also be the first time that your provider is performing a telemedicine appointment, so your provider may also feel uncomfortable or awkward. It is a new development and there is a certain amount of trial and error. Be patient with each other.
  • It may be helpful to role-play how you will speak to your provider. This might be necessary in helping you work on needed assertiveness skills.
  • If this is a first visit, feel free to ask the doctor about prior experience with your specific condition.
  • When you talk about your pain, give concrete examples of how pain impacts you, such as sleep issues, missed days at work, family life, cooking, cleaning, sexual intimacy, hobbies—what it feels like, what activity makes it worse, how long the pain lasts.
  • If your doctor orders tests, ask about the following: what the tests are, the actual procedures, recovery time, if a caretaker is needed to provide transportation, aftercare, how to contact your doctor in case of emergency, and follow-up.
  • If you are prescribed medication: ask what it does, write down how and when to take it, ask about possible side effects, find out what to do in the event of a bad reaction, ask how to contact the doctor.
  • You may request that copies of office visit records and medical results for your personal records be sent to your home.

I’ve also developed a handout that can help you organize your questions and concerns before and during your appointment. You can download it here.

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“Building Your Toolbox,” an interactive videoconference series, hosted its second event last night. The topic was “self-hypnosis,” with speaker Helen Hess, RN, NP, CHT, a certified hypnotist and hypnotherapist since 2005. A total 45 pain warriors attended the event, which is designed to be a more intimate version of a webinar, where people can directly interact with the speaker and fellow attendees.

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By: Ellen Lenox Smith

It is tough enough to be able to afford medical marijuana because it is not reimbursed by insurance. And now, we add the horror of this pandemic, leaving so many financially compromised. However you obtain your medication, you should do what you can to protect yourself and your health.

Here are some suggestions to consider for still obtaining medical marijuana and keeping yourself safe.

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Many people with chronic pain spend a lot of time at home. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, even more people are staying inside. But how do you make sure the way you are positioning your body to do everyday tasks — like typing on a computer — isn’t causing more pain?

Ergonomics — or how we position our body and equipment when doing everyday tasks — is an incredibly important factor in pain levels and overall health.

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By Melinda Sandor

Being stuck at home is new to many people. But I started sheltering in place in 2013 when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I spent three years on IV therapy, seven days a week, and walked only to the bathroom and back. The years after IV therapy were just as rough.

I required assistance with everything. The pain unbearable–going to the bathroom, taking a shower, walking down the stairs were so difficult. Mentally I struggled, too, trying to remember  to make appointments and phone calls I needed to. I couldn’t even handle putting my medicine in the case each week without mistakes. I felt so much guilt.  I thought my husband would leave me as soon as he could, or maybe he would have an affair. Why couldn’t I keep up with showering and fixing my hair? When was the last time I wore makeup?

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