Alli's Place

Where Alli shares her thoughts and feelings…

Weekly Witterings #18

1. Today I had a physio personal best of 18cm on one of my measurements, both my physio and I had a mini cheer! I finally feel like I am back in control and nearly back on track 😃 only 3 1/2 months later,

2. A nice man called  Daniel has come and measured my bathroom and ensuit and is doing some designs. Now to wait to see how scarily expensive the quotes are. He lives in the same village and knows my neighbours.

3. Four day weekend and a trip to the beach at Hunstanton coming up so going to post this a bit early. Fun with Tom, Fiona and Eilidh. Eilidh is very excited about going to sea side house and has been working hard to say her ‘S’s properly for it.

4. I am going to be Aunt to another puppy

How cute is she!?

6 1/2 weeks old so not long till Allan and Laura can take her home to cause mayhem with Lenny.

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MRI Scans

I guess this post should have a health warning. You are about to see my insides.

I now have the images from all of my MRI scans. So here are some of the interesting views (the January 2009, post surgery ones are not very interesting so I left those out). Welcome to my lumbar spine which has been described as interesting, fascinating, complicated, unusual.

January 2008.
This is Jelly Bean, my now removed schwannoma.

You are looking for the jelly bean shape that is in the top two images, grey on the left and black on the right (one was with some contrast dye). In the bottom two images there is a round area in the middle towards the top which is the vertebrae and disc area and then a circle underneath which should be dark but the jelly bean is in there in grey leaving only a small crescent shaped, darker area, that is where the nerves are. The bottom two discs are not looking in great condition here either.

October 2013.
This is the disc that, to me, looks like it did a poo.

Unfortunately these are a bit darker so it is less easy to see. Look for a dark area that looks a bit like melted candle wax in the top two images. In the bottom two it is bulging downwards from the circle that is the vertebrae/disc area, it is a back area in the white area, which is the nerves. If you compare the images here to the ones from 2008 you can see the scar tissue from my surgery and the missing lamina bone. The scar tissue is the area that is white to the right on the two top images and the bottom of the lower images. This is the bit the surgeon didn’t fancy “fighting his way through”. He also pointed out that you can see the scar tissue in the muscle but not on the nerves and he sounded a bit concerned about disturbing that.

I still don’t understand why or how this caused more pain than jelly bean did even though it doesn’t take up as much of the nerve space.

April 2014.
These ones show the poo has gone but the discs still bulge and don’t look as good as the others.

This ones is essentially the most normal of the three. Obviously the lamina is still missing and the scar tissue is still there but it allows you to compare the abnormalities of the other two. Thankfully this lot meant the second operation didn’t happen. 😊

So there you have it, my insides and the cause of my back pain, referred leg pain, numb patch on my leg, foot and big toe and strange sensations in my big toe. It could be worse, Jelly Bean would have caused much more damage had it not been removed and was left to grow!

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Weekly Witterings #11

1. I have started wrapping my Christmas presents and am well down the Christmas card list. Planning to be organised. Ali in New Zealand might actually get her present before New Year this year, if I get to the post office soon.

2. Had another physiotherapy session on Friday. Actually had a good few weeks in between this time! Going for four weeks between this time. I think I have decided acupuncture isn’t really doing anything for me. We gave the needles a miss this time to see. I think the manipulation, painful though it is, has more of an affect.

3. Been doing some knitting again. Just a little Christmas project. Photos when it is finished.

4. Love the Sainsburys Christmas advert. The John Lewis one is good too, who doesn’t want a pet penguin after that?

5. I went for a wander around Anglesey Abbey this afternoon. The autumn colours were beautiful so I took quite a few photos.




6. My walk round rAnglesey Abbey was about 3 miles. Quite good going for me. I had lots of pauses on damp benches. Wondering whether I should be worried that my little toe and surrounding area kept going numb or not… Was it my boots? Ummm… Other than that it felt ok, not too painful.

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Weekly Witterings #9

1. Half term in Cambridge this week so no Guides.

2. Slightly addicted to these biscuits from M&S.


3. I went into Cambridge today, it has been a while. Parking is now £4.50 for up to two hours on a Saturday. I mainly went to have a nose at the iPhone 6 in the Apple Store.

4. Is it just me that find Apple Stores odd, messy and confusing? As a geek I should love the place but the way you have to find someone to serve you rather than just going to a counter just doesn’t work for me. So I had a play and then ordered one online from PC World using their click and collect. Roll on Monday when I get it!

5. I am up to 60 lengths of the pool now. 90 is. Mile so 2/3 rd of the way there now.

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Traveling with medications

Do you pack over-the-counter medications when you go on holiday? Do you consider whether these and any prescription drugs are legal in the country you are traveling to? Could you be unwittingly breaking the law?

Some countries have strict drug laws which include medications that many of us can pick up at a UK supermarket or local pharmacy. The United Arab Emirates, for example, takes a particularly hard line on opiates including poppy seeds in food. Other countries restrict medications, for example Ritalin, which is used to treat ADHD.

It seems that health professionals are not as aware of this as you would hope they were! Recently the subject came up in conversation with my physiotherapist, he was unaware, so I put together an email for him with the links in this post. It has got me thinking about it again.

A couple of years ago I mentioned a possible business trip to India to my GP, I was having a prescription check up and asked if he knew whether my regular medications were restricted in any countries. He wasn’t sure but provided me with a letter stating what I take and why, to take with me. I had heard about opiate restrictions in Dubai and, being aware that some colleagues choose to fly to India via Dubai, I did some research. It was easy to find some information on Dubai but I am still not sure what is restricted in India as there seems to be less information available. I didn’t go on the India trip in the end.

If traveling to or via Dubai anything with codeine in, including cough and cold medicines, is best left at home at home. Apparently having it detectable in your blood counts as possession too. The Dubai website states:
The UAE government prohibits drugs, narcotics and chemicals and before you enter the UAE, you are advised to take all precaution to ensure that you do not carry such substances; either in person, your luggage or in medicines you may be carrying. Strict penalties include imprisonment followed by deportation.”

Here are some of the news stories I have found interesting:

In 2008 the Independent ran a warning story

The BBC news site has a few stories. One about a lady who had taken codeine for back pain can be found here.

The BBC news site also has an article warning about Dubai here, which mentions a man arrested for having a tiny amount of cannabis on his shoe.

Most of the stories are a few years old now but I wouldn’t want to risk it, would you?

General advice when travelling with prescription medication is to pack it in it’s original packaging with the prescription label, don’t combine all your medication into one container. Ensure that you carry your own medication and the name on the label matches the name on your ticket. Carry medication in hand luggage as occasionally checked in baggage goes missing. If you are worried carry a letter documenting your medication and/or a copy of your prescription. Actually finding a list of drug restrictions for a particular country is not very easy, most countries websites jut advise contacting the appropriate foreign office to check.

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Weekly Witterings #7

1. I was bad last week and missed a Weekly Witterings. In my defence I mostly spent the weekend on the sofa with a box of tissues feeling generally a bit rubbish.

2. Why are all Guide plays a bit strange? Is it just me that doesn’t get them and wonders what goes on in their heads? Oh and why does one of my .guides think potato mashers are cool? I do think they are all pretty great though, most of the time.

3. Really enjoyed the Great British Bake Off this year. Nancy really deserved to win in the end. Also enjoying the master class episodes.

4. Been doing some baking of my own today. Apple Danish pastries (cheated as out of a box), sausage roll and rhubarb and custard cakes with Lego Movie toppers. This was the special unikitty one for Fiona as it was her birthday.


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Acupuncture, what do I think now?

Well I said I would update my blog once I had researched a bit about acupuncture and had a few sessions and say whether my opinion had changed from sceptical…

In summary the jury is still out and I am still sceptical but probably a bit less scaeptical than I was.

What exactly has it involved?
Once my physio has done some intial progress checks and some manipulation to loosen things up he washes his hands and then get the needles out. He has always used four and these have been inserted in my lower back, in the area that I have problems, two either side of the spine in a kind of square. I then lie there while we have rather random conversations (we seem to be good at talking about really strange things which is often quite funny) then after a few minutes he “tweaks” the needles. I think he kind of twiddles them a bit. Then after a few more minutes he takes them out and as he usually wipes my back I assume there is a little bit of bleeding but nothing noticable by me. Generally it is fine and no big deal so I am not bothered by it. I must add though that I am not bother by needles and don’t mind injections or blood tests at all (ok so I am one of those freeks that likes to watch and I can’t watch this and if I am honest I would rather watch the needles go in).

What have I been feeling?
It generally doesn’t hurt and when it does it is one of those days when everything is feeling more tender anyway so it seems logical that it would hurt more then. The sensation of the needles going in varies from feeling virtually nothing to feeling like someone is pressing a bruise that then triggers twinges down my leg. The twinges usually happen when the needles on the other side of my spine have been inserted which to me seem strange My physiotherapist has explained that the nerves don’t just run down the go across the back as well so it isn’t as strange as I think it is aparently. I get the same sensations when he does his tweaking.

So what should it feel like?
This article describes different sensations that people have described but it vaguley says that along as it isn’t sharp that is ok which is not exactly helpful and it is this kind of vaguness that makes me sceptical.
A different article states “There is a unique sensation you should experience when you have acupuncture. It’s best described as a dull ache or a tingle followed by a dull sensation. It is essential to get this to know you’re having acupuncture rather than just a needle being stuck into some part of your body.” But I am not sure I am feeling that…

Wondering how to tell if acupuncture is working?
This article talks about improved sleep, being les stressed, having more energy, being more intune with emotios and having a more natural digestive system. Well some of these sound like the sort of fluffy fuzz I hate “oh yes I am more in tune with my emotiions” – where is the bucket! I do however admit that I am sleeping better, I am being woken by pain in the night less frequently that I was say 3 months ago but whether that is due to the acupuncture, the manipulation or my improved flexibility I wouldn’t like to say.

So do I think it is working?
I am not convinced. I guess I am still keeping an open mind. I have, like I said, noticed improvements; I generally sleep better and my walking speed has increased and my distace is slowing improving, my swimming is speeding up and I can swim further than I could a couple of weeks ago. But do I think this is down to the acupuncture, the manipulation or a combination of the two, well I am not sure and as I don’t have anything to compare it to in a scientific experimental way I am really un sure. At my last session we didn’t have time for acuputure so we just did manipulation and then talked about excersises and my physio did some other stuff so did I feel differnet after that instead of normal, I guess I did, as it I was a bit more uncomfortable the next day than I have been. So you could say that show the acupuncture does something or you could say that was because I was more stiff when I went in… oh who knows…

All I can say is generally I am improving and whatever is adding to that is good and my phsyio clearly believes in the acuputure and I trust him, but hey I am still somewhat sceptical 😉

By the way this is a good write up about about acupunture in general and as Kevin is my physio I recommend a read of that 😉

Some other interesting links…
There is plenty of information out there both for and against.
British Acupuncture Council has this to say about back pain and acupuncture.
The NHS offers acupuncture for some conditions, lower back pain being one of them. There must be sufficient evidence for NICE to recommend it. There is information from the NHS here.
The National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine has this to say. Basically they say research suggests it is useful for pain relief.
This article sets out to claim that acupunctures benefits are a myth. It suggests that “acupuncture is no better than a tooth pick for back pain”
The British Medical Journal has some articles, I can’t access them but the abstracts suggest that there should be more investigations.

Anyway there is lots of information around but my view is that it doesn’t seem to be particularly risky and I certainly haven’t had any bad effects from the sessions I have had so I remain open to giving it a go.

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I Love Milton Country Park

I am so fortunate to live in a village that has a country park. It might not be huge but it is beautiful.

There are lots of ducks and swans around. I just happened to get a photo of this swan as it was in the evening sun.

My Physio has been encouraging me to walk each day, even though it hurts. At the moment I can manage a ten minute block but much more without a pause makes my leg pain kick off and after twelve ish minutes I am limping. I can, however, mange ten minutes followed by a short pause on a bench and then another ten minutes. So the last few walks I have been following that pattern and doing three or four blocks of ten minutes. That is just about ok. Today I managed just over a mile according to the pedometer on my phone, which is progress!

This means I have been enjoying walks around the country park.

Which means views like these.

Which are quite motivating. Reminds me how beautiful this country is.

So if you live in the Cambridge area and fancy a short walk around some lakes (well old gravel pits) I can recommend Milton Country Park. The children’s play area and cafe are good too! Ummm ice creams….

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A Physio I get on with!

It is a minor miracle, I have found a Physio who talks sense, listens, isn’t patronising and I actually get on with. The bad news is he is a private Physio so I am paying for it.

I decided to shun the NHS Physiotherapists for a few reasons…
1. Since moving to Cambridge, 5 years ago, I have seen about 9 different ones and if I am honest I would only want to see one of them again.

2. The last one I saw was, arrogant, ignorant and a waste of time. He said there was nothing wrong with me, until he hear the MRI results and then he promptly changed his tune. (that reminds me I really should write that complaint). Oh and he never even replied to my last two emails!

3. It is pretty clear my back is going to be a life long problem so I decided it was time someone who I could trust and see consistently; the NHS just doesn’t seem to cope with any consistency in Physios.

4. The NHS approach seems to be “one exercise sheet fits all” unless that doesn’t seem to work and then they don’t know what else to try so pass you to someone’s else.

Don’t get me wrong, overall the NHS is brilliant and I am thankful that we have such a great health system in the UK that is free. I am sure there are lots of good physiotherapists who work for the NHS but it is a lottery to see which one you get and then they rotate after a few months and you are back to the start again.

So there we are, it is costing me but in my opinion it is worth it to see someone I trust. If you live in Cambridge and want a good Physio look up Kevin Hunt at Spinal Physio. He didn’t call me interesting, just got a bit excited about my MRI images and called them fascinating, and it can let him have that 😉

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Spinal surgery no2 escaped

I am relieved.

The latest MRI shows that my dodgy disc has improved to a point where the surgeon thinks it is best left alone. So the knife has been escaped, at least for now.

I have been noticing some improvements in the pain and how much I can tolerate walking, standing and generally doing stuff so as far as I can see this is all good!

Now I am aiming to keep it that way!

I have decided to give the NHS Physio lottery (pot luck if you get someone who is useful and the last one, well I never want to see him again) a miss so I have been to see a Physio who has been recommended by a friend. Looking at his website he is interested in spinal stuff and has been successful in getting professional jockeys back to horse racing. My first impressions are that he is easy going and made me feel comfortable. He didn’t call me interesting, he used “complicated history” and that’s ok. He has some ideas and he is good at explaining what he is doing and why. So we will see how thing go.

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