It Hurts When I Do This

imageIt’s an old joke, but it’s not funny when you’re experiencing pain. For most of my life, pain was a loudmouthed relative at a wedding. I knew that I had to endure it but I could take comfort in knowing that it would soon be gone. I had never experienced chronic pain or for that matter, lingering pain.

Pain was also almost always something I could address. Put pressure on it, rub it, put heat on it, put ice on it, elevate it or walk it off. Something always worked. There was always a way to ease the pain. My favorite and the method that my wife and friends understand the least is to just go to sleep. To this day, I can sleep through most pain.

So, as you might imagine, I was woefully unprepared to be truly helpful the first time I was around when my wife had a migraine.

What can I do to help? Can I rub your head? Would ice help? Can I get you some aspirin? How about a pillow? Can I make you something to eat? Do you want some soup? How about a cup of tea?

I now know that none of those things work. I know that I imageneed to put myself at a distance, take care of the dog and be quiet. Being quiet extends to the entire boundary of our small yard but I didn’t always know that.

Early in our marriage, my wife had a migraine. She pulled the shades, shut the door and climbed into bed. I went outside and did some body work on my truck. I used air tools including the one shown here – an Air Hammer. I was outside. In the driveway. At the opposite end of the house. I didn’t know that the sound of each one of the 2,900 impacts per minute would bounce off our neighbor’s house and rattle the bedroom windows. I have never. Done. That. Again.

About 4 years ago, I did something stupid (yes, I know the air hammer thing was stupid). I lifted a chunk of asphalt from a sidewalk we were breaking up and I carried it to a dumpster. I knew that it was too heavy but I figured that I could just do it. I didn’t think about having to lift it over the side of the dumpster. My shoulder hurt. It hurt and it kept hurting. It wouldn’t stop hurting. Nothing really helped. Advil® might have helped but I’m allergic to Advil®. Aleve® might have helped but since it’s a stronger form of the same class of anti-inflammatory as Advil®, I’m even more allergic to it. I went with the “walk it off” strategy and waited for the pain to go away. It didn’t go away.

Weeks later, I went to the doctor. I’ll skip the ineffective attempts and go straight to the thing that worked – Physical Therapy. 12 weeks of PT under the care of a woman who seemed determined to hurt me worse than I already was.

During my initial evaluation, she asked:

So, what’s wrong with your neck?

Nothing, it’s my shoulder.” Thinking maybe she had the wrong chart.

No, your neck is involved.” Then she grabbed my head and said “tell me when your shoulder hurts.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re going to hurt me?”

Yes, I am going to hurt you. You should get used to that because before I make you better, I’m going to hurt you a lot.”

As she pulled my head back at various angles, I let her know which ones hurt. She wrote it all down and sent me back to the doctor. Additional X-rays revealed Arthritis in my neck that was, as she said, ‘involved’ with the pain.

Since finishing PT in 2011, I’ve been a good boy. Nothing stupid. I’ve been keeping up with a regimen of maintenance exercises and I’ve been using the home traction device the PT prescribed at least once a week. Despite that, two weeks ago the pain returned. Actually it was a different pain and it was in my other shoulder. It felt like I was being stabbed (I’ve been stabbed, I have the reference point, so I can say that) and it wouldn’t go away. Well, it wouldn’t go away for about 18 hours, after which it was replaced with a dull constant pain extending from my upper arm up into my neck. image

This time, the doctor gave me a prescription for a topical anti-inflammatory gel. She said “we’ve had pretty good luck with this” which I interpreted to mean “this will cure you!” A few minutes later, I was off to the drug store to fill that prescription. When I got there, I hit a snag.

Your medical insurance provider doesn’t approve of the ointment your doctor provided.”

What does that mean?

That means that your doctor has to talk to their doctor and explain why you need this medicine.”

I knew what that meant. That meant time. Time between me and my being cured.

Can I just buy the stuff?

You can buy it, but you have to pay retail. It they approve it, you would get the lower cost we agreed to sell it for under their plan.”

I really didn’t care. I’d have sold my iPhone to a stranger to raise the cash to pay for that cure.

This stuff works pretty well without any side-effects but the relief is temporary. The doctor also gave me a prescription for PT. Since the pain has continued for more than a week, I have to go back and see that woman. Wish me luck.

43 thoughts on “It Hurts When I Do This

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  1. I understand completely Dan. I took a spill down a flight of stairs on Wednesday and im all about frozen bags of peas and Advil right now. When it first happened i would have given up the iphone for relief as well! Good luck and i hope u r better really soon!!


    1. Thanks Katie. I thought you might get on my case for the way I dealt with my wife’s migraine :) Sorry to hear about your fall, I hope that heals quick. I’m optimistic that a shorter round of PT will take care of this.


  2. I wish you luck. As you know, I have osteo arthritis in my knees, hips, neck and hands. I also have rheumatoid arthritis in my lower back. I live on anti-inflamatories and paracetemol. I have a hospital appointment tomorrow with the consultant and he will just tell me to keep taking the tablets. It appears my knees “aren’t bad enough” to do anything about. Presumably, I must be crippled before they will sort them out. I love our National health service but sometimes I would like to tell them to do it under my insurance! Rant offer.



    1. Thanks David. I still remember the incident at the crosswalk in NY :) My brother just had one knee replaced. He’s not yet back to where it’s as good as it was before, but the progress is promising. I’m not sure I have the option to live on this stuff, as it’s by prescription only.


  3. Ouch! I’m sorry for you. A few years ago I followed physical therapy seances for a year (twice a week for months), after a ski accident and two surgeries. I was amazed by the number of men who came for neck and shoulder issues. Like you, most had underestimated the weight of something they carried. Icing worked well for me to fight inflammation. But warmth helped sometimes too. Both pads can be found at the drugstore. Good luck to you.


    1. Thanks. I’ve found that ice helps. Heat on the area tends to make it feel worse but general warmth, like a hot shower, helps also. I’m hoping the PT can adjust the exercises in doing after a more thorough evaluation. I’ve found that they do a better evaluation than the Dr. Sorry to hear about your accident, surgery and prolonged recovery. I hope there are no lasting issues. For me, I guess it’s mostly age :(


      1. Hope you feel better. The combo between MD and PT is great when they work well together. Mine knew each other well, yet the PT had a hard to believe me when I told him I couldn’t move my knee. He said I was young (!) and athletic. Didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. It’s only when the MD asked for a new exam that the PT agreed there was an issue. Lesson: Always ok to question authority.
        Best to you.


        1. Thanks. I started PT today. The assessment took over 35 minutes, but I feel like I’m in very good hands (again). It is hard to question authority, but you’re right, sometimes you have to.


  4. I’m one of those people who can take NSAID’s but not too long. Hives, loss of feeling in fingertips…oh yeah, good times. I’m also one of those people that can’t tolerate the “good” drugs or the muscle relaxers. I have RA and I try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, and when it gets too bad, I take the OTC’s and hope for the best! Sometimes it’s rough. However, none of that comes close to touching the pain of earaches, toothaches or migraines. I’m so glad I rarely get migraines anymore!
    Never had PT. Hope it works for you, and I’m sure glad the cream helps!


    1. Thanks. Maybe you can explain on your blog what an anti-inflammatory diet is. Then again, if my wife sees it and it’s stuff I don’t like, I may be in trouble :)


      1. I wouldn’t like to spend a blog on it, lol! Who would read that? lol Basically a highly plant-based diet. Not so much meat, more fish, mushrooms, peanut butter. Gobs of high-fat dairy and eggs. Add soy. Reduce breads, substantially. It’s really, really difficult to live without pasta and bread and cereal, but limiting helps. So I don’t eat poached eggs and toast on the same day I eat pasta, and then with one or the other, no cake or cookies in the evening, hmm?
        An anti-inflammatory diet is also an anti-anxiety diet, so I feel I get a lot from it.
        But I will NOT give up my noodles, haha!


  5. OH, Dan, I really wish you luck! I live with chronic pain, so I understand perfectly when you said you would sell your iPhone to buy that cream. Thanks for the tip, because the next time I visit my doctor, I will be mentioning this cream. I’ve tried similar creams, and they just don’t seem to help. Yet, if I don’t at least try, I’ll never know. I will keep you in my prayers. Love, Amy


    1. Thanks Amy. I am sorry to hear that you live with this situation. I can barely imagine what that’s like. The Voltaren is working pretty well. It’s short-term relief, but I’m very glad to have something that I can use.


  6. Hey Dan, no pain no gain. Sorry, what a shitty and insensitive thing to say. Hope you get relief and healing soon. Strength to you.


  7. Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Although drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a small glass of V8 should help reduce the inflammation and help heal the underlying cause.


          1. I love Medicare and our PBS.

            Our currently government has recently advocated the removal of our universal healthcare system with the introduction of Co-Payments.

            I’ve been praying it doesn’t get through the Senate.


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