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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Weekly Witterings #12

1.  So at the moment I can swim for longer than I can walk comfortably… Odd but Stupid Back is improving. Three swims done now and up to 24 lengths its a start but some way off the 100 I was up to.

2.  Did anyone else watch the first “Code of a Killer” on ITV? I am looking forward to the next one!

3.  This weekend I have been on a trip up to Hunstaton with Sue. It was pretty windy all weekend but we still enjoyed it. Yesterday we went to Wells-Next-The-Sea and had chips by the sea.  


We also enjoyed the sunsets


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Whoop I left the house

It has been a while but this evening I left the house and went to home group.  Exhausted now but it was good to get out.

I am down to using one crutch now so I can carry things and I can put socks and shoes on at last too!

Currently I am working from home, I was bored by Friday.

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Stupid Back Strikes again!

Here we go again 😦

I am pretty sure I have slipped the disc again.  It feels just like it did the other two times.  So at the moment I am hobbling around the house on crutches and taking lots of painkillers.

So  how did I do it this time?  Well it partially went when I went to sit of a stool at Tom and Fiona’s house to play a game with Eilidh (my lovely God Daughter). I then spent a while on the sofa hoping it would settle down.  Then it was time for dinner so I got up to move to the dining table, Eilidh was already sitting at the table and as I approached she turned in her chair to hug me.  The chair tipped back and I instinctively caught it and that is when the big ouch struck.  Let’s just say Tom had to walk me to the car and drive my car home and help me into the house.

That was Sunday evening, 1st March.  Yesterday I got the GP to come out to do a prescription for some more Tramadol.  There was no way. Was up to getting myself to the surgery.  The GP had no pen and wrote the wrong date on the prescription so the friend wh went to get if for me had to sort that out but I have a good supply of painkillers now.

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Weekly Witterings 2015 #6

1. I seem to have developed a craving for iceberg lettuce.

2. My cakes and sausage rolls went down well at work on Monday. I love it when my cake makes people happy.

3. Going through a fed up phase at the moment. Really fed up of my back. I have been doing the right things, doing the core exercises, walking, swimming. I had managed to cut down a bit on the painkillers. I thought I was doing well and then it goes nuts again. Wondering why I bother!

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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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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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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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