Archive for January, 2013

Maintaining a Fitness Routine Despite Chronic Back Pain

My twisted spine

My twisted spine

Before I get too far, I just want to acknowledge this picture of my scoliotic spine. I know its shocking to look at and think that it has been like that for over 20 years already. While it can be challenging to live with this twisted spine, I have tried to never let it be an excuse to not stay as active as possible. I say “tried” because I sometimes let my back issues creep into an excuse not to be exercising and then fall into a rut that takes a huge effort to crawl out of. I’m fully aware of this pattern as one of my passions is also helping others not to fall for their own excuses that feed inactivity.

I used to teach group fitness classes, boot camps, one on one training, and yoga. I did that for about 15 years with much success despite my spine. I was being paid to exercise, working out regularly, maintaining an excellent level of fitness, and helping others to do the same. It was a physically and mentally positive place to be in. Even during the times where I would experience a spell of chronic pain it always seemed to pass and I was able to work my way back to the impressively fit woman that I was. But then, the pain came and it never went away. Days, weeks, months, and now even a few years have gone by where I am experiencing weakness, pain, and other lame health issues. It gets me down, often, and even acknowledging that makes me shed a few tears right now.

But, I’m not the kind of girl who accepts the idea that there is nothing I can do about it. I know that it is absolutely essential that I maintain the highest level of fitness possible as I age. So, here are some things that I do about it:

I do at least one physical activity every day. No two days are the same for me right now. There are days where I feel like I could go hiking and there are days when I need to stick to super gentle and restorative exercises. The key for me has always been consistency. If I am consistently moving everyday for at least 30 minutes I feel so much happier and almost always relieved of pain for hours. When I miss getting that activity, for whatever reason, I feel it.

I look for ways to increase the amount that I am walking daily. Walking is one activity that I never take for granted. There have been more than a few times in my life where walking was difficult and painful. Each of those experiences puts into perspective that I never want to lose the ability to walk. Therefore, I walk as much as possible. I park farther out from the doors when I shop, I walk the dogs, I use a treadmill, and I’ll meet up often with friends just to walk. Walking helps to balance the body and I experience this first hand. Some mornings I wake up with a limp and will be moving awkwardly. A little walk takes care of that and balances my movements usually within 15-30 minutes. It’s actually quite amazing. Some days I need to take smaller walks dispersed in several 5-10 minute increments. Whenever walking feels hard, I know I probably need to be doing it more often. Such a simple concept but it does take a great deal of effort to keep it a priority in my schedule.

I have an action plan for the days when moving is too much. The jacked up reality is that I have days when moving feels like shit. My back hurts, my energy is super low, and exercise in any traditional sense is not happening. On those days I remember that breathing is moving too. So I make time to breathe, to meditate, and relax. I try to do that most days, actually, but on the days when moving is tough I especially appreciate knowing that I am not totally powerless to manage my pain. I have the power of my mind, my breath, and high quality cannabis medicine. If there are too many of these days in a row I seek out other support.

I ask for support. Support comes in a lot of different forms. The obvious ones are the healers I have found who specialize in my kind of pain. The less obvious support is what I get from my friends and family. They provide a shoulder for me to cry on, they just listen, they don’t let me keep to myself for too long, and they keep me lifted. The trick with support is that you often have to ask for it and that can sometimes be really tough.

The bottom line for me is to just keep moving. I know the power that exercise has on even the weakest because I have seen it on myself and others over and over again. Giving up and getting sucked into the vortex of chronic pain is not an option here.

Until next time…Keep moving and Stay Lifted.

Different Strains for Different Pains

Image

This week I have been schooled about cannabis like never before. It turns out that the type of cannabis strain you use for medicine matters! I was really trying to avoid the subject of strains because it seems like there are a million different kinds of cannabis and, to be honest, I was overwhelmed by it. I mean really, it all kind of does the same thing, right?

I was totally wrong. I knew of and could feel the difference between strains but didn’t fully understand the implications of what this means when you are using it medicinally. 

The first lesson I learned was from the high CBD chocolates that I made last weekend. These really packed a punch and were great for pain but made me a little sleepy. Not the most perfect thing for a daytime medicine. They are great, however, for night time pain remedy and restful sleep or taken in smaller doses during the day. 

The next lesson I learned is that it can be a good thing to vary your strains. Choosing a higher THC strain during daytime will give a more energetic effect and a higher CBD strain for pain and relaxation, ideal for nightime. I know there is way more to it than just that but for right now it feels like I’m at least starting to grasp this concept much better and can actually apply it for more effective medicating. 

The final thing I learned about cannabis this week is to try different methods of ingestion for your particular issues. There are so many different ways to use cannabis as medicine: Dry medicine, oils, waxes, edibles, drinks, topicals, bath salts, tinctures, etc. I’ve tried most of these methods and have learned that each one is unique for what it can help me with. The key is to use quality products. 

I am currently aiming for a mix of vaporizing, topicals, and homemade gluten-free/vegan edibles. Vaporizing for times when I need relief now, not two hours from now. Edibles for long-lasting pain relief and topicals for…well, I’m really new to topicals so I’m still testing what works for me.

Until next time…Eat your Greens (with a splash of oil.)

Making Cannabis Chocolates Without a Recipe

ImageThis weekend I made these very simple cannabis chocolates. I had gotten a 1mL tube of cannabis concentrate from a lady at the Cannabis Farmer’s Market who I talked with for a long time about the purity of her product and the process she uses to make it. I appreciated that she had gotten her products tested for potency and was striving to get it tested for purity when that becomes available to her next month. 

I have used this type of concentrate before and I love it. The medicine has already been activated so it is ready to ingest right from the tube, it is very potent, and it is very effective for my pain. It takes about an hour or two before I get the full effect but then that lasts for several hours. 

Back to the chocolates. So, I get home with my little tube of medicine and decide it is a good idea to make it into chocolates. I do not however have a recipe for making dairy free cannabis chocolates and I am not in the mood to look up other people’s recipes. I decide to be adventurous and wing it instead. 

The lady at who made the concentrate told me she would probably get about 20 cookies from one tube (or 1mL). I did a little math, which is not usually my forte, and decided to do 18 chocolates with .9mL. 

I melted 1/3C of dairy free dark chocolate chips, and about 2T of coconut oil in a little pot. Once melted I took it off the heat and stirred in the medicine. Once it was fully mixed I poured little spoonfuls of chocolate on a sheet of wax paper and put them in the fridge to set. While waiting I proceeded to lick out the pot with a giant smile on my face.

They came out pretty great! Melt in your mouth but firm enough to be left on the counter without being a melty mess. Did I mention they are delicious? I stored them in an airtight container in the freezer. 

The real test was the next day. I took half a chocolate first thing in the morning to test its potency. Even half was strong enough to relax my body and ease my pain without feeling high. The next day I took a whole one and while that wasn’t too much but it was definitely much stronger. Day three, I am taking half in the morning and maybe half this evening. Everyday is different, right? 

I was pretty happy they turned out so well. Next time I make cannabis chocolates I might try adding nuts, take out the sweetener, and then use an actual mold to make them a little more pretty.  I have about 16 more days of this chocolate cannabis medication bliss. 

Until next time…Eat Your Greens!

 

Staying Hydrated When You Take Cannabis

ImageNobody ever told me that using marijuana would make me dehydrated, I found that out on my own. Ok, I am bright enough to figure out that is what causes ‘cottonmouth’ but I never thought about the implications of taking something long term that is chronically creating a state of dehydration in my body. 

Dehydration does a number on my body. When I am dehydrated my joints ache, I get headaches, my energy sucks, and my brain just doesn’t function as well. That is the opposite of what I am trying to achieve by using cannabis for pain management.

I have found over the two years or so that I have been using cannabis medicinally that the dehydration gets worse when my tolerance to it has increased and I am taking medicine more often. So what is a health oriented girl to do? 

Here are a few things that I do to stay hydrated:

1) I start each morning with a big cup of warm or hot water. I usually squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lemon in this to help detoxify and cleanse my liver. This little routine gets my day started on a hydrated note and is perfect for the days when I wake up thirsty. 

2) I carry water with me everywhere. It is rare to find me without my stainless steel water bottle/thermos and I do make an effort to sip on it often and always come home with it empty. 

3) Taking medicine breaks. To reset my tolerance I try to take regular breaks where I take no medicine. This gets tough when I am in a lot of pain but it is a work in progress. At first I was taking a month off for every three months of use. Now I am experimenting with shorter reset breaks and having success in taking a few days off here or there. This approach feels more balanced for me right now. The little breaks also allow my body to get fully hydrated without any interference. 

4) I avoid caffeine and sodas as much as possible so as to have one less thing to contribute to low hydration levels. 

5) I go to bed with water on my nightstand. Every once in a while I wake up in the middle of the night and will be thirsty but don’t want to get up. Having it right there in a sippy cup (so I don’t spill it) solves that issue for me. 

Like I said, finding the right balance and staying hydrated is a work in progress for me but even just this one thing has been monumental in maintaining my vitality when I am on cannabis. 

Until next time…Stay Hydrated and Eat Your Greens!

 

 

My first trip to a Cannabis Farmer’s Market

IMG_0071

This morning I went to my very first Cannabis Farmer’s Market. My intention going in was to find medicine and hopefully learn as much as possible about everything there. The first thing that I noticed was the glorious smell. There was definitely weed there as vendors were lined up to share their cannabis and products. At the first vendor I stopped at, I met a lady in her 50’s who sold medibles and oil. I chatted with her for a while and got some oil that came in an easy to measure syringe for my baking.

As I continued on a few tables more, I met a man who offered me cannabis wax. I accepted, which was a first for me but not an unpleasant experience at all. At that point in my cannabis farmer’s market experience I was glad that I had been taking a mini medicine break over the past couple of days for maximum impact when I consumed again. I did not, however, take anything away from that particular table.

Let’s fast forward the rest…I went to almost every vendor and chatted them up. I smelled about 30 different kinds of cannabis. I bought some medicated lotions. I hugged a lady who seemed to need it. Overall it was a very positive and comfortable experience besides the few tables that I had to really work at to move on because they talked so much. And that one guy which the horrible halitosis.

I would definitely prefer to go to that market than a dispensary any day of the week. Plus the medicines and products were less expensive than in a dispensary so my pocketbook is happy too.

I was really pleased with how much people knew about their products and a little surprised with how much I already knew as I talked to them. I was disappointed with the quality of medibles that were offered, none of which I would even try because of my food allergies. Turns out I’m not such a newbie after all.