Monday, October 31, 2011

A Medical Professional. Really.

Warning: there's a big rant coming (though not, for a change, a big fat rant), and I'm in pain and cranky, so it might not be fun to read.

A couple posts ago I wrote about the incompetent staff of Miya Day Spa in south Sacramento, which should be avoided at all costs. Oh, oops, I didn't write about it here. I Yelped about it here. Anyway, they were lame and they hurt my sore back even more by dropping my legs on the table. Hurt for a day or so, got a bit better, then over the weekend, of course, it got really sore. Last night I found that turning over in bed was about a 15 step process.

Called the wonderful Dr. Chu at Elite Spinal and Sports Care, got a 4 pm appointment. But before he could even start working on me, my back seized up so bad from lying face down on the table that I couldn't move. It took a good 15 minutes of sweating and cursing (on my part), and tilting the table so I could slide backwards off it onto my knees, and then a lot of buttock-clenching, core-engaging, and deep breathing before I was on my feet again. "You really need to call Kaiser," said Dr. Chu. I nodded. "It's really quite inflamed in there," he said. I nodded.

I called Kaiser before I even left Dr. Chu's office, and a very nice advice nurse set me up with an appointment with my regular doc tomorrow morning, and a phone appt. with a phone doc this evening so we could talk about getting some useful medication into my system. I had already taken all the ibuprofen my stomach could handle.

Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, I've had this back thing flare up badly about five times. I know exactly what works. Ice at first, followed by heat/ice alternation. A combination of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and strong painkillers. When it's just tweaky, anti-inflammatories alone can help me out. If things are pretty bad, I have to add the muscle relaxant. I don't go asking for the pain pills until the pain makes me cry out involuntarily and break a sweat.

Unfortunately Dr. Frooze, or Fruze or Froos, or whatever his name was on the phone, didn't accept that I am a competent witness of my own experience. He prescribed me prednisone - good call, possibly, given that I have a finicky stomach when it comes to ibuprofen - and some muscle relaxant. I said, "Oh, and when this has happened to me before, I've been prescribed Vicodin for the pain, which seems to help stop the vicious cycle of pain and spasm." Dr. F. smiled condescendingly (I could actually hear this on the phone) and said, "Well, Tylenol will work just fine."

"I'm sorry, but Tylenol does nothing whatsoever for this pain."

"Yes, two extra-strength Tylenol will work very well."

"Doctor, I have had this condition several times and I know from experience that Tylenol will not work at all."

"Well," said Dr. Frooze, "You see, the pain in your back is your body telling you not to move in certain ways. When we prescribe painkillers, we interrupt the signal that your body is giving you. And, don't forget, don't just lie there! You have to move around to keep from stiffening up."

"I--- I... I don't think you understand the situation I am in. I am in a lot of pain."

"Well, put some ice on it for 20 minutes twice a day."

Tears came to my eyes.

"Right. I've been doing that."

"OK then," said Dr. Frooze, "Do you still want the prednisone and Relaxafil [or whatever]?" Like if I didn't get my narcotics I wouldn't want anything else that might help me. Really? Really? Dick.

"Yes, of course. My husband can go pick them up for me."

"So if these don't work for you, you can bring it up with your regular doctor."

"Sure." I was just too worn out to argue anymore. We ended the phone call.

I fumed. What a freakin' jerk! To tell me what was going to work on my pain, and how I didn't know that pain is a signal telling my body not to move in certain ways. ARGH! Grrr!!! MMMMFFFFF! And other expressions of frustrated rage.

The thing is, I just need to be a lot more assertive about what works for me, even if what works is an opioid. I just get self-conscious about it. Like they're gonna think I'm Dr. House or something. I fumed some more. I called Kaiser back and told the advice nurse about my experience. She was actually really sympathetic about it and sounded kind of mad at the doctor. But she couldn't take my complaint. She gave me a number to call.

The number, of course, put me through voicemail hell, put me on hold for 15 minutes and finally hung up on me. It's well after regular hours now so I'm just gonna hunker down with what Tim brings back until my appointment tomorrow.

And Dr. Chu and I are going to find me a trainer who works Tuesday or Thursday so I can work the heck through whatever imbalances and weaknesses are making this back thing act up so bad this year. I want to move again.


  1. Ugh! I hate to say it, its par for the course with pain meds though! I've learned so much through this EDS disorder crap. So many people that are in chronic pain deal with this all the time. Dr's just assume they don't know anything and that drinking a "warm glass of milk" will be fine. Those are the people you'd like to kick in the shin and say "enjoy your Tylenol." Stick it out and get a new DR that will listen to you. I am SO thankful for my Dr!! Hope you feel better!

  2. I hate it when the doctor discounts your own knowledge of your own body.

  3. Yeah, my actual doc is cool. She listens, respects my experience, answers my questions with detail, and knows that I don't ask for pain meds unless I am in real, meaningful pain. This was a phone appt with some random Kaiser doc. I was trying to get out ahead of the spasm-pain-tension-spasm-pain cycle by getting the meds before my appointment with my regular doctor the next day. The Random Kaiser Doc told me 4 things, and all of them were wrong.