The offers of condolences and sympathy for my current — and so far, losing — battle with severe back pain are appreciated. So are the suggestions of cure. Even the gentle and not-so-gentle lectures for (1) trying to drive while in pain and taking medication or (2) not seeking help are welcome.
But the tone of such lectures leads me to a conclusion that I am not doing all that I should or that I am trying to “man it out” and work through the pain.
It also becomes apparent that many readers are unaware that pain is, has been and always be a regular part of my daily life.
I had a rambunctious youth and my adult life isn’t all that calm and peaceful. I’ve broken many of the bones in my body — several more than once. I’ve fractured my skull not once but twice, broken my neck twice and have metal and plastic in places where bone used to reside. As a result of the many broken bones, multiple surgeries and some inherited genes, I developed arthritis at a young age and at age 62 it is now advanced to a state where movement is possible only by striking a deal with pain.
Six years ago, I broke my right ankle when I slipped on a slick sidewalk in Arlington. At the emergency room, the doctor came back with the x-ray and asked “how many times have you broken this ankle?”
I wasn’t sure. “Four or five times,” I said. “Why?”
“Because there is so much calcium buildup around those earlier breaks that I can’t tell by the x-ray if it is broken again or not.”
The x-ray also couldn’t detect the pins and screws that hold the ankle together from earlier break. So he put me back on the table and scraped away the calcium build up before finding the new break and two loose screws that needed replacement.
Arthritis sufferers know about living with pain. You learn to live with it. Up until this recent flareup with my back I took 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day just to handle my normal pain. Even with that dosage, it was painful to get up from a chair, climb stairs or walk up or down steep hills.
Doctors always ask you to describe pain levels on a 10 scale. On a good day, my pain level is about 7.5. Over the last three weeks, the level has gone off the chart. I’d put it at about 15 as I write this.
For those who wonder, yes, I am under a doctor’s care. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It won’t be the last. The pain radiates from 35-year-old injuries to the L4 section of my spine and shoots down both hips and legs. Medication and stretching exercises should have helped in the past. With luck it will again.
Some readers have suggested trying a chiropractor. I’ve never been to one. If this episode becomes the pain that won’t die I may consider. Others have suggested acupuncture or treatment from a practitioner of oriental medicine. Haven’t tried that yet. I may.
Apparently some of you find reading about my pain a waste of time or you’re just tired of hearing about it. Granted. When pain sidelines a writer, we sometimes turn to what has sidelined us as a subject.
So this will be my last piece about my pain. I’ll go back to doing what I do best — being a pain in the ass for everyone else.