October 8, 2013

stop playing doctor

With my brother, I was told repeatedly, "just be his brother." 
With my son, I've been told, "just be his dad."
With myself, I've been told, "stop trying to diagnose yourself."

     I clearly have a problem with this advice, not because I'm arrogant or untrusting.  It's because if I don't....well, let me tell my story.  My shoulder pain I wrote about is still pretty damned painful.  So my family doctor (he's one of the good guys, albeit relatively few in my experience sadly) suggests I get another opinion.  Completely appropriate given the circumstances. I'd already seen a sports medicine doctor and failed two rounds of physical therapy.  Acupuncture helps some but only for a few days.  So I went to go see a pain management doctor.  Again, chronic intractable pain = pain management.  Not rocket science, is it?  I told the specialist my story and he wanted an MRI of my neck before proceeding.  Seemed reasonable to me.  It was possible I had a disk pinching a nerve and rather then presenting as nerve pain, it was irritating my muscles.  Ok, I can see that being different but in the realm of possibility. 

     So I dish out nearly $900 for the MRI and lo and behold, I do indeed have a bulging disk in between the vertebrae C6 and C7.  It's not huge or anything but it is there.  The arrow is pointing to the bulge. 

     So I go back to the doctor to "get the results" even though I've already looked at the images myself.  But I follow the advice and don't diagnose myself.  Personally, I don't think a bulge that size is causing all the problems, but hey, that's me.  Leave it to the professionals, right?  The pain doctor tells me, "it's possible the disk is causing it, it's possible it's not."  If it is, a steroid shot is in order but because it's in the spine, it involves the OR.  Whoa, that sounds expensive.  Let me find out how expensive this is first, because my insurance sucks.  I wait a day and discover that it's going to cost me close to $2,000 for something that might help.  Well, when you're in pain all the time, you're willing to try damned near anything so I was sorely tempted.  But the frugalness in me won out.  I declined.
     So I wallowed in pity wondering was I doomed to be in pain, both physically as well as emotionally, the rest of my life.  But something bugged me.  I threw off the "trust the professional" mantra and instead cast on, "physician, heal thyself", aka "I'm right, damnit."  My bulging disk, if affecting nerves, would be hitting C7 nerves because the nerves in the neck exit above the vertebral disk, ie C7.  Problem is, the biggest and baddest bulging knots were in my trapezius, rhomboids and levator scapulae.  Um, Houston, we have a problem.  The nerves that feed the rhomboids and levator scapulae exit at C5 higher up.  And the nerves that feed the trapezius exist even higher up from the skull.  That's like going out to the breaker box on your house and tripping the switch for your garage but having the lights upstairs go out instead.  Unless you're wired wrong, it doesn't make anatomical sense.
     So I almost spent $2,000 of money I really don't have in desperation because somebody forget their spinal anatomy as it relates to muscles.  Damned doctors.  So I'm left without an accurate explanation of why the muscles on the right side of my back are so angry that they are visibly swollen.  While stress may play a role, I seriously doubt it's causing my shoulder this many problems for the simple reason that I threw out my lower back simultaneously and it got back to "normal" in exactly the same amount of time as usual.  I don't think stress is so selective.
     I'm going back to my family doc to brainstorm.  At least I know I'll likely have a C7 problem down the road.  That's something fun to look forward to.

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