Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On physical pain

It's Sunday morning and I awoke with pain that makes it difficult to walk.

It's in the lower back, more on the left side, and particularly deep in the upper left buttock.

I seem to have strained something, perhaps when skating last week holding my daughter in my arms. It seems to have gotten worse yesterday when I was attempting to make another dent in the unpacked stuff we have lying around the living/ dining room.

I expect that in the course of time it's going to go away by itself, but in the meantime I may need to buy a cane.

(And isn't it ironic that as an Escrimador I have lots of sticks around but not one long enough to serve as a walking stick? The nearest thing I have that would serve is a Zatoichi-style sword walking stick - which would be a felony to carry on the street in many places.)

As one gets older I've noticed that the kind of sprains and pains that used to come from straining the muscles, joints and ligaments, now seem to well... just happen. Or perhaps happen from some minor effort, such as getting out of bed.

My wife is urging me to take a pill, but as a doctor's son I've got a certain suspicion of painkillers and prefer to avoid them when possible. I'm using IcyHot and Aspercream topical applications instead.

(Some studies have indicated that the least medicated sector of society is - doctors' families. Isn't that interesting?)

She's also suggested I go to the emergency room. For what? Again, something that's going to go away by itself in time, and in the meantime nothing can be done except take a painkiller.

Of course, there is that little voice that whispers "What if it doesn't go away, not ever?"

I've lived with chronic severe pain before. When I was 25 I had a case of arthritis in my hands that was an s.o.b. to live with. (I suspect, but cannot prove, that this may have been caused by exposure to PCBs.)

It eventually went away after lots of aspirin and getting out of a bad relationship - and there is so much of a correlation between the two that when you go to see a rheumatologist he's pretty quickly going to get around to asking how things are at home with you.

But how would I deal with it if it never went away? Would one get used to a comparatively minor pain like this? Or would one think seriously about suicide, as sufferers from dry tooth sockets are said to?

Remember that flick, The People v Larry Flynt? After an operation to kill the pain from his bullet wound, he stopped taking the (highly-addictive) painkillers.

"I want my mind back" was how he put it.

My late grandmother was prey to aches and pains and used to complain that she wanted something that would kill the pain, but didn't like feeling "goofy." (Towards the end of her life she was kind of hinting to me that she didn't think pot was so bad. To this day I regret... oh never mind.)

There's a political dimension to this as well. (Oh come on, you knew there would be.)

When you have free government insurance that mandates the doctor has to see you whenever you walk in, it doesn't take long before the system gets overloaded with people with pains like this walking in and demanding that he fix this right now.

My father estimated in his (orthopedic) practice, that perhaps as high as 60% of his patients didn't really need to see him. They were either suffering from something that would go away by itself in time, or something stress-related. (People tend to store stress as muscle tension in either the lower back or across the forehead.)

Other doctors in other specialties have told me that the number for their patients could be as high as 90%.

Well, for now I'll just spend the day in bed with Aspercream and a hot pad. And durn it, I'm going to have to wait to try out those new rollerblades.


  • At 9:18 AM, Blogger Saint in Exile said…

    I had a pain between my neck and upper back that really hurt - I suspect from doing overhead presses in the gym; don't lower the bar behind your head! If I moved my neck or arms, I would feel a sharp pain throughout my upper back. After suffering through this for 3 days, I took one Advil gelcap. It went away and did not come back. I'm guessing that something was inflamed and just need a few hours of relief to stop being irrated by my continuous movements.

    My ex-girlfriend had chronic pain in her neck. She actually had a prescription from a doctor for an adhesive pad that would numb her neck - a topical treatment. It was tedious to apply and it took a while to make the pain go away. I recounted my earlier experience. She didn't want to get in the habit of taking ibuprofen because overuse can damage your stomach lining. But, finally she tried it and the pain went away and didn't come back for 2 weeks (whereas it had previously been a few times per week).

    Trying a pill one time might be worth it.

  • At 5:11 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    If this is the only time you've had to deal with this, maybe some Absorbine Jr and ibuprophen will turn the tide of battle.
    If you find this something you're encountering on a regular basis, you might want to look up a chiropractor who specializes in treatments that DO NOT involve drugs or surgery...You might have a crimped ciotic nerve (Hope that's the right spelling). Got one out of an auto accident once, and they're a nuisance til the pressure's relieved.

  • At 5:53 PM, Blogger Ed said…


  • At 5:11 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Thanks guys, I'll try them in order - but don't tell Dad about the chiropractor...

  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger trollsmyth said…

    Must be something in the air. I'm getting over almost exactly the same pain, though mine is almost certainly been exacerbated by poor posture and an old computer chair. Like I did, I'm sure you'll get to feeling better soon.

  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger Gerry said…

    I've used a chiropractor for the last 7 years. Heck, my doctor recommended mine! As long as they stick to back-related problems, they're ok. I used to throw my back out at least twice a year before going. Now, only twice in the last 7 years and that was because I seriously overexerted myself.


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