Great Expectations

I expected too much.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the back story. Nobody wants to hear your pain stories, at least not as much as you like to tell them.

But due to stress, thyroid issues and celiac disease, I have been dealing with pain in my legs for the past 7 years. As I have uncovered the medical issues, the nature of the pain has changed. In trying to accommodate whatever part of my leg was hurting at any given time, my body made adjustments that, unfortunately, have also caused pain.

I have had vascular tests, blood work, an MRI, x-rays, taken a lot of medication and have seen orthopedists, a chiropractor and now a neurologist.

This last round of issues was brought on by taking too much Niacin (under doctor’s care) to try to deal with high cholesterol. I got gout. It’s as painful as everyone says, and I was a person used to pain. I tried three different anti-inflammatories in 3 weeks as none of them worked and each made me exceedingly sicker, with the last one giving me a bright red rash on my poor beleaguered legs. At that point I decided I could handle the pain better than the medication and stuck it out with an occasional shot of ibuprofen.

The gout went away (and thankfully, should be a one-time incident as I immediately stopped taking the Niacin), but I started having tingling, burning and stabbing in my foot. The orthopedist treating my gout said it sounded like a nerve issue, probably coming from my back and referred me to a neurologist and suggested I get an EMG.

I have been seeing a chiropractor for the past couple of years and she has really provided the only treatment that gives me relief. She gave me a referral to get an MRI to bring to the neurologist to try to save some time. Because the MRI and appointment were so close, I wasn’t able to review the MRI report with her, but the neurologist did not seem to think there was anything there that was causing the pain I was having, although the report showed a protuding disc as well as an annular fissure.

He listened to me, wrote some things down. He seemed happy that I had brought a diagram showing exactly how the pain traveled from my back, across and down my leg, into my foot. He immediately took that to his assistant to put that in my file. Apparently they like to collect that kind of information that patients bring in on their own. They are supposed to show a percentage of that in their medical records. He did some quick tests (checking my eye movements, reflexes, resistance-type things), had me walk down the hallway. And then he offered his treatment suggestion.

Aspercreme.

I was so looking forward to this appointment. I thought this was finally going to be the beginning of solving my problems for good. Or at least truly identifying what was going on. But I guess I expected too much. I was stunned, which was not helped by his bringing me a printout of a picture of the Aspercreme tube, although I assured him I knew what Aspercreme was. The woman checking me out must have noticed my face and tried to tell me that several patients had said the Aspercreme had helped, but to my ear, her voice had an apology in it. He wanted to see me again in 10 weeks. I scheduled the appointment.

I got in my car and cried. I don’t think I even realized how much importance I had placed on this appointment. I was so angry and frustrated and after all the little tests, my leg hurt and I just wanted to scream at someone.

He did order some blood work, but they are almost all tests my regular doctor has done and they are all normal. He did say if the Aspercreme did not work after about 10 days, I could call the office and get a prescription for Lyrica or Cymbalta.

I bought the Aspercreme. (At $5, it was cheaper than all the other medications I have been given and not likely to make me sick.) And I am tying my shoe a little less tightly (his other recommendation). Sometimes life is just wacky enough that the things you think are too simple to work are exactly what you need. But I have little faith. I do not know if I will call for the other medications. I do not know if I will keep the next appointment. My chiropractor is out of town for a week and I will see her when she is back and discuss this with her and figure out what the next step should be.

This morning, I decided to keep a pain journal. If I could note when the pain was happening and what I was doing at the time, perhaps I could find some common thread. In my head, I feel like I pretty much hurt all the time, but I know there are times when I don’t hurt, or at least not much and other times when it’s seriously bad, but in all this time, I have never tracked it to see if there’s some position or activity that is consistently a trigger. I searched for pain journal templates on the Internet and not surprisingly found many options. I saw one that had most of what I wanted and created my own in Excel with some additional columns. I don’t know if this will work, but it made me feel emotionally better, and that is already a help. I am also going to continue to document this process. I want a record of what I am doing and feeling. It’s a way of having some control over what’s happening and a little control goes a long way.

And if I keep the second appointment, I’m sure the doctor will be happy to have another document for his file. Maybe he’ll even read it.

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