Posts Tagged Pain management

Those Nortriptyline Blehs

Nortriptyline, according to Wikipedia,

is a second-generation tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) marketed as the hydrochloride salt under the trade names SensovalAventyl,PamelorNorpressAllegronNoritren and Nortrilen. It is used in the treatment of major depression and childhood nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting). In addition, it is sometimes used for chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndromechronic pain and migraine, and labile affect in some neurological conditions.

A few weeks ago I had a fall (when it comes to falling down, I’m a Viking) which exacerbated an old injury from another fall — bottom line, was in a considerable amount of pain, and what was worse I couldn’t sleep becuase of the pain. So after about a week of sleeplessness and overdosing on AC & C, I finally gave up and went to  my GP. She prescribed some wicked bad-ass anti-inflammatories, and she also suggested I try nortriptyline. Besides being a rather dated anti-depressant, nortriptyline has some pretty nifty pain-control properties as well as the ability of  inducing sweet, restful sleep.

And, I must report, it worked amazingly well for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been sleeping like the dead, the pain is far, far better now, and I can function normally — sort of. Aside from a dry mouth, I’ve had no physical side effects at all.

Take two of these, and your ability to snark will vanish

But there’s this: nortriptyline, as I mentioned, is an antidepressant and mood stabilizer, and I guess I would describe my mood over the last week or so as tranquil, sedate, calm, unstressed, cool, placid, and serene to the point of having to check my pulse for a heart rate. Part of this new found attitude of repose is being completely demotivated to do anything creative at all, including any writing. For the last two weeks I have opened up the blog utility, fooled around a little, and after a half-hour, said, “Meh,” and went back to playing Words with Friends.

It’s plainly obvious, at least for me, having some emotional friction and turbulence feeds the creative daemon. It prods me to write, and I would guess this is true for most people who think of themselves as creative. So an interesting question: at what point would you sacrifice creativity for pain control — or relief of any condition, especially if it’s central to who you are as a human being? And on a larger scale, if everyone is medicated (it seems) for everything, what is it doing to culture as a whole?

Fortunately for me, I’ve finished the nortriptyline. It was a temporary thing. We now, as they say, return to our regularly scheduled moodiness. But here’s the thing: when I was on the drug, not only was I completely uninterested in writing, I didn’t care whether I was writing or not. The fact I could throw over something which I’ve done daily (in one way or another, even if I have written a couple of lines) for nearly three years is remarkable.

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Asking for Drugs

In the Emergency Department, part of a nurse’s job in discharging patients is to figure out if they are good to go home, because in part it’s good nursing practice, but mostly you don’t want to have them bouncing back in a few hours because they didn’t understand something, or have a question. So you eyeball them, do some health teaching, review their prescriptions and follow-up, tell them when and if to come back —  and assess their pain. This past week I’ve had five patients — all male, incidentally — who needed scripts for stronger analgesia than what is sold over-the-counter. The doc had overlooked this aspect of their care of them were reluctant to ask for good analgesia directly from the physician. They didn’t want to be seen as being unable to handle the pain. They all ended up with scripts after I advocated for them.

A few days ago, I had a very minor, but enormously painful procedure performed for a notoriously uncomfortable condition in my local (but not my) ED. I got handed a script, and when I was leaving when I noticed the physician neglected to prescribe any analgesia. Percocets or even Tylenol 3 would have been appropriate.

I pondered, briefly, whether I should ask for painkillers. I decided no. I was embarrassed to ask. I didn’t want to be labelled as drug-seeking. The sequel is now I am taking far too many 222s (ASA, codeine and caffeine) and Tylenol 1 than is really good for me (both of which can be gotten over-the-counter in Canada) and also Advil than is really good for me, and I still don’t have good pain control. Though I am feeling pretty spinny from all the caffeine in the 222s and T1s.

Barrier to care, anyone?

Sad to say, nurses and physicians in the Emergency Department still tend to manage pain like every patient is drug-seeking, or will become addicted or else is exaggerating their pain to so they get the “good stuff”; we eschew measurements like self-reported pain scales, instead relying on our highly subjective and unreliable judgment about whether the patient is actually in pain or about the patient’s relative worth. (I have witnessed physicians withholding narcotics from drug-addicts with large bone fractures. Ha ha, take that, you addict! I have also seen orders for morphine 1-2mg q4h for sickle-cell crisis — which, to my mind, manages to be racist, bad practice and plain awful, all at the same time. ) We disbelieve reports of chronic pain. We laugh when a patient presents with back pain and is taking Lyrica. We believe deeply as a culture that suffering somehow ennobles, but in reality only thing suffering does is make people suffer.*

It strikes me that even after years decades of education about pain management, we still don’t really get it about pain control. If a crusty old emergency nurse like me worries about being labelled as DSI* for asking for ten Percs, do you think there might be something seriously wrong with our approach to pain management?

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*I have yet to meet the patient whom overwhelming pain has made into a better person.3.

**Drug-seeking individual.

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Some Days You Just Gotta Post Links

Sorry. No new content today. Just links. Sore brain.

  • Unions step up fight against pay freeze: “Women who care for the elderly in publicly funded nursing homes in Toronto make, on average, 2.5 per cent of the compensation paid to CEOs like Tim Lukenda at Extendicare,” Stewart said. “Mr. Lukenda made $1.5 million including bonuses last year. Is the CEO really worth 50 times more than the woman providing care?”
  • Some preemie babies ‘give up’ to blunt repeated pain: “Premature babies are repeatedly exposed to painful invasive procedures, yet only 36 per cent of premature babies in Canada get pain relief, according to Celeste Johnston, a McGill University nursing professor and expert in neonatal pain.”

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