Monthly Archives: October 2013

Electro-Acupuncture!

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First a little background.

Pain continues to haunt me day and night and recently comes in three flavors:

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Neuropathic pain, which is persistent Central Nervous System (CNS) pain that is aggravated by many kinds of environmental stimulation, even strenuous rehab.¬† About 15% of spinal cord injury survivors suffer from severe neuropathic pain.¬† Unfortunately, I drew one of those wild cards.¬† As for what causes this, see …

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuropathic_pain

Allodynia is more of a peripheral pain syndrome but is linked closely with CNS damage.¬† For me, Allodynia results in my arms and hands being hypersensitive to touch and feeling all the time as glass is being ground into them and sometimes as if they were on fire.¬† As for what this is all about, see …

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allodynia

Finally, since my surgery in mid-May, I have suffered from acute post-surgical pain emanating from the surgical incision in my neck down my right shoulder and arm … feels like someone twisting a knife under my shoulder blade.¬† It’s often so bad I can’t sleep at all.

Post-surgery pain is obviously a known phenomenon, although no one here in Kunming seems to have any idea what to do about it.¬† That’s why my Dad is flying over to Amsterdam on November 5th to attend a major international research conference on post-surgical pain.¬† See … http://www.brainandpainnijmegen2013.nl/

Meanwhile, our latest pain initiative, acupuncture,¬† aims specifically to get a handle on the acute post-surgical neck pain.¬† For readers not too familiar with this ancient Chinese therapy, see …

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture

Day One

Eriko with me on Day One

Obviously acupuncture has a major following in China, but my acupuncture practitioner, Eriko, is actually a young Japanese woman who practices in Kunming.  She is herself the daughter of a veteran Japanese acupuncture expert, so Eriko literally grew up with the practice.

We started off with traditional needles but progressed quickly to a 21st century variation on traditional acupuncture, called electro-acupuncture.¬† Here’s a short piece on what this is all about …

http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/abc/electroacupuncture.php

Eriko’s feeling is that electro-acupuncture is often better suited to pain management.¬† In western culture, TENS units work on a similar principle and are in everyday use for pain management, using skin patches instead of needles to stimulate specific parts of the body.

Eriko has just gotten started with me (3 sessions to date) so I’ll have more to report on all this in coming days.¬† Meanwhile, here are a few more photos of Eriko in action with me.¬† I explain further details of what you’re seeing in future posts.

Eriko Setting Up  Pins + Needles  Eriko Focused

On a final note today, my titanium leg brace from Germany has just arrived after being stuck in China customs for no less than three weeks! I’m going to try it out tomorrow by standing with it and maybe even taking a few steps to see how the brace works.¬† I’ll take some photos tomorrow and keep you updated in the next week on rejoining the walking program.

News of the Week

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 Welcome Suzanne Edwards!

This week I’ve had news that Suzanne Edwards will arrive in Kunming from London at the end of October.¬† Suzanne will be the first SCI patient from England.¬† Here’s a recent London newspaper story about her lovely family:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2385412/Life-doesnt-end-dealt-catastrophic-blow-A-young-woman-tells-shes-adjusting-paralysis-life-wheelchair.html

I’m really looking forward to meeting Suzanne and her parents after corresponding with her for several months.¬† And Suzanne has a terrific blog that I hope my own readers will enjoy …

http://sorryaboutyourlegs.com/

As you can see, she has the kind of gung-ho attitude that should enable her to make the most of the SCI rehab program here in Kunming.

Suzanne also has a lower level injury than my own, and thus she is perhaps the ideal candidate for the Kunming walking program.   She wants to work very hard on her rehab, an attitude that will surely serve her well over here in China!

Acupuncture Begins

Apropos my chronic pain, we are presently waiting for the Kunming Medical School lab to receive the reagents needed to test my Lithium blood serum levels.  Then I can get cracking on the China SCI Lithium protocol.

China2011_Lithium_Trial

Meanwhile, in recent days I’ve gotten started with acupuncture treatments and will soon find out if I am what’s known as a “responder.”

Given how accustomed I have unfortunately become to continuous pain, it’s probably no surprise that the acupuncture needles don’t bother me much … in fact, hardly at all.

I will be using acupuncture to initially target the acute post-surgical neck pain that has surprisingly persisted for months and which is causing the acute radial pain in my neck that spirals down through my right arm. We hypothesize that is most likely a muscle pushing on a nerve. This is a really debiltating problem for me, so if I am a “responder” then we will continue acupuncture to work on the neuropathic pain issue in case the lithium does not work for me.

My thinking is to give acupuncture a fair chance, perhaps a couple of months. ¬†I’ll be working with accomplished practitioners from China and Japan, and I am also grateful to be working with an experienced American practitioner who lives presently in Kunming.

The Knee – Take 3

Since my last post, there have been further developments regarding my broken leg.  It turns out that both my femur and tibia were severely fractured here in June. Those are the two strong bones in the body!  To be more specific I had a distal femur fracture and a proximal tibial shaft fracture.

Femur FractureExamples of Femur Fractures

Tibial Fractures Examples of Tibial Fractures

Because the injury was not initially diagnosed or treated correctly, my leg has healed in a permanently deformed position, a condition known in the orthopedic world as Genu Recurvatum … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genu_recurvatum.

It is not yet clear how or even if this leg could be surgically repaired, because the ligaments have been so hyper-extended that they may not be able to return to their original size and shape.¬† Here’s what my broken leg looks like today:

Right Knee

Compare the normal left leg to my hyper-extended broken right leg.

So my parents have ordered a custom-designed titanium leg brace from Germany that is expected to arrive here in Kunming this coming week.  With the new leg brace, I hope to get standing safely again and may even, finally, be able to participate in the Kunming walking program.