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Journey of a Pain Sufferer: Part One

By Steve Kaufman

I’m going to a medical specialist for my chronic aches and shooting jolts of pain. Will I get relief? Might you get relief, as well?

I wake up every morning in pain.

Whether it’s the familiar dull throb of my lower back, muscle pains in my calves and thighs, some sharp pain in my hands or something new – my foot, my wrist, an elbow – something is always clouding my first-thing-in-the-morning brain.

Some of that goes away gradually. Some of it benefits from a brisk, pre-dawn walk around my neighborhood. Some responds to a hot bath.

And some of it never does go away, not the rest of the day, not for several days. It’s just always there. Always ready to remind me with a sharp zing when I suddenly reach for something on my desk or quickly twist past an open drawer. When I raise my arm to run a comb through my hair or just take a wrong step.

Do I know what it’s from? I guess. Some is clearly arthritis in my joints. Some is the inflammation and irritation of what I’ve self-diagnosed as bursitis in my elbows and knees. Some is degeneration in my back. Some is just age.

I don’t always know.

What I do always know is that pain is a constant companion, distracting, disabling, slowing me down and keeping me from my creative best when I need that the most.

Like a lot of people, I live with it. I always chuckle when doctors’ offices ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10. People like me have long ago lost the perspective to rate our pain.

I always felt that the stabbing everyday pain, the kind that I maybe rate a 4 or 5 on the scale, would have drawn a 9 or 10 from my ex-wife. We’re all calibrated to tolerate pain differently. And much of it comes from living with, accommodating and adjusting to it.

Doctors’ offices. They used to help. Today, not so much. They’re afraid to prescribe almost anything for patients’ pain-relief. And I realize that even bringing that subject up probably makes someone out there nod and say, “Addict!”

Opioid addiction is clearly one of the elephants in the room. But you know what else is? The true addict is going to somehow score his Oxycontin or Percoset somewhere on the street. The poor, pain-addled person like me, just seeking some relief so I can function more or less normally, has to hope his doctor is willing to write a prescription for even a low-grade analgesic like Tramadol.

I know. It’s not an easy conversation to have. Of course, if you don’t raise the conversation with your doc, the conversation goes away. But the pain doesn’t. And really, do we chronic pain sufferers have to live our lives with the constant, throbbing, familiar pain? And, more importantly, should we?

I’ve been aware for some time that there are a number of what are called “pain-management centers.” What do they do? Are they physical therapy facilities? Hypnosis? Chiropractic? Acupuncture? Some other mystical art? Or are they a legitimate branch of medical science?

I recently decided to find out for myself. Maybe I could realize some genuine relief. Or maybe it would result in just a good magazine story.

This summer, I contacted pain-relief specialist Dr. Michael Cassaro of Painless Living in Jeffersonville. In fact, I’d seen an ad for his practice in this very publication and thought maybe this was someone who could help me, provide some relief or just offer some understanding in how I should cope with the pain I feel.

I’ve been seeing Mike Cassaro since September. I’m really quite confident that I’m going to feel better. And I plan, in this space, to share my experience with you in subsequent issues of Extol.

Maybe you, too, will have your curiosity sated. Or maybe you’ll discover that perhaps you don’t really have to live with pain after all. Stay tuned. I know I am.

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