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Oh, My Aching Back

Posted Sep 01 2012 1:31pm
Oh, my aching back!   Yes, for those of you who don’t know me, my youthful indiscretions have left me with a lousy back.   Fifteen years after my first back surgery, I had my second.   That was fourteen years ago!   Now my back is flaring again.I wake up every morning feeling stiff and old.   A hot shower and some stretching make me young again.   I can conquer the world, at least until 4 pm.   After 4 pm, I start to age again.   It’s 6:30 and I’m 75 years old.   I am not complaining!   It’s a fact of life.   Most days, no one notices how I feel.When my staff starts telling my wife, “He’s Grumpy,” I know my back pain is showing.   I haven’t heard the “grumpy” word in a while so I guess I’m doing pretty well.   I’m sharing my personal story in hopes of helping others who live with pain.   I have choices and want to review them in this article.I can take medication to either treat or hide the pain.   I hate medication!   Yes, I’m a doc and I hate taking pills.   Anti-inflammatory medicine alleviates my pain by removing the inflammation caused by my spinal arthritis.   I bloat on anti-inflammatories putting on 3-4 pounds of fluid during the first few days.   By the 10 th day, my stomach is upset and I have to take anti-ulcer medication.   I’d rather tolerate the pain than plump up and get indigestion.I could take pain medications to hide from the pain.   I can’t take codeine and work so that’s out!   I can’t imagine not going to the office and seeing my patients.   Besides, codeine constipates me.   There is nothing worse than being constipated, sitting on the porcelain throne and straining when your back hurts.  I could take muscle relaxants.   Their effect is akin to what I imagine the 70s would have been like if I hadn’t been so perfect.   You certainly would not want to see a doc on Flexeril.   Do you understand why I don’t like pills?My favorite treatment is a shot in the rump of Toradol, a potent anti-inflammatory that works really fast.   Unfortunately, Toradol only lasts 6-12 hours and, if used repeatedly, has all the side-effects of oral medication.   Besides, I hate seeing my staff draw straws to see who sticks the old man, especially if I’ve been “grumpy.”My second favorite treatment is something called an epidural injection.  Dr. Schneideris a real master at injecting me in the spine with potent steroids and helping me stay healthy.   Going directly to the root (pun) of the matter makes the most sense.   Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of epidurals and have to save them for the times the pain is unbearable.Of course, there is always more surgery.   The problem with back surgery is that, while healing, you form scar tissue, and the scar tissue can create the need for future surgery.   Besides, if I ever need to return to the surgical suite, the third one won’t be the charm.   Following two successful surgeries and the passage of close to 30 years, the third surgery will be a “tear down and completely remodel” job.   I’m really not looking forward to that.I am actively working at getting thinner and healthier.   Stretching and exercise seems to be my best approach.   Massage therapy helps!   Have you seen how expensive massage therapy can be?   Unfortunately, insurers don’t believe it works so they don’t pay for it.   Physical therapy helps but what working doc has the time?That leaves me with saying a prayer every night and grinning and bearing it!   The good thing about pain is it reminds me I’m alive.   The hours when the pain is gone also reminds of how good it feels to be healthy.   I am healthy and wellthy and wise.   I know there is a good chance that this current flare up will subside.   I know my physical, emotional, nutritional, and spiritual accounts are growing by the day despite my backache.  I hope that this article helps others who are living with their back pain.   What’s right for me is not necessarily right for you.   See your doc, review your options, and find your health.   Most of all, don’t let pain sour your outlook on life. 
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