Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Distraction Pain

I want to give you an updated version on my thoughts about 'Distraction Pain'.

One of the things I had hoped I wouldn't suffer with going into this was distraction pain.  I had read lots of scary posts and articles about this mystical pain that no one really understands, from the point of view of why it happens to some people and not to others.

A quick idea of what 'Distraction Pain' is:

  • There are several reported cases of distraction pain post back surgery. In fact, disc surgery recovery is often marred by the intensity of this pain.
  • What exactly is distraction pain? Degenerative disc disease wears out your discs, thereby resulting in their collapse. The ADR surgery will jack up the disc space to its natural height. Thus, the insertion of an ADR implant into your spine results in disc height correction.
  • Post disk treatment, the muscles, tendons and ligaments and nerves in your back have to grow to accommodate the increased disc height. They stretch themselves to adjust to the new space. This stretching causes pain, which is known as distraction pain.

I had decided in my head that I probably wouldn't suffer with it. Stay with me my reasoning is pretty sound.  When I had read posts from people talking about their distraction I noticed one thing they all had in common.  They were all much fitter looking than me.  You know gym types, lean muscles, kept themselves fit, eat green smoothies and somehow despite the pain pre-operation, stay in shape.  Whereas me, well I think it's fair to say I am not in shape!  Not in any kind of shape square, circular or otherwise completely and utterly unfit, overweight and mostly my body doesn't know what muscles are.

So, in my head I thought well these fit people have these tight muscles, tendons and nerves etc that now have to stretch when they are already tight.  Where as me, mine are already loose and flabby so shouldn't cause me any problems.   Oh how wrong can a person be!!

We have had the privilege of befriending two lovely guys and their gals, who had a two level ADR and give or take a few days we are more or less in time with each other.  My operation was first so I have always been a couple of days ahead.


When the distraction pain hit me on Day 9 post op, it was honestly more painful than childbirth.  I have never experienced anything so unpleasant and all consuming.  I couldn't sit, I couldn't sleep, Lie down.....nothing, it was completely and utterly relentless in it's severity.  One of the worst things was just trying to stand still, something that became completely impossible.  We have a tiny lift here at the flat and to get down in it I had to walk round in circles just so I wasn't in tears by the time I reached the ground floor.

I watched my two friends at first with no leg pain.  Now don't get me wrong I would literally not wish this pain on my worst enemy as it's fucking horrific (excuse my language!) but I started to worry that it was just me and what had I done differently, was it my fault for being unfit etc.  When all of a sudden it hit them both, and as well as instantly feeling extremely sorry for them, I have to admit to feeling little relieved at the same time.  Both Rhett and Mark had exactly the same pain and over the next week we shared anything and everything we found that helped. As both Rhett and Mark were both extremely fit guys going into this, I was extremely surprised that it hit them as well and my theory went out the window.

So, what did help?  After all this blog is supposed to be about helping others!  This is what we all discovered helped the most.

1. When the pain strikes at it's worst, get up no matter how hard it is and gently pace the room for no less than five minutes.

2. Take pain meds as indicated by your doctor.  Or take a trip to the Old Town and visit the smoking grasshopper and talk to the incredibly knowledgeable shop keepers about how their products might help you with pain (and believe me they DO!!).  We are going to be doing a whole blog on this topic when we get home, as it's a big subject and one that is very controversial. It is not something we thought about until it was suggested by a number of health care professionals here, as my pain medications had gone off the chart.  

We want to make a longer video documenting our whole journey with CBD, so watch this space!

I was taking up to 15 different pain medications including morphine, Valium and codeine during any one day.  I am now taking just two tablets a day, very occasionally three.  If you want to know more about this before the blog comes out in December, please feel free to contact me as I am happy to talk about what has worked for us. 

3. Hot water bottles are your friend.  If you go to any of the supermarkets they sell them.  Move them around with your pain.  Our physio told us cold was good too, but I found it more painful, but whatever works.

4. Get a really good and strong magnesium and take double the dose daily, everyday! Magnesium helps with nerves, muscles and is an anti-inflammatory. 

5. Massage. Craig bought some Weleda Arnica Oil which is absolutely wonderful stuff.  Our amazing physio uses it, so we got ourselves a bottle.

Try to remember that it will pass, because all things eventually do.  It's a hard one though.  I have spent so many hours crying over this pain, leaving Craig feeling totally helpless.  It's a nasty pain, a pain that just keeps on and on.  The last two days had been pretty good and I had started to think that perhaps I was one of the lucky ones and it had passed through.  Only to be woken last night in so much pain I wanted to pass out.  On went the kettle, out came the oil and pain medication taken.  At least now we have a game plan when it hits, we know that within 40 minutes it will have eased enough to stop the tears.

Distraction pain is shit, no other way of putting it.  It seems most people seem to get it, in one form or another. It does not discriminate by height, age, weight or fitness level.  If you are one of the unlucky ones, my heart goes out to you and hopefully I have provided a couple of tips that might help.  If you are one of the fortunate ones who misses out then I hate you....just kidding! Then enjoy a faster, and easier recovery and go see the sights of Zurich.


Kate & Craig x


  1. I appreciate this blog post so much! I am two weeks post-op. I'm reading this post because I woke up at 5 AM with the all-too familiar distraction pain. It is impossible to stand still, so I pace around as well and it helps. I'm stretching out my legs and am seeing a slow improvement in my range of motion. Hold out--this too shall pass!

    1. Hi Diane_girl, I am so sorry to hear you also have the distraction pain, it's really not much fun is it and my heart goes out to you. Try the heat, I find that helps more than anything!

  2. Hi Kate and family. I have been watching your progress from the start and must admit that I am emotionally moved at times. In 1996 I had a horrific work place injury that wrecked my back and in those days back injuries were still looked at with scepticism. I can relate with you knowing what real back pain is,so to cut a very long story short, I want to relay to you that I praying for your speedy and successful recovery and so happy that you had the opportunity to go to Switzerland to get things done right. The Australian medical laws need changing so people like you, have no need to travel for medical attention to the caliber you are receiving.God Bless. Ralph Naudi

  3. Hi Ralph - Lovely to hear from you and thank you for following our journey. Your accident sounds horrific, you do well to be as active theatrically as you are! Thank you for your prayers I am very grateful for them. The medical laws do need changing in lots of ways. I wish all these amazing countries would get to together and share what amazing progress each country has made and share it! I don't get it. See you soon Kate & Craig x


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