The Pain Coma


Painsomnia has an evil sibling, the Pain Coma.  Unlike a real coma, I am not completely comatose, but my physical and cognitive abilities are drastically reduced.  In some ways it resembles a real coma as in no matter how hard I “will” my body to move, it won’t, it’s paralyzing.  Then there is the feeling of being trapped in your own body.  During a pain coma I can hear people speak and even form a response in my head, but I am unable to get all or most of the words past my lips.  It is not uncommon during these episodes for the request of “Please make dinner” to come out as “dinner, you”.

So just what is this thing I refer to as a pain coma and what triggers it?  Sometimes my pain comas hit with no warning, which has led me to accept that there is no avoiding them.  However I have been able to reduce the frequency by changing my pain medication and not physically pushing myself past my limits.  A pain coma sets in when my body is too tired to fight anymore.  It just needs a break.  Interestingly enough, I do not medicate during these episodes, because there is no need.  My body becomes limp. Not one muscle is tense nor does it have that nervous energy flowing through it.  When absolutely necessary I am able to muster the strength to get to the bathroom, but that’s about it.  Just flipping from lying on one side to the other is a major challenge.  Unlike Painsomnia where my brain is racing with thoughts, during a pain coma my mind might as well be filled with sand.  I struggle to form and verbalize full sentences.  Forget catching up on my favorite TV shows, as my eyelids feel as though they are sealed shut.  I am lucky to experience thirty minutes to an hour of time now and again throughout the duration in which I can open my eyes and attempt to use my brain.  The rest of its duration is spent sleeping. Not only can I not predict when one will hit, I also have no idea how long one will last.  For me they last anywhere from one to four days.

In the past when I treated my conditions with pharmaceutical medications, painsomnia and pain comas alternated and consumed my life, there was no in between.  If lucky I would have a few weeks out of an entire year in which I wasn’t suffering from one or the other.  Since I began medicating with medical marijuana I no longer go from one extreme to the other on a daily basis.  I now go weeks and quite often months without experiencing either one.  This was something that I had to remind myself of when I was hit with my latest pain coma.  Once I realized that it had been months since I had lost a portion of my life to my exhausted body, I found comfort.  I knew that this would pass and that because of the way I medicate that it will be awhile until I have to suffer through it again.  It is only because of medical marijuana that my body experiences restorative sleep most of the time and why I am among the living, even if only a few days a week.

I have no tips on how to get through a pain coma as there is nothing you can do except sleep!  But I do have some suggestions to help you and your family get by.  The first is to have at least four days worth of meals in a freezer.  This will make mealtime easier for your family to prepare and will save money as ordering take-out or picking up fast food every time this happens can be costly.  As a family come up with a plan of who will take over whatever chores or tasks you would have normally taken care of.  Doing this will make your life so much easier once you emerge from your pain coma.  The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed by more things to do.  Our to do lists are already too long!

Okay, I take that back, I do have one tip.  Like I stated earlier there is no fighting a pain coma, one simply doesn’t have the strength to do so.  BUT, as you emerge you may feel like you want to push yourself to resume your “normal” activities, DON’T DO IT!!! Resist the urge and wait…. Trust me you will know when you are fully back to your “normal” functioning level.  If you push too soon, you will do nothing but extend the length of your pain coma and that isn’t good for anyone!

Wishing you a “normal” day filled with gentle hugs!

The Disabled Diva


Published by Cynthia Covert

Diagnosed in 2001 with psoriasis, followed by fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, endometriosis, and later a botched hysterectomy turned her world upside down. Cynthia shares her experience, advice, and tips for how to make life with chronic pain easier and less painful.

2 thoughts on “The Pain Coma

  1. Pain coma, what a great way to describe it. I know exactly what you mean. I might have to borrow this term from you. Good to hear they are less frequent for you now xx

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