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Someone asked me in a comment if I felt that I could have managed my chronic pain as a new student. That is my topic for the morning, and again I will try to beat the clock for breakfast...

The key to answering that question has to do with how I manage pain (or other medical conditions) in my everyday life. Do I need to alter my lifestyle significantly in order to achieve pain control, breath control, etc? The same question would probably apply to a diabetic, but perhaps kindletheflame could speak to this more accurately. If I have to live a low-activity lifestyle to make this happen, then I will have a very hard time in dog training. In this respect, the past year of my life has been a significant advantage for me: I have been battling intense pain and respiratory illness while maintaining a full-time school schedule, teaching a Sunday school class, and preparing most of my own meals. I've had some help from Alexis, but I've been awake and out and about every day, putting a significant load on my body physically as well as emotionally, etc. In 1999, I came in after spending nine months mostly recovering from surgery. I was sick with a bad cold while i was here, and I slept a lot. I did make it through training, but it wasn't easy. So my first advice to any prospective dog user with a chronic health condition is to play with your lifestyle and try managing your condition, determine your upper limit of activity without hurting yourself because you will need this during training. If you can do this by using your meds at the allowed point, then do it, even if you dislike meds. For the sake of the dog/human relationship, it matters that you're at the top of your form.

That is the other key to answering the question. What are the medication allowances, and am I using as-needed medications appropriately? If I think, "Maybe I can tolerate this symptom for a little while" in training, I probably should take the as-needed meds and head the symptom off. In the long run, this is a better management strategy; but many people are immersed in the endurance philosophy, especially if the medication in question has addictive properties. If you are within your prescribed allowance, there is no need to fear addiction when you have a legitimate reason to take your meds (e.g. pain that is very likely due to extensive walking). Also, if you are asthmatic, do not skimp on your inhalers, even if you feel good. If you happen to have chronic pain that is related to an inflammatory condition, the steroid medication in the inhalers is giving you a side benefit. No one ever told me this; but it is corticosteroid medication just like Prednisone. It's just entering your system differently and still has systemic effects. Your ability to breathe also affects what gets to your joints and your brain, and that affects your pain perception. Pain management is very much a holistic process. The more understanding you have of how this works for you individually, the more success you will have in class, newbie or retrain.

Finally, be honest with staff, and use the nurse if you are at a school where there is one. The key phrase is this is not an endurance contest. The staff can help you, but you have to let them know what you need. For me, this means letting them know when I have pain and need to be on a later trip so that my meds have time to kick in, letting them know when I'm having a neurological event that is impacting my traffic judgment, etc.

Breakfast is in ten minutes. Hope this was helpful to someone.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
I agree with you 100% on the asthmatic thing... When I trained with both dogs, I took my as needed meds quite often, especially because I was training in the summer in both cases, when the air quality tended to be poor. One suggestion I would have for asthmatics is to moniter the air quality forcast; if you are out on a code red day, for instance, this could increase your need for rescue medications.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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