Thursday, April 20, 2017

A real pain in the neck



I'm hesitant to write along these lines this week, but feel that many of my readers will relate. I like to write motivational, inspirational, and sometimes humorous or challenging columns that have a message or make us want to be a better person. Probably too often I pontificate while pointing out injustices or rude social behavior, but not this week.

A couple days ago, I drove my 85 year old mother to see her pain doctor. She has to go each month and sit anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in the waiting room to prove she is not abusing her pain drug, which now thanks to recent regulation changes, hydrocodone is being phased out. This highly effective drug has been the only reason she has lived a semi-normal life and she takes it on schedule.

What she gets now is a form of morphine that doesn't address her numerous joint pains, which she itemized with a chuckle. "My shoulder, neck, back, wrist... even my big toe!" Her doctor earlier had explained to her that she was concerned my mother would become dependent on the hydrocodone. My mother, who is in full control of her mental faculties looked at the doctor like they were out of touch with reality.

As she explained to me in my car, "I am 85 years old and I cannot live with pain. I am fully dependent on that medication to relieve it, regardless if the drug is addictive or not." It didn't matter to the doctor and my mother also had this little gem of inside information. "If they were in pain, they would understand."

This conversation took place last month when we went through three days of her running out of hydrocodone because none of the local pharmacies carried the new pain killer. It got very close to a panic situation for her. At the time she was explaining the issue of pain and meds, I was pain free and have been for years, but what she said sounded logical, although I couldn't really relate. People complaining about health issues falls on deaf ears to the healthy.

Sadly, I was soon to be educated why people choose to end their life rather than live in constant pain.

On March 21st, I awoke with a stiff neck. I drove to the NASA gym to instruct a spin class at 0830 and by the time I left, my right shoulder was numb and I couldn't turn my head.  By noon, I was climbing the walls. I have never felt pain that intense and it was one solid long line of agony. No matter what I did or what position I was in, nothing relieved it.

I doubled up on ALEVE and 2 days later I was at the VA emergency room. I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't think of anything else except the non-stop pain in my shoulder and bicep and at first I thought I was having a stroke, but ruled that out for a pinched or impinged nerve.

They set me up for an MRI in 5 days and gave me a small prescription for a weaker pain med named Tramadol.  I took one every 6 hours as directed and ran out Sunday morning, 3 days later. This was 2 days before my appointment. I am convinced the doctor didn't really bother to calculate how many tablets I needed because he couldn't relate. People living in pain are very aware of how many pills they have. The pain came back with a vengeance and by noon on Sunday I drove the 30 miles to the VA and went back into the emergency room.

Through a miracle, I got an MRI within an hour and a sympathetic doctor who prescribed my 5 meds. He asked me what the level of my pain was and I told him it was the one right below crying.

To make a long story short, I have about 8 inches of vertebra that over the years have sustained enough injury that now through a shrinking of the nerve channel it is impinged. My arm is numb to my finger tips and I've had to curtail not only my spin classes, but all gym time until we can resolve the issue.  Being the competitive individual that I am, this is very difficult for me, but the possibility that the pain will magnify past the place where it can be controlled is so scary that I just backed off.

This brings up another subject of medicinal marijuana for pain management. It has been found so effective, for so many people, only those who cannot relate to pain would object to legalizing it. When a person would take a bullet to the head to stop the pain, what in god's name would be wrong with using something that works?

I am one month into this and still numb to my fingertips on my right hand and close to starting a second 16 day blitz of Prednisone, where it feels like I am on fire internally. I have a pain consultation on the 27th to determine a course and it appears it will be acupuncture. I still remain hopeful about instructing spin class, but as I approach age 65 in June, I simply have to realize I am no longer the young buck that still lives inside of me.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bill Duke Bert I so can relate to your pain story. In 1987 I was thrown from my truck in Atlanta on loop 285. It was a horrific accident. Lost a good friend and wasn't supposed to survive. Any way I did survive and am doing pretty good with the help of oxycidone 10-325's. I have taken them for 30 years I don't abuse them and they still help so much. I don't take them to be pain free just to make the pain toll arable. I go to my pain Doctor every month and do a urine test to make sure that I am taking them because of the people that sale them and just get them for that purpose. Plus if pot were to show up in my urine I wouldn't be able to get them any more. I broke my back in 9 places among so many other things they are hard to list. Playing the pain medication game is just such a crock when you have proven that it is the only thing that will work. I hope you get your pain taken care of brother living a life with pain every minute sucks but it beats the alternative.

Anonymous said...

DDC: Very good column in The Baytown Sun, Bert. I can certainly relate. With a lot of things, the actions of some make an unbelievable hardship on the ones who have a genuine need. Every time I would see my doctor, I would have to plead my case all over again.
Also, I apologize for forgetting to comment on your previous column, especially when you said such nice things about my car. That was very nice, and I appreciate your kind words. It was great seeing you and talking with you out there. Have a blessed week!

Anonymous said...

WH: Well written as usual Bert. I can fully relate. People who don't get it... just don't get it. I liken it to those who look at your 'pain' when you lose a beloved pet, and drop such 'pearls of wisdom' as; "It was just a dog." Yeah... and this is just a fist. It won't hurt. Much.

Anonymous said...

Lynnette Elder: You laid it out perfectly. As to your mom, her doctor obviously doesn't really know her, or doesn't understand the difference between controlled dependence for pain relief and uncontrolled addiction. Duh.

Anonymous said...

Ken Pridgeon: BERT YOU ARE A GOOD MAN AND I'M SURE THE ANSWER IS THERE FOR YOU. ALL THE BEST...

Anonymous said...

Susan McGuyer: Bert, I can so sympathize with you and your mother. I have arthritis in my hips and knees. I was busy all my life and have had to cut way back. I've had one knee and one hip replaced but still have pain. I no longer can do aerobics (which I loved) but have to stick to pilates and yoga and I walk my dog every night for at least 30 minutes. I take Tramadol as needed but try not to take it every day. I'm 73 and am in good health otherwise and am not overweight (120 lbs) but hate it that I can't exercise like I used to.

Anonymous said...

Ronald Hal Rhodes: Great article Bert!

Anonymous said...

Jesse Hardin: Exactly BB! Thanks tackling this Subject

Anonymous said...

Terri Baker: I'm sure you have consulted a good Chiropractor. I have a great one here in Summerwood who is great with alleviating pain from pinched nerves. He also sends people to a Dr. who gives shots for pain and he continues to continue adjustments. The two things seem to work well for some but not everyone.

Anonymous said...

Gordon Little Bert, nice story. I can honestly say that now you too can relate to what i've told you that i've been suffering with for years now. It took me off my motorcycle, stopped me from enjoying metal detecting and geocaching, and actually made living miserable. I went for years eating BC Powders, Ibuprophen, and Naproxen like candy trying to relieve the pain but to no avail. I tried chiropractors, traction, physical therapy, accupuncture, all kinds of things until my doctor finally sent me to a pain specialist because I was at the end of my rope with the pain so intense that I was having dark thoughts about relief. I started out with Norco, Neurontin, and Voltaren Gel, which really seemed to help. I had 4 rounds of steroid injections in less than a year because my doctor said he was getting pressure from the government about prescribing Norco (which by the way really helped). He put me on Tramadol instead, and talked me into surgery.

Well, today I sit here with a little less pain, permanent nerve damage in my neck, permanent numbness in my fingers, a titanium plate with screws and cadaver cartilage in my neck, and STILL in pain because he still doesn't want to prescribe more Norco. Unlike many with my condition that are on disability, i'm still trying to hold down a job to support my family. It gets harder by the day, and has even forced me to leave the job i've held for over 15 years for one less physically demanding and shorter days.

I wish I had the answer but I don't. They took the pain med that worked, put me on Tramadol, and basically said deal with it.

I also find it pretty stupid that my doctor asks me what my pain level is each month when I go in for refills and a pee test to make sure i'm not just selling my meds (geez, really?), and doesn't get it when I say a 5 or 6 because i'm on my meds right now, but around 8 or 9 without meds. All he hears is 5, and wants to lower the amount of meds he prescribes. I said 5 or 6 ON MY MEDS, not off them! Jeezus man! Listen to what i'm saying!

Anyhow, I wish you luck on your journey for relief, but bear in mind it may be a long one, and even serious steps like surgery may not provide relief.

Best wishes...
Gordon Little, a fellow pain sufferer.

Anonymous said...

Cliff Mckee Get well soon BB

Anonymous said...

Susan Ward Thanks, Bert, for the reminder to thank God for my blessings!

Anonymous said...

Deb Hearn: I am so sorry for your pain Bert. I pray it will go away soon. I know you will be thrilled when you are back to pain free

Anonymous said...

Stephanie Garcia I understand this too well. Much love Pops! I pray you get some permanent relief!!

Anonymous said...

Barbora Cole: I can relate to your mom and you.

Anonymous said...

Marian Marshall: I am still so unhappy about the loss of my old pain meds. Now I have a whole new set of problems with the new. Including anxiety, periods of shortness of breath. A mouth as dry as the Sahara desert. I won't even go on about the opioid problem. I am very concerned about the joint pain I have now.
Oh for my hydrocodone. Now I have been given another addiction to replace the old & have more pain then before. I couldn't hardly dress myself this morning.
Ah yes...the golden years that have become so tarnished it's hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

James Connealy: My knee pain seems so insignificant now! Sorry you and your mom are having to suffer. My mother told me "growing old wasn't for sissies". She sure was right.

Anonymous said...

Gardener: I can relate to Bert's collum in today's paper. Been taking mother inlaw​ to various doctors over the years and one in particular is the pain management doctor.
Due to the new laws concerning opoids she no longer takes hydrocodone or morphine and is on another one I can't even pronounce, but is working. The hard part is convincing an 85 year old person why they have to pee in a bottle every month!

Anonymous said...

Bikergirl: Reading BB weekly article in the BS. Hope you get your good health back ASAP. You never know where that next pain is going to come from. I keep warning my younger friends and family about picking up items too heavy, etc. It will catch up to you.

Anonymous said...

Amy Winans: Bert, living with 5 arthritis's for 15 years now, I almost cried from joy at how SPOT ON your column is. Rather than submit to that humiliation, I stubbornly went to just OTC and alternatives and somehow live with it. What's downright criminal is how they treat responsible people like your mom and us who need the meds. Was on Hydro several years, never ever once took more than prescribed and less as much as I could. You would think in a postmodern society that anyone over the age of 80 (much less 60) has the right to take any damn thing they know they need... Thanks for shining the light (and you are so right, you have NO RIGHT to weigh in if you haven't felt and lived with that pain).

Anonymous said...

Melvin Roark: I had 2 acupuncture treatments from the Chinese doctor on Ward rd, just down from McCoys. just two treatments cured my tennis elbow.

Susan McGuyer: My son finally had surgery. He had a pinched nerve in his lower back, making his leg numb. Not only horrible pain but he could be walking and the leg would just give way making him fall. He tried everything and nothing relieved the pain (he's 48) . The surgeon drilled a hole in the flattened disc making room for the nerve and as soon as the surgery site itself healed, the pain was gone.

Mike Lewis: What a good article Bert. I'm sorry for your mother, and for you. As you might know I spend a lot of time with hurt feet and at my last visit with my feet doctor, he was implying that he was going to stop prescribing the pain meds. When he does I guess I will have to request a pain doctor for my ill's.
Good luck my friend.

Anonymous said...

Betty L There's many of us dealing with chronic pain and cannot get a medicine strong enough to help. I'm one of them. I have had knee pain since I was 17 yrs old after a horse fell on me that I was breaking. A younger me never slowed down but I can't say that anymore. As I have gotten older, I have gained weight due to inactivity; the inactivity due to chronic pain. I have had one knee replacement and that has helped immensely and I will have the other one replaced soon. I'm looking for better days ahead! Being inactive is not a pleasant lifestyle so I'm voting "YES" for whatever helps give a person a better quality of life whether it's legalized marijuana or controlled narcotics. People without chronic pain haven't a clue! Thank you for this article. Hopefully, it will give a new perspective.

What, me read? Isn't that a 4 letter word?

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