Monday, November 29, 2010

Autonomic Nervous System

Sympathy for my Not so Sympathetic Nerves

I haven't felt well this weekend, as often happens when I don't feel well I research.  Not sure what I think this accomplishes but inwardly it often gives me a feeling that I am still moving forward no matter how stalled out I am in real life.  I am always happy if I think I have discovered something that explains a symptom I didn't really understand before.  Again - this can be just my imagination working overtime, but at least I'm not sitting here stuck in the "I'm in pain" loop.

If you have never experienced the "I'm in pain" loop my brain thinks like this:
"I'm in pain"  (sad and wimpy)
"Ignore that!" (snappy and aggravated)
"My mind seems stuck in a loop!!??" (amazement at my genius)
"Duhhhh......" (drool from slack brain)
"Was I supposed to ignore something?" (looking for a brain cell to light up)
"I'm in pain" (see above)
"Ignore that!" (see above) infinitum [you get the picture]
It's like trying to bat a mosquito dive bombing your ear.  You wave at it and smack at it and its annoying as all get out but you just can't get rid of the little monster.  When I get stuck like this it becomes impossible to reboot my brain, so keeping it occupied (I have discovered and WooHoo!) keeps it moving forward.

My choice of research this weekend was my nervous system.  Dr. Welby thought it was very interesting that my GI specialist at Barnes/Wash U in St. Louis (Dr. Bellyfixer) was certain that my motility and other digestive issues were from nerve damage that controls the bowels.  In researching the innervation of this region of my body I found that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and the part that controls the bowels comes from the lumbosacral region of the spine - the part that the radiation treatment seems to have harmed.

The autonomic nervous system is made up of two to three different systems (there seems to be some disagreement about the third - whether it is a separate element or not).  The sympathetic nervous system governs intestinal peristalsis and some bladder functions.  The parasympathetic nervous system controls the sphincters, incontinence issues and non-specific abdominal pain that may be felt in the skin. The enteric nervous system works with gut motility and some reflexive digestive processes.

These systems work with each to complete the digestive process and to signal the body when things are right and when things are wrong with digestion and organs in the pelvic area.  If one gets out of synch they are all in danger of malfunctioning.  It is sort of a "push me pull me" type of relationship so if two sides decide to push instead of one push and one pull you get all sorts of problems happening. Sorta like The Belly and me!

The major nerve signalling chemical used by the autonomic systems is acetycholine.  One of the drugs which works the best for my motility problems is an older drug, Pamine (methscoplamine bromide) prescribed by Dr. Bellyfixer. One of the Dr. Dunces sneered at me in a condescending manner when I told him that this was really the only medication that had helped me so far.  I guess Dr. Bellyfixer (a department head working at one of the top ranked hospitals in the country) knew his chemistry and neural signallers better than all the local Dr. Dunces put together.  Pamine is an anticholinergic, a medication specifically formulated to inhibit acetycholine in the nervous system so I guess it stops some of the over signalling that is going on in my bowels!  Now I know why it works, and why it was prescribed. 

The autonomic system is considered part of the peripheral nervous system which is basically any nerve in your body that doesn't come directly from the brain or spine.  The other part of the peripheral nervous system is the somatic nervous system, which deals with touch, pain and movement.  The somatic part doesn't work very well for me either, but I think that type of damage is easier to diagnose due to weakness and changes in sensation and pain.

Enough nervous system anatomy for today/tonight.  My pain has decided to calm down for awhile so I'm going to try to go to sleep while I can!  WooHoo!!!  Trying to go without medication so I can jump to work tomorrow early!


  1. Winny, thank you for the explanation into your pain and all the systems of our body. (((((Winny)))) Hope you were able to sleep without too much pain dear.

  2. JBR: Got just a couple of hours of sleep - hope you are doing OK too!!!

  3. You use Pamine?!? No one ever knows what Pamine is when I say I'm on it (and I mean my doctors!) I've been on it for about 10 years for IBS and no one has ever heard of it.
    I gave up on research. I kept finding new things wrong with me :)
    Have a great week!

  4. Kristin: My pharmacy has to special order it as apparently I am the only person in my county that uses it!! I can see how it would work for IBS!!! I have to watch it tho- I take it too many days in a row and The Headache gets gripey, so its on again off again for this med for me.

  5. So glad you are feeling good for bit!