Friday, November 18, 2016

Addressing Chronic Pain with PainKare

As a member of the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, I was approached by TrioWave to try their new product, PainKare, and to share my opinion here. While this is sponsored content, and I have received product in exchange for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



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After my cervical fusion, I developed a lot of intractable pain in my neck. During physical therapy to increase my my range of motion, I started using a device called a TENS unit. The idea behind the TENS unit is that electrodes deliver gentle currents of electrotherapy to block pain from irritated nerves and muscles. While TENS was fairly effective in reducing my daily pain, it didn't address the root cause of the pain.

More than a year later, and after a second surgery which left me with low back pain, I learned about PainKare, another electrode based device which uses technology called biostimulation. Unlike TENS, though, PainKare is designed to address the cause of the pain rather than blocking its signals.

While biostimulation isn't intended to replace formal medical treatment or therapies like physical therapy, it has worked as a great compliment to my existing care. And, research has found that this type of therapy can provide pain relief in up to 95% of patients.

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Using TENS therapy on my neck produced some unfortunate side effects and so I decided to try PainKare for other body pain - the device is recommended for the lower back, arms, legs, knees, and shoulders, and for both acute and chronic pain.

What I like most about devices such as this one is that they are discreet (PainKare can't be seen beneath most clothing), portable, and can be used for pain without cognitive or mood side effects. The device can even be used during sleep.

And to help with pain treatment on the go, there is even a free compliment app for both Android and iPhone. The app syncs to the device and helps you tailor treatment. One of the trickiest parts of using these devices is knowing exactly how to place the electrodes but the app allows you to choose a problem area and directs you where to place them.

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One of the problems with device-based treatments such as this can be cost. Unlike other devices, PainKare is a rechargable device and doesn't require replacement batteries for three years. The electrodes do need to be replaced regularly but are thankfully very resilient when compared to other brands.

PainKare is also offering a program for free devices because as they explain, "About 100 million Americans suffer from various chronic pains. Among them, millions are seniors, women and people with low or fixed income who have difficulty in accessing healthcare to improve the pain symptoms that are impacting their work, education, and life." PainKare wants to be sure that these individuals have access to pain relief and are offering 1,000 free units to qualified patients through their website.

While I have extensive chronic pain, and likely will long-term, I have been pleased with this device. The device itself doesn't provide the instant relief of a heating pad, or massage, but when I can remember to get ahead of my pain - I am thankful to have this.

So far, I have used it for my low-back pain but I look forward to using it for more acute injuries in the future. With Ehlers-Danlos, I suffer from frequent subluxations - think, joints not where they should be - which can be quite painful. While physical therapy has been great for adjusting joints and reducing pain, it is great to have a way to reduce my pain at home. And with the free device program? I recommend giving it a try for your own acute and chronic pain.



So tell me, have you tried a TENS unit or another pain relief device in the future? Are you interested in trying out PainKare?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Food as Medicine: Superfoods with HoneyColony

As a member of the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, I was approached by HoneyColony to try their products and share my opinion here. While this is sponsored content, and I have received product in exchange  for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



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Over the years, I have tried various diets to help control my pain and neurological symptoms, including headaches. Throughout that trial and error process, I've learned that the things which bother me most are gluten (as I have Celiac Disease), dairy, and processed sugars. That being said, I have, well, quite the sweet tooth. So, in my search for a white sugar alternative, I learned that maple syrup, honey, and agave are all sweets that don't affect my inflammation.

In addition to avoiding these ingredients and processed foods, I've found ways to use food as medicine such as adding tumeric to dishes, and consuming superfoods daily.

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying a new superfood blend - HoneyColony's Equilibrium. The product, as you might guess from the name HoneyColony, is a raw honey blend.

The blend that I have been trialing is called Energy and is designed for those living an active lifestyle or struggling with fatigue. If you ask me, I'm both of those. The idea behind the product is th0at it stimulates the nervous system, enhances brain function, supports muscle relief and lowers inflammation, and it does that through superfoods including prebiotics, phytoplankton, blue algae, medicinal mushrooms, herbs, ORMUS, ginger, turmeric, as well as the honey products. (You can find details about each ingredient and benefits here.)

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To get the most benefit from Equilibrium Energy, it is suggested to take a teaspoon daily on an empty stomach. But, it can also be added to a smoothie. Surprisingly, the mixture - despite it's dark appearance - is quite tasty (and actually green). Still, favorite way to add this into my day is through a green protein smoothie.

There are many reasons to drink green smoothies and getting in superfoods easily is just one of them. Green smoothies are full of nutrients, great for detoxing, helpful for hydration, easily digested AND they're easy to make.

While you can find a plethora of green smoothie recipes online, my favorite recipes include a good blend of fruit and greens with hemp protein, flax seed, chia seeds, and Equilibrium added. In terms of ingredients, my favorites include: apples, peaches, blueberries, mango, bananas, spinach, and spring greens.

Daily smoothies have been part of my routine for a while now, and while I felt that the fruits, vegetables, and superfoods were helping my energy already, I definitely felt the benefits of adding Equilibrium to my smoothies.

In a trial of four weeks, I noticed a decrease in my nausea that I attribute to prebiotics. I also seemed to notice a decrease in my allergic symptoms such as itchy skin and eyes -- others have suggested honey as a natural treatment for allergies but I have never tried it consistently. And ultimately, as you'd expect, I do feel more alert and energized. (Can I get a hallelujah?)



So tell me, what are your favorite superfoods to add into your smoothies? 

Friday, September 30, 2016

#SelfCareMvmt: What does selfcare mean to you?

I’ve recently begun working with the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. Recently, Self Care Catalysts reached out to the network, asking us to share what self care means to us. While this is sponsored content, and I have received compensation for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.




My name is Jen and I use bike riding as a way to manage the chronic pain and autonomic dysfunction that comes from having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

There is a physics law that says “a body in motion stays in motion.” While the idea is about science - and the idea that an object moving through space will continue to move, in a straight line, unless another force acts upon it - the phrase has become a bit of a personal mantra in my journey toward better self care.

The conditions that I have are incurable. I’ve required surgeries, invasive procedures, and months of therapy and that has been the easy part of my journey. While I have been impacted by these conditions for the duration of my life, my day-to-day became hardest to manage after a cross-country move, while working full time and pursuing a graduate degree. I love to learn, to volunteer, to laugh, to achieve my goals - and sometimes, that meant that self care wasn’t a priority.

After my brain surgery, that had to change.


While there are many ways I choose to prioritize my health, from mid-day naps to eating gluten-free, today I want to talk about staying in motion. Before my diagnoses, I was regularly at the gym. From childhood to college, my time included baton twirling, competitive swimming.. high school tennis, and hiking for fun. Then, I had a cranio-cervical fusion and I was forced to give up a lot things, including my days at the gym.

With the help of a great physical therapist, I learned that it was safe to move and that actually, my body felt better when I did.

While my life is no longer full of cardio and weight-training, I’ve learned to take care of myself with regular bike rides, and swims at our local pool. It’s hard to look at other patients with chronic pain and explain this idea, that our bodies in motion will stay in motion, and yet, it continues to prove itself true for me.


After my surgery, I couldn’t ride a bike. And it would have been easy to not try to again. (I'm thankful firr the push I got from Schwinn to get back on the bike.) My first trips to the local pool didn’t include whole laps swam in front-stroke; sometimes I could only walk in my lane or swim 10 yards at a time. Instead of giving up, though, I found ways to make these motion part of my day-to-day. Moving became my self care.

The more that I moved, the easier moving became. After all, a body in motion stays in motion.

In terms of practical ways to integrate motion into my every day, using my bike as a means of transportation has been key. While we live in a suburban area, I loved being able to use my bike to travel from one side of my downtown college campus to another.. whether to make a meeting, or just to grab a chai tea.


Spending ten, thirty, or even sixty minutes on my bike has given me time to clear my head, to build better relationships with the people I love, to increase my physical strength, and to care for myself.


Because self care isn’t always first nature, I recommend downloaded Self Care Catalysts' free Health Storylines app. Created by a  passionate team of self care advocates who believe that the key to healthcare innovation is to hear the voice of the patient, the app helps patients to personalize their care by journaling their thoughts and emotions, by setting reminders for taking medications, for developing and checking in with a Circle of Support and sharing medical information with his or her care team.



So tell me, what does self care mean to you?

Self care looks different for each of us and I’d love to know ways you care for yourself as part of your everyday routine. Share in the comments below or join me in the Self Care Movement by sharing your thoughts on Self Care Movement Facebook page, on Twitter, or by tagging your post with #SelfCareMVMT on Instagram.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ten on Tuesday: Birthday Wishlist


Earlier this week, I may have exclaimed something like "I'm going to be 25! THAT'S A QUARTER OF A CENTURY." But really, it's hard to believe that this will be the sixth year I've shared a birthday wishlist on my blog. Also funny to me is how similar all six of those lists have been - evidently, I'm really into photography, Apple products and tea. Who knew? 

Here are the things that made my wishlist this year:

01 // Swell water bottles are all the rage lately and I'd love one that could fit in my bike's water bottle cage. While there was a bicycle pattern out earlier this year, I'm kind of loving this simple mint design.

02 // Working from home means that I've been using a laptop almost exclusively these days. I recently purchased a laptop sleeve from Amazon, only to find out that it was too big. As a lover of all things Kate Spade, I'm loving this simple pattern in black and white.

03 // The big item on my wishlist this year? An Apple Watch. I never thought I'd be saying that but I love the idea of not having to check my phone for timelines while shooting weddings, and not having to pull out my phone every time I get a text message. Plus, there's GPS and anyone who knows me knows that I get lost, well, often. 

04 // As a fan of leaving funny notes around the house, I'm dying to get one of these adorable letterboards from Letterfolk Co.  But I can't decide: black or gray?

05 // Lately, I've watched my middle school shoe tastes come full circle. Gray converse? Yes please. The best part is that I can totally pull these off in a kids 4. (If you're petite and haven't started shopping in kids shoes, you're missing out.)

06 // Another blast from the past, I'm totally loving the Instax film trend. How cute is this pink instant camera?

07 // And, then there's Britney. Did you know she just released another album last month? We're big fans. I'm traveling to Vegas with work for my birthday this year but she's not performing that week. I'd totally settle for these clever pencils instead.

08 // Continuing with past year's themes, there has to be something tea related on the list, right? I saw this electric tea kettle in store a few months ago and loved the pattern.

09 // I've also got to include something crafty. I'm recently in love with the idea of applying vinyl to all of the things -- the front of my planner, my coffee mug, tee shirts. I'd love to be able to do this myself with the Silhouette Cameo. A girl can dream, right?

10 // And then there's the grown-up item of "I actually kind of need this." With photographing so many weddings this summer, I've found a few pieces of photography equipment that I need. I'm dying for a House of Flynn Evermore bag but a flash seems a little more practical.



So tell me, what's on your Fall wishlist?