Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Back Issue

Remember when Speedy Baddriverson whacked the back of my car with her car back in January?  Perhaps you've forgotten.  You know what hasn't forgotten?  My back.  Six months later, it's worse than it was. 

Originally, I went to an orthopedist. He gave me a booklet of exercises to strenthen my core even though I told him I'm pretty good with exercises that strengthen my core and stretch and relax my back.  I tried them, figuring it couldn't hurt.  I even incorporated Martha Peterson's Somatics of Pandiculation into my routine, something Eddie's back doctor told him to try for his back problems.  So the two of us rolled around on the living room floor night after night pandiculating.  That might sound dirty until you look up what pandiculation is.  I won't do the work for you.

When I returned to the orthopedist two weeks later, my thoracic back spasms and lower back stiffness had not subsided.  He gave me a prescription for physical therapy which included TENS, massage, and movement to gain core strength.  So I went to a PT that was a pretty small and laid back place.  Basically, appointments really didn't matter, and most of the stuff I could do on my own.  They had me lifting three pound weights for bicep curls. My normal routine is three sets of curls using ten pound weights, so the three pounders I could basically throw across the room pretty far.  However, I understood they were learning what I could handle and I wasn't going to throw myself into 10 pounds when I was injured. 

Some of the exercises made sense like the inner and outer rotations for my shoulders and the cable pulls for my shoulders, back, and core.  I couldn't make sense of why I had to ride a stationary bike for eight minutes, though.  That was dumb, but I approached the entire experience as being able to go to a gym and have a personal trainer.  The PT people are not personal trainers; they are medical professionals. But it was very similar, and I've always wanted to go to the gym and have a trainer.  I did have one on one attention at times, but when the place got busy, the PT would run between person to person, checking up on everyone at different times.

I liked the people there.  They were encouraging and knew their stuff.  I was on my own for a lot of the stuff after a few weeks because I clearly knew what I was doing.  Each session ended with fifteen minutes hooked up to the TENS. Ooooh, shoot electricity through my muscles any day of the week!  I fell asleep sometimes. 

In the meantime, I was taking muscles relaxers and anti-inflammatories whenever the pain and stiffness got really bad.  I'm not a pill popper, so for me to take something, it had to be bad.  At times, it was bad, so I took something, but overall, I laid off they pills.

However, after weeks of therapy 3 times a week and returning to the ortho, I was still having back spasms.  I got a new script and returned to therapy and got a massage plus what I call a sonogram but it's not a sonogram.  I can never remember the name of it.  It's something that sends some sort of magic deep into the muscles.  The therapist ran it up and down the spasms.  After that, the spasms went away.

I continued therapy, my back feeling stronger but still stiff.  One spasm happened over the course of a few weeks, which was a good thing because it wasn't one a day and it wasn't one that lasted an entire night, both of which had happened in the past.  I finished out therapy about two weeks later.

Two days after therapy ended, I awoke in the middle of the night, my back in a spasm and my lower back experiencing searing pain.  I had not been cured.  I had been temporarily faked out.

Before returning to the orthopedist, I was sent by my no fault insurance to whom I'll call Dr. Quack.  I got a letter saying I had to see an orthopedist approved by my insurance to evaluate my condition.  The doctor was nice enough, explaining that she was not there to treat me but to evaluate me.  She asked me to bend forward.  I bent forward.  She asked me to bend to the sides.  I bent to the side.  She asked me to bend backwards.  I said, No, I can't.  She asked me how far I could.  I couldn't do it at all.  My back was killing me.  A lump of gross muscle spasm stuff had developed in my lower back.  So gross.  So painful. 

A few days later, I went to the orthopedist and explained how the pain was mostly now in my lumbar spine and the surrounding muscles.  He asked if I'd taken any anti inflammatories or muscle relaxers.  I said that I hadn't, explaining that since the pain was different and in a different place, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do.  He told me he could prescribe more therapy.  I said okay, but that it hadn't helped.  Then he said, I'm going to give you a packet of excercises so you can strengthen your core.

I'd been holding things together pretty well until that moment.  All this unexpected mayhem.  All this health-related chaos. I'm a relatively fit person, and in not being able to do my normal workouts, in not being able to wake up feeling like a normal person, in not being able to do yoga--something that's supposed to help back pain--I was slowly not myself anymore.  And it was pissing me off.

So I said to the doctor, I'm not sure that's going to help since I'm a certified yoga instructor and I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to do for core strength and back pain, and nothing is working and I just don't know what to do anymore.  His response was, I'll get you that packet.  He talked into his little tape recorder and his assistant came in with the same packet he'd given me months before.

I took the packet of core strengtheners, rolled it up, and swiftly beat him with it.

Okay, I didn't do that.

I took the packet, took the script, and then I left.

When I got home, I found a letter from my no fault in the mail.  According to Dr. Quack, I was perfectly fine, and so my no fault would no longer cover orthopedic treatment or any secondary treatment--like pt--under the category of orthopedic.  So on the day my own orthopedist, however idiotic he is, gave me a new round of PT and another packet of core strengtheners because my back issues were still present, Dr. Quack said the exact opposite.

I lost my shit.  I called the insurance.  I left a message saying exactly that: I'm not sure how your doctor says I'm fine when I'm in pain and my own doctor sent me to therapy.

I found out that while orthopedic treatment is no longer an option, I can still get treatment by other things like neurology, pain management, chiropractic, massage, and any other thing I can think of.  The trick is that you can't ask in advance, will this be covered?  You simply have to find a doctor that accepts no fault and have the doctor submit the claim to no fault and hope that it goes through.  If it doesn't, then technically you're not responsible for it.  However, when you go to any doctor, in the paperwork you have to fill out is a form that says you will be held responsible for any payment no fault does not cover.  So really, it's a crap shoot of medical finance gambling.  I'm thinking of moving to Canada.

Anyway, I started researching pain management until one of my friends sent me the info for her chiropractor, a doctor she raves about, and she's not a raver of the medical industry at all.  This past week, I went.

I've met Eddie's chiropractor, and he's a very positive, very energetic guy.  The guy I saw this week is just the same.  Maybe there's a special kind of person you have to be to work on people's backs.  When he took my history, he said things like, "that's not good," "I'm really concerned about that," and "ooh, you're too young to have that complaint."  But then followed up everything with, we are going to work on that!

Two days before my appointment, Eddie and I had gone into the city for Summer Solstice In Times Square: Mind Over Madness.  Details on that later, but for now, just know that I couldn't do it.  It was a slow vinyasa class and I couldn't do most of it.  Then the day after that, the day before my appointment, my ass hurt.  It got progressively worse throughout the day to the point where I couldn't move and just stayed on the couch. 

So when the doctor asked if the pain had radiated down anywhere, I grabbed my ass and said, Well I tried doing yoga over the weekend and now all of this hurts, and I feel how it's connected directly to the place on my back where it hurts most.  Then when he found out that I can't teach yoga, he was like, Wow so this is affecting your work too. I explained that yoga wasn't my primary job, but it was nice to earn some pocket change over the summers, and now I can't.

He listened a lot.  He was really sympathetic.  He even asked if it was affected my mood (yes: I'm pissed off) and my marriage (yes: I can now empathize with the husband's back pain).

Then came the assessment.  He had me lie down on my stomach and let gravity do its thing for a few minutes.  When he came back in, he said, You're probably feeling where you're having the most trouble by now.  Yup, exactly.  He touched all the places where I was having problems without my having to tell him where I was having problems.  It was like Pain ESP.  He bent my legs, asked me to turn my head, and then said, There it is!, following up by asking me if my neck hurt.  I said no.  He asked, It doesn't hurt in here?  And that small perfect touch in that one spot made me realize that yes, indeed, my neck hurt. 

He had me stand on two scales, one foot on each. I carry my weight three pounds to the right, which isn't so horrible, but within one pound is better.  He had me stand in front of a frame that had all different threads attached to it and asked me to look in the mirror: which ear is higher?  which shoulder is higher?  which hip is higher?

When he'd exclaimed, There it is!, he saw that when I turned my head to the left, my legs evened out, but with my head face down or to the right, one leg was shorter than the other.  He found every single spasm and place of inflammation.  One ear, one shoulder, one hip should not be higher than the other. 

He used some sort of instrument on my back to find inflammation. I'm not sure what it's called so I'll just call it the Magical Heat Seeking Gun.  He rolled the Magical Heat Seeking Gun up my lower back, mid back, and then neck.  On the computer screen I could see orange and yellow pop up next to different vertebrae.  That meant inflammation.  Then he asked, Are you on muscle relaxers?

Me, the girl who never takes a pill, had taken a muscle relaxer for the ass pain the day before.  I told him so and he said, It's still in your system because the inflammation isn't showing up right now.  Next time, we'll do it again and see what comes up.  And here I thought those things didn't work because they didn't make me feel any better.  Apparently, all they do is make me tired and screw up data.

He also asked me if I had scoliosis at any point.  Nope, not to my knowledge.  He said that the muscles on one side of my spine were smooth and the others were in a large mound.

Basically, I'm all fucked up.

I laid back down on my stomach for another few minutes.  He came back in to take X-Rays, triple checking that I wasn't pregnant.  Dude, if I'm pregnant right now, I'm just giving up on life.  Who can have a baby amid all this chaos?  (really, who can have a kid ever?  but that's another question for a different time).

He took a bunch of X-Rays, explaining to me what each one was for.  The only drawback of the whole experience were his instructions to turn left and right.  You see, I do not know my left from my right, especially in circumstances when I'm asked out of nowhere very quickly to turn in either way.  So that was a mess with me asking which way again? but otherwise, it was a pleasant experience.

When all was said and done, he told me to bring Eddie back with me so he could hear all the results, too, and we could discuss my plan to get me back to better.  He reiterated that I was too young and too fit to be having these issues.  Then he said, Now I'm going to offer you a hydromassage before you go.  I of course said yes because that sounded magical. 

I want a hydromassage bed in my house immediately.

The receptionist-do-everything-the-office-needs-person at the front put me on the bed and dimmed the lights and told me, Just be careful when you get up.  I don't know how long I was on it, but for however long it was, I was in heaven.  Warm water rumbled under me and gave my back a fantastic beating.  When it was over, I rolled myself off the bed all sad that I couldn't stay there forever.

And so I'm returning tomorrow to find out the news and the plan.  What exactly is going on with my back and where.  What exactly what I can do about it.  How much it could cost.  I'm pretty sure no fault will pay for at least some of it, but when I get that letter to go to Dr. Quack The Sequel, I'll know I'll be back at the crossroads of how much can I spend on my back to feel good while also being able to pay for things like water and lights.  Which means I'm pretty sure I'll be entering into a third world I've never had an interest in: the wonderful world of litigation--from finding an attorney to suing Speedy Baddriverson to hoping it's all over soon.  Well, I've already hoped it would be all over soon.  The hope doesn't seem to be enough.

1 comment:

Emily Hegarty said...

So sorry you are having to deal with all this. Hope the chiropractor helps and you salvage some of your summer!