Sometimes it’s difficult to express how frustrating it is to try to figure out what affects my Willis-Ekbom syndrome.
But playing Dungeons & Dragons this weekend shook an idea loose in my brain.
It has to do with dice and hit points.
In D&D, you use different types of polyhedral dice with varying numbers of sides. The standard way to represent this is with a number (how many of those dice you roll) followed by D4 for a four sided die, D6 for a six sided die, and so on. So rolling two "standard" dice in craps would be rolling 2D6. If you need modify the result, you add a plus or minus sign followed by the number. So 1D4+4 is rolling a four sided die, then adding four to the result.
This leads to some interesting choices when you’re deciding what weapons you want your character to use. 1D12 and 2D6 are not the same, and over time, can give very different results. Likewise, 1D4+4 gives very very different results than 1D8. Heck, over time, 1D4+4 will have a higher average result than 1D10. Try it yourself with an online die roller.
Now, imagine that Sir John is attacking Blargh, an ogre. Sir John is using a longsword, which does 1D8 damage. That round, Blargh takes six points of damage – obviously from the longsword, and John rolling a 6 on 1D8.
The next round, Sir John is joined by Felix the Untrustworthy. Felix is using a short sword, which does 1D6 damage. That round, Blargh again takes six points of damage.
With only the information above, you cannot tell which character hit, or how much damage each of them did. There are too many possible combinations.
Which is exactly what you’re trying to do when you’re figuring out what things affect your chronic pain, and what factors caused it to cross a threshold. Sure, you might be able to figure out that the barometric pressure (for me) has a large effect, and that antihistamines have a smaller (but noticeable) effect, sure. So let’s call those 2D10 and 1D10.
I’ve started looking into the possibility that MSG can cause problems as well. But if it does have an effect, it’s a smaller one – perhaps 1D8.
Which leaves me wondering that if I end up with a 18 the day I consume MSG, and a 12 the day I don’t, is that because of the MSG? Or is it because I "rolled" high on the other factors I already know about? What about the other way around? It’s just as possible that if I end up "rolling" a 10, it’s because the MSG "rolled" an 8 and the other two only rolled 1’s.
Even doing a BRAT or elimination diet wouldn’t be particularly useful in this kind of (hypothetical) situation, because the variable nature of the biggest factors mean that any way the MSG affected me would be impossible to separate out.
Keep that in mind when you’re talking with someone with chronic pain, particularly those with poorly-understood neurological issues (/me waves at all the fibrofolk), especially when talking about the things that cause (and alleviate) their discomfort.
And maybe give ’em a healing potion or two.