Thursday, March 3, 2011


The muscles around the inside of my left elbow ached.

They ached with a steady pain that felt like a prizefighter had laid into me until his glove wielded to the fiber and tissue under my skin. It was a constant, weighty pressure, but I could move my arm without issue. Up, down, around, grab, push, pull, stretch.

I shook it off. Must have slept on it the wrong way, I thought.

That was in June.

In the weeks that followed, some days brought an ache mild and barely noticeable. Other days, my arm felt like a knotted beach towel being used in a tug of war.

After a few weeks, my index finger periodically started to tingle on the verge of sleep. Some days, there seemed to be some unseen swelling that put pressure behind the nail. Other times, it felt fine.

Doc Bollywood II (yes, a sequel -- the first Doc Bollywood moved elsewhere without even a word to her favorite part-time panic attack victim) initially diagnosed carpel tunnel related strain causing a pinched nerve. I assumed as much, having had a similar issue with my right arm a few years ago. That one lacked the pain but heaped on the numbness and tingling in my index finger. It took a few months to resolve itself, mostly with rest.

So I rested.

I popped Motrin and all its generic variations like vintage House on a Vicodin binge. On occasion, I’d dip into the special stash of codeine-enhanced ibuprofen My Love had brought home from a London pharmacy. Bless those wacky Brits and their socialized medicine! But even those happy pills didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

The pain remained, and started migrating like a drunken Canada goose. One day, my shoulder. The next, my neck. Then my forearm. The intensity and location changed daily.

I iced, I heated, I immobilized, I bandaged, I supported. I used enough self-adhesive heat patches that I would sometimes find rectangle patches of shirt lint on various places that I had failed to scrub hard enough in the showers.

I got massaged and chiropractored by professionals. I received electric muscle and nerve stimulation from amateurs (they are morticians by trade, so I hoped they may know something about treating the dead). This helped for days here and there, but the ache and tingling and numbness never completely left.

It felt worse when I sat. At the kitchen table, in the car and especially at my computer – something not being helped by habits of Web surfing, writing and rewriting, and, finally, tackling a feisty online program meant to help me do the entire layout of the Things school yearbook.

Still most days, I could ignore it enough that I could go about my business. Until I couldn’t any longer.

That’s when I started spending 30 minutes a night trying to adjust my pillows to minimize the pain and tingling, which had started periodically spasming from the back of my lower left shoulder blade down to my fingertips. Then I’d wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and spend another 30 minutes trying to remember how I got into that first relatively pain-free position.

So last month, I shut down as much as possible. Limited extracurricular activities online – Facebooking, tweeting and, as you’ve noticed, blogging.


I finally realized I was past the point of helping myself when every time I Googled “arm pain,” the only thing that kept coming up was “you’re having a heart attack – seek medical advice, IDIOT!” and even I knew that wasn’t right.

So, I went back to Doc Bollywood II. I asked her to stick me in a MRI chamber so we could find the problem and get it the hell out of my body.

But insurance companies won’t let you do that without first seeing a physical therapist, she said.

Obamacare, I’m so disappointed.

Sixty-five tortuous minutes, my therapist P.T. Babem figured out every possible subtle and not-so-subtle way to aggravate my arm. Then she pulled out the rubbery yellow and red model of a spine.

“I think you have a slighted herniated disk near the top, right about here,” she said. “I think you’re not too bad off.”

So now for an hour twice a week and 20 minutes the other days, I’m stretching rubber bands, leaning through door frames, laying on rolled up dish towels and generally yanking my arms and necks in opposing directions.

And things seem to be finally getting better. P.T. Babem has put an end-of-March deadline on me being pain free. (“You have to be, because I’m leaving for a new job them,” she said.)

There you have it. I’m back.


  1. I am so glad you're back and that your back may be healing.

    WTF am I doing up at this hour? Woke up yet again with intolerable pain. Up to diagnosis #4 and climbing.

    When I tell you I feel your pain, I honest to god mean it.

    Heal Dude, heal. (And send some of the vicodin my way. I know they won't help the pain but at least I won't care.)

  2. I had a similar pain around my left elbow several months ago. Lasted for longer than just sleeping on it wrong, so I had it checked out. Tennis elbow. And I don't even play tennis anymore!

    Glad your ailment turned out to be minor-ish.

  3. Damn, son, that's a spanner in the works, yea? I was just about to e-mail you to see what was up.

    So now I know. Welcome back, rest up and here's to a pain-free future! *clink*

    Except you better make it a glass of tea or something, wouldn't want to 'overenhance' the vic :)

  4. Back problems suck, but I'm glad you're back. God bless a good Physical Therapist.

  5. Glad you're back. But don't over do it. Remember, you still have Thing 2's yearbook to do in a couple years.

  6. Sounds like a solid guarantee from Babem...

  7. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. Really hoping the PT helps. And glad you are finally back!

  8. Living with pain is the suck. I hope this works for you!
    Glad to see you again, though. :)

  9. Damn, codeine laced ibuprofen didn't work. Yikes. Hope the therapy works for you. Welcome back.

  10. Glad to have you back. I hope that pains is fully gone very soon.

  11. Drunken Canada geese are the worst.

    Anyhow. Glad to hear you're on the road to recovery.

  12. I sympathize with your pain. But also with your wife. My husband is suffering similar issues. Would the two of you be interested in moving in together?

  13. Sorry about your shit sandwich, dude. Glad to see your back :)

  14. Welcome back with your achy arm.

    Have a kick ass weekend.

  15. Well, that's why I drink homemade wine and blog at the same time. You don't feel any pain.

  16. Damn, I've wondered where you were.
    Thank you so much for your tweets while I was in the hospital.
    I know the pain of which you speak, I have disc problems in my neck and have had surgery on one of them with some relief.
    Hope you are doing MUCH better soon so that we can hear more about you, your lovely wife and the things.... Miss you! HUGGLES!

  17. For some reason Rum or tequila always helped for a short time (till i woke up), but on a more serious note, I had something similar and a real chiroprater acually worked! (He was one of the rare ones who were covered under my health plan and promised to be finished in 3 weeks, he was also).

  18. So glad you are back. But I wondered why you waited so long to go to the Dr.But now I hope you are on your way to health.

  19. I too have herniated discs. May I suggest getting a boppy pillow. Boppy are pillow used for nursing babies but I got to tell you they work for the neck.

    I also take a valium type of drug when needed. It does two things, eases the pain and relaxes me so I don't think I am having a heart attack.

  20. I'm so late but so sorry to hear about all of that!!! I'm glad you are finding a way to make it better though, because I do enjoy reading what you write even if I do read mostly from the comfort of my Be Reader on my Blackberry!


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