Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

5 Ways to Save Money When Facing a Chronic Illness

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

This post is sponsored by RxSaver by RetailMeNot and includes tracking links. For more information about tracking links and how to opt out, please visit All About Do Not Track prior to clicking any links found in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

If there is one thing I have learned since my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome diagnosis, it is just how expensive having a chronic illness can be. The daily maintenance of medications, supplements, therapeutic services, doctor visits, medical devices, and dietary requirements can be extremely taxing on our budget. 

That is why I’m excited to partner today with RxSaver by RetailMeNot to share their online tool that helps you find the lowest prescription prices available. You can shop right at your own nearby pharmacy and save tons. 

As a budget-conscious person, I also wanted to share with you some strategies I have been using to save money to help offset some of our medical expenses. While we can’t always do financial planning for a chronic illness, we can learn better strategies for managing your money with your chronic illness.  

Here are 5 easy ways we saved while not compromising on the care I need to treat my condition!

Get Familiar with Your Health Insurance Plan

If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, it is SO important to read what benefits are covered under your plan. With a brief scan, you may discover potential savings that allow you to explore services you thought you would have to pay out of pocket for. Many plans can offer coverage for items like medical equipment, home health agency services, physical or occupational therapy, and even your chiropractic care. 

Two appointments I have been regularly booking, for example, have been for acupuncture (to help treat my TMJ symptoms) and massage therapy (to also work out issues around my jaw and neck).  

Those typically sound like spa services, don’t they? 

Can you believe they are covered at my chiropractor’s office? I’m able to have these services processed under the umbrella of chiropractic medical care through my health insurance company.  

Isn’t that so great?

If you are unclear if a particular service is covered, contact the number on the back of your insurance card to request an associate look at your policy and help you walk through your benefits.  This is also a great time to ask about potential discounts for healthy and wellness like discounts on a gym membership, nutritional counseling, or mental health services.  

Save Time & Money By Researching Prescription Prices

Did you know there are ways to save on prescription drugs whether you have insurance or not? If you can’t afford your chronic disease medications, you can take advantage of apps that save you money on your prescription needs. 

Simply head to the RxSaver website (or download the app) to comparison shop the pharmacies near you and evaluate which store offers the best deal for your money.

The nice thing about this service is that they don’t require any personal information to use it and you don’t have to have a membership to take advantage of the savings. Simply enter your prescriptions in, compare prices, and choose the best price and location for you.

When I typed in my own medications, for example, I was surprised to find $20-50 savings on one of my medications thanks to this tool finding the lowest prices for me. Check your own prescriptions right over here.

This quick price check can yield your family up to 80% off at pharmacies nationwide!

Find Ways to Earn Money & Trim Your Current Expenses

When you become diagnosed with a chronic condition, you may find that your days look a lot differently than they did. Honestly, I found that my day was really structured around appointments and squeezing in a little rest.

As we all know, when our days look different our spending can also look different.  

This is a great time to reevaluate your monthly subscription services to see if they are being used enough to justify the expense.  If they no longer fit with your new lifestyle, consider reducing or dropping services to save money to pay for your future medical expenses.  

A monthly gym membership, for example, could be reduced down to a class pass instead that can work with your new daily schedule. 

Small switches like this can free up funds for future medical expenses.

Also, consider tweaks that can help you earn money to help offset costs. Moving your savings to a high interest earning online bank, for example, can yield up to twelve times more interest than what you may currently be earning.

As you explore your financial systems, I would also encourage you to get advice from a trusted financial planner to discover ways you can earn more from interest or strategies for investing wisely to help cover any unexpected expenses. 

Discussing what your new normal looks like, with your financial advisor, can impact lots of future decisions. This is a great time to go over things like estate plans, life insurance, and strategies for covering your medical costs.  The more transparent you are with your financial advisor, the better dialogue you will have to prepare for your future.

Take Advantage of Wholesale Club Prices Without the Membership (or Heavy Lifting)

Wholesale club memberships can be expensive up front, but can yield great money-back rebates and savings on items or services needed for your health. Just think of all the potential savings on things like vision, supplements, or medical care equipment needs. 

Now that I use Instacart for grocery delivery, I discovered that you don’t need a wholesale club membership card to have a grocery delivery service gather your groceries for you. This workaround on the Costco membership means that I can take advantage of all the store has to offer online and have these heavy items delivered to my door.

If you do have a card, you can input your membership number for them to use, securing more in your future rebates without the hassle of shopping for it all yourself.

Keep in mind that the grocery service does not typically purchase a lot of the over-the-counter medications you need though and that section of the store can save hundreds on your health expenses.

No grocery delivery in your area? 

As a small town girl, I feel your pain!  

You may consider doing a grocery pick-up service and having someone at home to assist you with the heavy lifting. 

Single? 

I have found a rolling shopping cart saves me time and energy on my grocery days.  #stillwinning 

Ask About Patient Assistance Programs

Lastly, if I learned anything from my Dad, it is that it never hurts to ask for a discount!  Many places I visit offer a discount card for repeat visits, a reduction on medical bills if paying out of pocket, or can share samples of prescription medication that can help offset a bit of your day to day expenses. 

I highly recommend asking too if there are discounts for students, seniors, military, long-term disability, or being low income discount. I have often been surprised what discounts I had at my disposal that I would have never known about if I had not asked.

Not only is asking about a patient assistance program at your various appointments beneficial, but it is also something you should look for when shopping for items you may be purchasing online.

In fact, many expensive medical devices or medical supplement sites may have a page dedicated to Assistance Programs, on their website. These programs allow you to apply for a set discount on your purchases that can save you a lot of money or can be covered by your health savings account.

Just like being transparent with your financial advisor, I encourage you to have transparency with your physician about your budget too.  When our son’s medication skyrocketed hundreds, we set up an appointment to discuss alternatives that wouldn’t be as costly. By having this conversation, we were able to switch our son to a higher milligram pill that could be split into two doses, giving us twice the amount of pills for a lot less.

Don’t forget though, you have a patient assistance program right in the palm of your hand. The RxSaver app can help you narrow down who has the cheapest prescriptions in your area and get you back to resting in no time flat.

This post is sponsored by RxSaver by RetailMeNot. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

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MSM Supplement to Treat Joint Pain

Friday, April 20th, 2018

MSM Supplement to Treat Joint Pain

I am not a doctor. Please speak with your physician if this supplement is right for you or if it will interact with any medications you may be taking. 

I have been meaning to sit down to write this post for you for a couple of months, but I also wanted to be sure that what I shared with you was an actual experience with a supplement and not something I wasn’t informed on. If there has been any privilege in going through this experience, it has been hearing that something I have shared has helped you or your family members in some way.

I am so excited though to share with you about a supplement that has GREATLY decreased my joint pain and, truly, given me my quality of life back.

The craziest thing though is that NO ONE is talking about it and it is an affordable solution that has allowed me to kick my pain medication habit to the curb and given me the ability to return to travel and take on work projects again.

In fact, after sharing a post on my personal page on Facebook about how much it had helped me, I  had three friends reach out and share with me that they have been able to discontinue their medications for arthritis pain or that this has decreased their symptoms significantly.

The supplement is called MSM and it has helped me SO incredibly much with my joint pain and many of the issues I struggle with when it comes to my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

MSM Supplement

What is MSM?

MSM stands for Methylsulfonylmethane (that’s a mouthful) and has been nicknamed the, “miracle supplement,” because of its ability to lower inflammation, fight the effects of stress and pain, raise immunity and increase energy levels.

At its root it is an an organic sulfur-containing compound that can be contained naturally in some green vegetables and other food products, but not at the levels that you would find within the supplement itself. While its presence can be found in many of the foods we eat, it is quickly lost during the cooking process. That is why it is so valuable in supplement form.

The reason so many benefits are attributed to the MSM supplement is because MSM provides biologically active sulfur, which is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the body and needed for many different critical bodily functions every single day. MSM is especially popular as part of an arthritis diet and supplementation plan to treat arthritis or osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease since it helps form connective tissue and repair joints, tendons and ligaments. (source)

Is it Clinically Proven to Help Anything?

Supplements are always a tricky territory, aren’t they? I am a big believer though that many supplements have the ability to improve the quality of our life.

Clinical trials though have been done with MSM and you can read about the medical study over here. In this clinical trial they tested the effects of MSM on joint pain in 118 patients with osteoarthritis and found that compared to a placebo, MSM supplements taken over 12 weeks resulted in more improvements in pain, swelling and joint mobility.

In reference to dosage, in this trial, the MSM supplements were given in 500-milligram doses three times daily along with glucosamine (also taken in 500-milligram doses three times daily). Together they both seem to safely reduce inflammation and pain intensity without causing side effects for the majority of people.

Ideally, adding MSM along with Vitamin C (which improves the absorption)  and Glucosamine (see the study above) is the perfect combo to achieve optimal results.

With regards to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, what I have, I found this medical advice given- “We therefore hypothesize that the symptoms associated with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome may be successfully alleviated using a specific (and potentially synergistic) combination of nutritional supplements, comprising calcium, carnitine, coenzyme Q(10), glucosamine, magnesium, methyl sulphonyl methane, pycnogenol, silica, vitamin C, and vitamin K, at dosages which have previously been demonstrated to be effective against the above symptoms in other disorders.” (source)

How Much Should You Take?

This, again, is another tricky territory and would be great to speak to your physician about. You can take anywhere between 500mg on up to 10,000mg, but starting small is always ideal.

What Has it Helped Me With?

My Joint Pain Has Decreased- Vicodin has been the only pain medication that has worked for me and we all know that this isn’t a sustainable solution and not a great one for a mom who has to run her kids around town.  Since starting the MSM, I have been able to use this daily (with the exception of some of the really bad days) instead of my prescription pain medication.

The effects, for me, were rather immediate and amazing. I felt like I had taken a pain pill, but wasn’t struggling with the foggy head and exhaustion that I experienced while taking Vicodin.

Coupling this with my favorite chronic pain gadget (read all about it over here), I feel like I have found two great solutions that I can live with.

The best part, I’m traveling again because of the decrease in pain. How awesome is that?

It Has Decreased My Hair Shedding- I am not sure if it was the medications I was taking or if it has been the stress that my body has been under, but I was losing A LOT of hair. Since taking this supplement, I am only shedding a few strands (versus clumps) and my hair feels thicker and seems to be growing much faster. In a similar way, my nails are thicker and growing faster than they were before.

I discovered that it is also referred to as a, “beauty mineral,” because of how much it helps with your hair, nails, and skin.

The only plus to this connective tissue disorder is that I do not have struggles with my skin, but if you are struggling with things like age spots/pigmentation issues, this can help with that too. It also helps with acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and dermatitis.

I Am Bouncing Back Better From My Workout Routines- It has been really awesome to get back to my workout routines and not be hobbling around for a couple of days after. I feel like MSM was the tweak in my supplement routine to help my body build back some of its strength.

I’m Not Needing to Brace My Joints as Much- My PT had instructed me to brace my fingers since we discovered the pain in my fingers (from being hypermobile) was causing my elbow pain. Guess what? I’m not wearing my finger braces anymore unless I have a really long day at my desk. This has been absolutely incredible to be able to use my fingers again for longer periods of time.

Any carpal tunnel issues I have been having seem to have decreased, if not completely resolved.

My heart is so hopeful that I will be knitting again soon!

smoothies

My MSM Routine

After going through so many capsules daily, I decided to purchase the MSM powder instead. I add a 1/2 teaspoon (2,000 mg) to my smoothie in the morning. In the afternoon, I add the same amount to my La Croix, and in the evening I add this to my Calm with warm water.

I am disclosing, it is horribly bitter. It takes a bit to get used to, but totally worth it for the benefits it provides.

If you prefer, you can take MSM in a capsule format instead.

I Am NOT All Better Though

I don’t want to mislead anyone because this is helping, but I still have bad days. I was excited to be traveling again, but I still was hurting and needing to rest when I got back. The thing is… I can travel again.

I feel much, much better and anything that keeps me off pain pills in the winter is a GREAT thing.

I am focusing on that.

Here are some other articles you may find helpful:

Life Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

11 Ways to Naturally Relieve Joint Pain

The Life-Changing Device I Found for My Chronic Pain

Burning Mouth Syndrome? Maybe Not!

Living in the Gray

Follow all my medical adventures (and more!!) on Instagram.

Have you tried MSM? I’d love to hear if this supplement has helped you? Please share!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Burning Mouth Syndrome…Maybe Not?

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Burning Mouth Syndrome

It has been awhile since I have checked in with you about my own personal health journey, but something occurred this year that I thought would be a vital PSA since I had such a hard time locating information on the topic and finding the correct diagnosis. In fact, I can’t tell you how many people have written to me that have finally found answers to their health issues (or their children’s) when I wrote about my connective tissue disease. It was through this that I realized that transparency about our reality really does help people.

For example, when I discovered a life-changing way to manage my pain without drugs, I was able to connect other people to this incredible device that got me off painkillers.

Today’s post has been a few months coming and it’s a long one…

Say Goodbye to Your Normal Jaw

My biggest struggle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is my body’s ability to dislocate/subluxations with no real rhyme or reason. It creates a lot of anxiety when you wake up and don’t know if all your bones are going to stay in place throughout the course of a day.  My biggest issues have been my shoulder blades slipping, ribs subluxations, fingers (which I brace now with these), and hips.

This Fall though, I had my first dislocation of my jaw and it was as awful as you might imagine it.

I opened my mouth and the pain shot through my jaw all the way to the top of my head with a loud pop. I woke up the next morning in excruciating pain and my teeth were so out of alignment that I had chewed my tongue through the night. I hit the emergency dental office the next evening, after attempting to tough it out for the day, and they put me on muscle relaxers and fitted me for a night guard that would hopefully help relax my jaw to move back in place.

To shorten the drama-filled post-I had an allergic reaction to the night guard, got fitted for another night guard, the allergic reaction progressed, and my tongue swelled and now REALLY didn’t feel like it belonged in this jacked up jaw of mine.

My tongue had scalloped and looked like this and hurt along the sides and tip.

Almost even worse than that though was that my mouth started to feel like it was ON FIRE and it was a 24/7 kind of pain that it was all I could think about.

Imagine burning your tongue, but imagine your whole mouth feels like that all the time.  It was utter misery.

I spent the next three months seeking the help from every medical professional I could find.

I tried to mediate and use yoga to quiet my mind from thinking about the burning in my mouth.

I saw a chiropractor.

I saw a massage therapist.

I consulted with three dentists.

I visited my GP and got seven different prescriptions.

My physical therapist tried to calm the nerve pain.

NOTHING worked.

NOTHING.

I spent hours and hours trying and hundreds of dollars in agony.

I did not sleep through the night for months.

This lead, admittedly, to some bad habits. I drank A LOT of wine to try to relax in the evening- to stop my mind from thinking about the burning.

I consumed a pot of coffee during the day so I could drive my children to and fro, driving them in a foggy haze that bordered on unsafe every day from the lack of sleep.

I called the doctor for anxiety medicine because all my mind could think about was my tongue.

I ate like crap since I felt like crap anyway.

I would sleep for an hour and walk around the house crying from the jaw pain and the furnace in my mouth.

MONTHS of this! My quality of life went to absolute (for lack of better word)  shit.

Burning Mouth Syndrome or Your Own Personal Hell

After doing a lot of research and talking with my medical professionals, we concluded that I had Burning Mouth Syndrome, brought on by the dental disturbance in my life.

Burning mouth syndrome is the medical term for ongoing (chronic) or recurrent burning in the mouth without an obvious cause. This discomfort may affect the tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth or widespread areas of your whole mouth. The burning sensation can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.

Burning mouth syndrome can appear suddenly or develop gradually over time. Unfortunately, the cause often can’t be determined (like in my case). Whatever pattern of mouth discomfort you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for months to years. In rare cases, symptoms may suddenly go away on their own or become less frequent.
Basically, it can just start up for no reason and never end. It can also start up as a secondary syndrome, where it is triggered by other circumstances (like in my case).
According to  the Mayo Clinic, underlying problems that may be linked to secondary burning mouth syndrome include:
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia), which can be caused by various medications, health problems, problems with salivary gland function or the side effects of cancer treatment
  • Other oral conditions, such as a fungal infection of the mouth (oral thrush), an inflammatory condition called oral lichen planus or a condition called geographic tongue that gives the tongue a map-like appearance
  • Nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of iron, zinc, folate (vitamin B-9), thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and cobalamin (vitamin B-12)
  • Dentures, especially if they don’t fit well, which can place stress on some muscles and tissues of your mouth, or if they contain materials that irritate mouth tissues
  • Allergies or reactions to foods, food flavorings, other food additives, fragrances, dyes or dental-work substances
  • Reflux of stomach acid (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) that enters your mouth from your stomach
  • Certain medications, particularly high blood pressure medications
  • Oral habits, such as tongue thrusting, biting the tip of the tongue and teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Endocrine disorders, such as diabetes or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Excessive mouth irritation, which may result from overbrushing your tongue, using abrasive toothpastes, overusing mouthwashes or having too many acidic drinks
  • Psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression or stress

Burning mouth syndrome usually begins spontaneously, with no known triggering factor. However, certain factors may increase your risk of developing burning mouth syndrome, including:

  • Recent illness (BINGO!)
  • Previous dental procedures (BINGO!)
  • Wearing dentures
  • Allergic reactions to food
  • Medications
  • Traumatic life events (BINGO!)
  • Stress (BINGO!)
  • Anxiety (BINGO!)
  • Depression (BINGO!)

The side effects are depression, anxiety, and no sleep.  I am not kidding when I say that when I visited forums on this topic that people were often contemplating ending their lives after decades of living like this. 

Hello, TMJ Specialist

I ended up seeing a TMJ specialist, a costly but necessary investment, and we talked about what my goals were for my visit. For my case, I needed a night guard that was not made from acrylic material and I needed a resolution to my Burning Mouth Syndrome.

I was put through a battery of tests and the biggest takeaways I learned about myself is that I have a narrow airway and my body had been in fight-or-flight mode all night because I don’t get enough oxygen. I was pushing my tongue in weird places at night to try to make oxygen for myself and gritting my teeth because I couldn’t breathe.

It was advised that I pursue this type of nasal surgery (a relatively new option) and that I start Cold Laser Therapy weekly to help calm down my mouth.

With a new night guard and the mild relief from the cold laser therapy, a little lavender essential oil on my tongue, and a proper night guard, I felt like I was back in business.

The burning was still there, but manageable

Feel the Burn

Back to crappy eating, excessive Christmas Cheer consumption, and a load of coffee to make the Christmas magic for my kids and I found the burning started to increase again. Once again,I am pacing the floors and crying at night because of the pain. I have, seriously, been the most miserable person to be around.

It is one of these late night sessions that lead me to a forum where a woman shared that she had been misdiagnosed with Burning Mouth Syndrome. She, in fact, had Acid Reflux and this had been the culprit.

Acid reflux?

I’ve never had heartburn so that couldn’t be right….

That is when I stumbled upon something called SILENT Reflux. 

Silent Reflux, Say What?

Silent Reflux or the term Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) refers to the backflow of food or stomach acid all of the way back up into the larynx (the voice box) or the pharynx (the throat). LPR can occur during the day or night, even if a person who has LPR hasn’t eaten a thing.

Not everyone with reflux has a lot of heartburn or indigestion. In fact, many people with LPR never have heartburn. This is why LPR is called SILENT REFLUX, and the terms “Silent reflux” and “LPR” are often used interchangeably. Because LPR is silent, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose.

Check out the symptoms list– I share this because most people don’t know they have this condition and it can potentially be dangerous and lead to cancer. Any untreated reflux increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer; in fact, reflux-induced esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the United States. 

Remember how I shared about my excessive coffee and wine consumption? It isn’t just so you can judge me (although you totally can!), I basically was adding fuel to the fire all day long.

That night I popped a Pepcid and my mouth calmed down about 80% and I realized that I was on to something. I talked with the TMJ specialist and he congratulated me on solving the riddle in my body and that we would no longer need the cold laser therapy sessions.

Now What?

Well, now that we have solved the riddle, I have to make some major dietary and routine changes. I need to book an ENT to resolve my oxygen issue and get guidance on my silent reflux. I consider the fact that my mouth was doing this a very serious cry for help. With all my health issues, I’d be a fool not to take that seriously.

I checked out this book and realized that everything I love to eat had been contributing to the burning sensation in my mouth. I’m a late night snacker, I love my all day coffee habit, I love wine, I have been known to sit down and eat two or three tomatoes with a load of vinegar, give me all the red sauce and heavy foods, etc…

Here are some things you should avoid if you suspect you might have silent reflux too.

I’ve got a lot to work out still, but I would do anything, ANYTHING to feel like my old self again. I need to figure out my new normal again.

I feel like I’ve been through hell and back.

But, you guys, I DID THAT and I’m back, still standing.

Also, I need to distribute medals to my friends, family, and medical professionals this year- thanks for still loving me.

Feel free to shoot any questions to me about any of this or tips on dealing with acid reflux!

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!