Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Watch Your Back

Here's the thing - pain medications are awful.  They don't eliminate the pain; they just move your brain away from it by putting down a soporific white fog.  But you really want them after, oh, abdominal surgery and childbirth.  Maybe you want them when you are dying.  And I wanted them after I fell a couple of weeks ago and compressed my poor T8, which has been giving me intimations of mortality for about 20 years.  I have not quite bird bones, but the long, thin bones characteristic of Airy poetical types.

There's that, and the slow bone erosion that comes with kidney failure.  And I hated to drink milk as a kid, hated it even when I was pregnant, and nutrition didn't get much attention in the press back then.  In short, I had bad karma.  Born with my father's bones instead of my mother's.  You can only do so much to protect yourself against your karma.  It's a real mistake to think otherwise.

My Good Doctor (a DO who does not himself do surgery, and therefore tells the truth about it) agreed with me that back surgery is a very bad idea in general, and on me in particular.  I am a Cranky Old Woman (I hear you thinking of the acronym for that) with a heart rhythm disorder and only one kidney.  I have to take  immune-suppressants, which make infection a real and present danger after any wounds, including surgery; and, of course, the best place to get an incurable infection is an American hospital.  You could google that.

In response to my pathetic condition, Good Doc prescribed Baclofen for the back pain.  It is prescribed for  spinal nerve pain, and it was serious back pain, augmented by the spasming in my neck from the fall. The disc was compressed by the fall, and I have some scoliosis in the lower spine anyway (maybe a mild, undiagnosed case of polio when I was a kid).  My back does not hurt at all in these situations:
  • lying flat on a big heating pad in the afternoon and at bedtime
  • lying curled fetally on my side to sleep
  • sitting in the perfectly balanced upright posture they teach us in Zen
  • cautiously lifting something light, using my legs 
  • using one arm to wash my hair 
  • doing 12 minutes (today) on the Nustep at the health club
Then there are things that make it hurt a lot:
  • carrying over two pounds, such as my purse or an art book from the library*
  • driving a car
  • reaching up to clean the microwave
  • some of my routine chi gong movements
  • getting dinner plates out of the bottom of the dishwasher
  • carrying more than one dinner plate to the table
  • lifting my chin to watch HGTV while on the Nustep
* I gave a young man the opportunity to do a random act of kindness, and asked him carry it out to the van for me.  He was a little startled at the request, but seemed to enjoy it.
I know - you feel my pain (and Tom's, because he had to clean the microwave).  I feel my pain, too, again, because after a week on the Baclofen I was so confused I could hardly get my teeth brushed.  So, I quit it.  When I started on it, I had stopped the low dose of oxycodone I usually took at night, because sometimes pain from my torn rotator cuffs would keep me awake; I did not resume that.  It interferes with sleep, always a problem for bipolars.

So far, so good.  My system of digestion and elimination is glad to be rid of the opiates, and I love having a clearer mind.  The other advantage is that being alert to the pain helps me stay careful. And in a way, all of this is Zen.  A balancing act.


  1. Melanie from AustinJune 7, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    So how did you/do you deal with anger, frustration, resentment (and blame) about physical problems and limits?! More sitting and practice? Plus more...? and more...?

    I sat this morning (more like stewed this morning-- in grumpiness and pain) and then I did my best to pay attention to the feelings. What showed up was, "I am disappointed." Then tears dripped down my face in the zendo.

    I am disappointed the bi-weekly, self-injected drugs were not the miracle for arthritis one doctor had promised. {I'm having trouble with even basic tasks right now.) Doctors should not claim drug help will be a miracle. Or at least, I should hear such claims and add a big dose of skepticism.

    1. Sometimes I cope by writing furious posts in the night from hospital beds. :)

      Seriously, that breast cancer scare took me to the basics. Until I felt that patch of strange skin, I was so depressed that I had actually gotten up on a step stool and fallen. And maybe would never drive again. And so on.

      Before that, I had the statin episode. How could I take that stuupid drug?! I kept playing over who I should sue, or at least try to cost them their job. Really.

      This whole culture preaches cures and miracles and freedom and youth forever. And the doctor thing is patriarchy, authority, our desire for gurus. I hate to think I'm in the grip of ancient twisted karma, but I have been. We are. Blaming just doesn't help. Just learn from it. Probably the best cure was crying a little. I sometimes think that's why women live longer than men. Now, maybe a good laugh and some chair dancing.

  2. Melanie G. from Austin, TXJune 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Thank you for the response, reality check, and love. You're a lifeline, really.