A PAIN IN THE NECK

I realize it is never interesting to hear about someone’s ailments.

Too bad. I am going to explain my behavior over the past three weeks in the hope that my experience can help others.

Due to the fact that I apparently have a target on the back of every vehicle I’ve ever owned that says “Smash into me HERE,” I have suffered neck pain of varying degrees on and off for years. Currently, we refer to it as a degenerative problem. In other words, it is not getting better. We just find ways to make it bearable.

I have tried physical therapy, chiropractors, facet injections, medication… I have yet to try acupuncture, but as soon as insurance decides they will cover it, I’m first in line to be a pin cushion.

I never know what will set it off. Lifting a dog, a niece, groceries, raising my arms above my head, working on the computer, sleeping, lugging suitcases, and possibly, most recently, holding my iPhone in front of me for 15 minutes as I video taped a wedding ceremony. That’s the only thing I can think of that might have brought on this latest flare up. I wouldn’t put it past the airline seats either – as the head rest seems to lock your neck into a position that the Spanish inquisition would applaud.

After a week of dosing myself with what was left of my Hydrocodone and Baclofen, I decided to give a chiropractor a chance to sort things out. I did issue certain rules and restrictions. NO SNAPPING or YANKING on my neck. We must go about this process gently and stealthily. After an X-ray revealed the bones in my neck were leaning to the right – as though I were standing on the side of a hill, the doctor explained my left side was locked up in a spasm as it tried to pull the spine back to center, while my right side was pinching all sort of things – nerve endings, blood vessels, etc. That would explain why, when he moved my right arm behind my back and checked the pulse, there was none evident. This also explained the pain and tingling down my right arm and into my fingers. (Not good news for someone who spends about 10 hours a day on the computer.)

We began treatment with me lying face up on a table while he slipped his fingers under the base of my skull and gently pulled. He then pressed against one side of my head and the other as I attempted to resist and push against his hand. Ouch. Flipping over onto my stomach, he exerted pressure on my first rib, attempting to do a little realignment. Instead of snapping my neck around, he applied a device that used little taps to nudge the disks back into the desired position. After three such visits, he assigned simple exercises. Stretching a rubber band straight out at shoulder height and pulling with your left and right hands outward until they are extended into a T formation.

By the next day I was miserable. When my next visit rolled around I refused to participate in any more exercises, as they were either going to kill me or cause me to punch someone in the face. A combination of constant pain, lack of sleep, and frustration is not a happy place. Desperate measures were proposed. The chiropractor wanted to skip this tip-toeing around and seriously adjust my neck. It would either result in relief, or indicate there was a more serious issue that would require an MRI. Or, cause me to punch him in the face.

This sounded like a TERRIBLE plan to me. Instead, I opted for plan B. Contact my orthopedic surgeon, beg for forgiveness for ever venturing away from him and plead for drugs. Or surgery. Or an anvil to knock my unconscious.

Luckily, unlike my hair stylist, who, if I had “cheated” on him would have “accidentally” shaved my head, Dr. “I Have a Prescription Pad and Know How To Use It” started scribbling. Due to the fact that I could barely move my head, and my shoulders were twitching uncontrollably and hunched up just below my ears, he suggested that perhaps the chiropractor had pushed a bit too hard and inflamed the nerve endings, which needed to calm down. Thus followed what I refer to as “Christmas.” I exited with prescriptions for Valium, a steroid pack, an NSAID, an anti-seizure medication and pain pills.

“I take these all at once?” I queried.

“Yes. As prescribed. Not as needed.”

“Wow. And I didn’t get you anything.”

“Avoid alcohol if you have to be functional.”

“Oh. Not a problem. I haven’t been functional in weeks. No one will notice the difference.”

No one it seems, except the people at work who catch me muttering, “Now, did I take that pill or did I just get the bottle out and get distracted?” And my friend Max, who has taken to calling me Judy Garland. Apparently my speech pattern is a little slower than usual and a bit slurry. He speaks fluent Judy, though, so is happy to translate for me in company.

The good news is, I feel SO much better. I no longer want to burst into tears or punch people in the face for bugging me with “unimportant” things like work, chores or responsibilities. People tell me they like this Ann.

Personally, I think they like relaxed Ann because she tends to walk around in circles a lot, having forgotten what it was she got up to do.

I like this Ann because… it’s time for her meds again.

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V IS FOR VICTORY. AND VALIUM.

I have a pain in my neck. A big, giant pain. This is not a set up for a husband/children/job joke. It’s really just the fault of IDIOT drivers talking or texting on cell phones who insist on ramming me from behind while I innocently sit at stop lights minding my own business and NOT TEXTING. This has happened at least three times and caused some sort of arthritic/degenerative blah-blah to my neck that in layman’s terms means my neck is totally jacked up on occassion.

So, recently, after a serious error in judgment in which I decided to bungee jump…(Just kidding. I would PREFER that story to what I am about to confess.) After a serious error in judgment in which I… slept on a different pillow than I normally would, I have been in what can only be referred to as the kind of pain and discomfort one would feel being forced to witness Janet Reno’s OB/GYN exam.

And yes, the fact that I am capable of hurting myself while sleeping is probably not wholly unexpected by those who know me best. This even beats the Great Tendon Ripping Event of 1990 which occurred as I walked along and slightly rolled my foot off the edge of the sidewalk, resulting in the application of a cast for several weeks until I ripped it off with a screwdriver. (Side note: I think a different kind of screwdriver may have been responsible for my unsteadiness on the sidewalk to begin with.)

The point of all this rambling is that I am on some sort of cocktail of drugs (under a doctor’s supervision) that involves my carrying a bag around with pain-killer, Valium, steroids, anti-inflammatory, and some sort of nerve medication to prevent seizures. I’m not quite clear how that got in the mix, but I don’t like to pry.

The good news is, I am definitely feeling better and can actually move my neck (head?) without turning my whole body from the waist. The bad news is, my mother (who called from out-of-town yesterday) practically had apoplexy when I went into my medication recital and declared I was going to end up like Shelly Winters.

Shelley Winters?? Like from the Poseidon Adventure?? That’s the best she can do? That IS bad news. I told her I preferred my friend Max’s comparison to Judy Garland and asked that she please refer to me as such in future telecommunication.

Shelley? Please.

Just for that, I’m not breaking the next Valium in half.

(Say hello to my leetle friend.)