Validating The Vibration Trigger

Dear Audy,

One of the hardest things about living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is that it just don’t make no sense. Since my diagnosis in 2006, I have tried to accept that unpredictable sensations are just a part of this unpredictable syndrome.

The longer I have suffered with CRPS, the more I have endeavoured to learn about it. I find that having a clearer understanding of what is physiologically going on in my body helps me to not only keep a clearer head, but also to keep a sense of control over my life. One cannot control their situation if they do not understand it, correct? If I do not understand my illness then I am giving it the power of being the ‘unknown’. With knowledge, I can help to alleviate some of the overwhelming fear and anxiety that is generated when one is suffering an attack from an unknown force. It is not enough for me to simply blame CRPS as the ‘unknown force’ because the more I get inside my condition, the more I can understand it and the more hope I have that I can overcome it.

20100429 Driving by fittzer
(click photo for source)

In my last post, I mentioned that I am suffering a flare up after driving my car. The main reason that driving a car is painful for me is the vibration. This has been an issue since I developed CRPS and I am only just beginning to understand why. I had long accepted that it was merely one of those things that my highly sensitised system couldn’t deal with. Yesterday, my osteopath was able to give me a better explanation as to why I was having so much difficulty in relation to vibrations when driving. In short, he explained that with my nervous system in high sensitivity mode, regulating my body’s response to vibration is another area of autonomic function that is affected. That was something that I had not considered before, so today, I did a little research about vibration and how it affects the human body.

I learnt that we have something called a ‘tonic vibration reflex’.

“Vibration typically causes a tonic contraction of the muscle to which it is applied. This contraction is termed the tonic vibration reflex. Think about what a strange word combination this is: Tonic implies a steady state while vibration implies high-frequency oscillations. These two words become compatible, however, when a high-frequency stimulus leads to a slowly changing muscle contraction. The contraction starts a few seconds after the beginning of the vibration, increases gradually and stays relatively constant until the vibrator is turned off. Then the contraction gradually subsides over a few seconds”

(click quote for source)

My old understanding of pain caused by vibration was simply “I hurt because I have a sensitised pain system”. I now have a better understanding as to why that particular trigger (vibration) would set off a flare. As quoted above, an ordinary person’s tonic vibration reflex would subside within seconds of being removed from the stimulus. I suspect, that as a symptom of my CRPS, my tonic vibration reflex is a little haywire, along with the rest of the actions that my vestibular system is responsible for. Instead of taking seconds to adjust to the removal of vibrating stimuli, my body can take hours, or even days. I am still twitching and experiencing a buzzing sensation right through my body, much like you would if you had just been operating a jackhammer, only my buzzing is painful rather than merely a sensation. It has been over 48 hours since the vibration induced flare began.

Understanding why I’m hurting might not make me hurt any less, but it does stop me from feeling the anxiety of an unknown attacker. Anxiety equals stress and stress equals muscle tension, which equals more pain. Understanding the way in which vibration is a problem means that I’ll now consider more carefully whether I can do certain activities that have been unpredictably painful in the past, such as vacuuming or operating some kitchen appliances. I no longer feel like the outcome of these activities is quite so unpredictable, because I can factor into my planning and pacing that vibration is a veritable trigger.

When I’ve recovered enough to take the wheel again, I shall take measures to attempt to lessen the effect of the car vibration. I’m thinking I need to make sure I’m wearing thick soled shoes to buffer what’s coming through the pedals and perhaps some sort of riding gloves with rubber grips for the shakes that come through the steering wheel. Hopefully knowing what the problem was and why it was affecting me will help me to avoid a repeated flare up in the future!

Love & All Those Unsaid Vibrator Jokes,

P.S. I just joined Google Connect, I don’t know much about how I use it to connect with you yet (currently read RSS feeds through Google Reader) but I’ve seen it around enough that I wanted in! Now I have a little blue box over there on the right that says I have no friends…please Google friend me….and then tell me what that means!

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  • 12 thoughts on “Validating The Vibration Trigger

    1. Matthew Smith

      If you had to ride on London buses, they’d really hurt I suspect – whenever they are idling, the vibrations are very noticeable, and you can even see the hand posts shake! It’s not so bad when it’s moving, but some people are more sensitive to these things than others I guess.

      As for Google Friend Connect, I think you can be part of too many of these networks – I’m on Twitter and Facebook, and I think that’s enough for me. I actually don’t want all my friends appearing on my blog and I’m not sure they would either. Even on Facebook you can restrict whether your own friends list appear to other than your friends, and I just saw someone complain that people who friend her on FB then try friending all her friends even though they don’t know them! I’m really picky about who I accept now, especially since the “Facebook teacher-with-ME incident”: I don’t accept requests from people I don’t know, nor from old school “friends” unless they really were friends (and most of them definitely weren’t).

      1. admin Post author

        oooh, I’d never survive on a bus!! Back when CRPS was just in my ankle and I was recovering from the hip op (but not CRPSy in that leg yet) I thought I was better and took a tram for 10 minutes to go to a dr appt…it was a good thing it was a dr appt because I nearly fell out the door of the tram! I couldn’t really move my legs and had to kind of jump em forward (I was on crutches). Before that, I had no idea what sort of effect vibrations could have! We need to invent vibrationless transportation….
        Thanks for the Google Connect info! I’m MB restricted at the moment so don’t really have space to explore it, was hoping it might be more useful for me to find other blogs than them find me, shall be keeping in mind where I want to appear 😉
        What happened to the FB teacher with ME? x

        1. Matthew Smith

          That was the incident I mentioned on my blog. I’ve been trying to find out what happened to her, as she left when I was about 12 or 13, not long after I arrived. But after hearing about what became of Lynn Gilderdale I asked around about what happened to her, but haven’t found out anything. (I tried the local ME support group, but the lady who replied had some other interesting information but nothing on that teacher.)

    2. Maria (Tough Cookie)

      I think it is very important for us to watch our language when we speak about illnesses. Suffering, fighting, battling are all negative words that describe unhappiness in the present moment. When we are “fighting” something, healing cannot take place. Once I realized this, my symptoms started to improve. I am going to write a blog post soon on loving our illnesses, because it is a big shift in consciousness that needs to take place if we are going to heal.

      Hope you feel better! xoxo

      1. admin Post author

        Absolutely understand what you are saying, words are more powerful than they seem!

        I am currently somewhere in between simply enduring and planning to survive my pain, which I guess is somewhere on the way to being comfortable with it. I don’t really feel I’m at a point where I could honestly say I’m ‘healing’ rather than fighting because I seem to take more steps backwards than forwards…I kind of don’t believe it…yet…but I do see that with more work and progression I might be able to look at it like that. I can envision a future where I will be content and happy and not ruled by CRPS, but it’s still new and doesn’t quite feel like a realistic goal…yet…if that makes sense! It probably doesn’t as I am still figuring it out myself, lol! At the moment, I don’t see fighting as a negative thing because the way I ‘fight’ is to relax & pace activities…which is kind to the opposite of a normal interpretation of the word, to me it feels positive to fight, but I do get that by saying ‘fighting’ I am implying that the thing I am working against is negative… You have really set me off into pondering mode, I am now wondering if I can force that progression I wrote about by focusing my thoughts, you are very right in that it’s definitely easier to live healing from an illness than suffering it!

        Thanks for making my brain tick! It’s why I love you 😀 xx

    3. Maria (Tough Cookie)

      Aww, you’re welcome! It’s true, we really need to BELIEVE that we are healing for it to truly happen. With pain, we get stuck in that idea that there is no way this could better because it is so horrific at times. Training your brain and your heart to believe you are healing will be very important. You have to attach the feeling to the affirmation for it to hold any value. Just saying affirmations won’t work. You can do this by doing visualizations. Seeing yourself healed and attaching the excitement and gratitude feelings to the visualization. Once my semester ends mid-week, I am going to write a blog post on this. I think a lot of people could benefit. Hope you are feeling better!

      1. admin Post author

        Thanks for always being so motivating!! I was just thinking that even though I accept that it’s possible that it could be forever, I don’t really BELIEVE that either. Which kind of makes me realise that I must believe I am healing if that is the case!! I am going to keep going with that 😀

        The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge just arrived at my door, I’m looking forward to some inspiring stories! xx

    4. franci

      I love hearing from/about you every day! You are SO creative and I lust love your writing skills. I can really relate to you!! I have to drive with very supportive shoes!

      1. admin Post author

        Thanks, Franci! It’s so nice to hear that I am not the only person who needs ‘special’ shoes to drive, even though I understand why, I still feel like a bit of a precious princess ;D x

    5. Shauna

      Hey Caf,

      How’s it goin honey? I can so relate to the vibrations felt DEEP in my spine while in certain cars. Not to the extent it really affects you….

      On the Google ‘friend-thing’–If you click on my picture (on your ‘followers’ pictures,) then click on ‘send message’ and then once I get it, I accept, and we will have those little google signs by our pictures. (At least that is when mine showed up.) People that read your blog will join your ‘followers’ soon enough. The ‘friend’ part is like a separate bonus; it’s different than just following a person’s blog.

      Did that help at all???? My mind is a tad fuzzy right now; between the wrong alarm going off too early and me getting out of bed ASAP as I have to do the minute I open my eyes..after making coffee and taking little oldie outside, I THEN remembered it was 4 hours before I had set the REAL alarm; oh well I was up…and it was such a beautiful morning…pain or not, the early morning always has a way of cheering me up. And that lasts about 5 minutes until the pain comes on full force and it’s med time for the morning. I know you know. 😉

      I love your writing Caf. Big fan here!

      Gentle Hugs always <3

      1. admin Post author

        Hi Shauna, so lovely to hear from you! It has been great hearing back from other people that I’m not the only one who is a bit like the princess and the pea – well, not ‘great’ because I don’t want other people to hurt, but it’s never nice thinking you are alone in something 😉

        4 hours before your alarm is a fair effort!! I am having brain fuzzies at the moment also, very much looking forward to when they clear back up, hopefully soon…Thanks so much for the comment, I hope you are feeling better today!! xxoo

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