The medical profession has a strangely schizophrenic attitude when it comes to pain
This won’t be the most stunning insight you’ll read but it’s generally something to be avoided. No, seriously. Certainly most of the medical people that I see tell me that, and it has been repeatedly stressed that I’m to do something about it if it is causing me a problem.
There is, in fact, a pain clinic at my local hospital manned by specialist pain doctors. And the one I saw in hospital went into my “why the hell can’t they all be like this because if they were no one would complain about the NHS” list. Why? She actually listened to me. She also told me that getting referred to her clinic wouldn’t be hard if I needed more drugs. In fact, she urged me to do just that.
But there’s another sort of pain too, one that other parts of the medical profession have rather less sympathy with. It’s the pain they expect you to endure stoically as a result of one of the procedures they want you to undergo.
Yesterday I had to have what is know as a “nerve conduction test” for the second time. The first time I was sent a letter saying most people don’t suffer too much discomfort from this. I must be part of the, what, five per cent, ten per cent that this doesn’t apply to. I wonder if I can complain to advertising standards?
The first part of the test involves a doctor pushing electric shocks through you. On this point the letter was accurate. Mildly unpleasant but not too uncomfortable. The second, however, involves needles containing little microphones being poked deep down into your muscles. I was also asked to flex those muscles while the needle was in. This part of the test was excruciating.
Having (sort of) stoically endured four such invasions I insisted on a rest to visit the little boys’ room. After which the big cheese of nerve conduction studies came in to lecture me, presumably his way of instilling backbone in me.
So I had one more needle stuck into to me, screamed blue murder and decided that was enough, before leaving the paper sheet on which I’d been laying covered in blood and then very nearly collapsing outside the lift. Happy days!
Does this make me a wimp? That’s what the big cheese seemed to imply.
And yet, pain is something I endure every day. The problems I have with the nerves means my right foot feels like it’s constantly in the middle of a bonfire, with occasionally intense shooting pains for desert.
For this I take a panoply of different coloured pills. Prior to the conduction test I’d unilaterally cut the dose despite the fact that other medical people keep telling me I shouldn’t be allowing myself to suffer. And believe me, cutting down on the pills ain’t easy. It hurts. It really really hurts. But unlike the pain from the conduction test, I can live with it.
In part because I want to cut back on the drugs.
The pain killing medication I take has the side effect of making me very drowsy. The increased pain I’m suffering from right now means that I might look like a member of the living dead. But I don’t feel like one.
It is often the case with drugs that they can make you feel worse than what they are supposed to be treating. For me, that is the case with pain killers The drowsiness, and worse sometimes, the torpor they induce I simply can’t abide.
There is another reason too, though. Four times a day, sorry, now three times a day, I still have to take a pharmacology lecture in my hands.
Unfortunately, I avoided units on pharmacology when I did my degree (in genetics) so have only a dim idea about how the drugs achieve their effect, what side effects (other than drowsiness) they might cause and whether there could be any long term problems.
In the US this wouldn’t be a problem. Such is the nature of healthcare in that country that drug companies routinely advertise quite powerful, prescription only medication in the middle of, erm, Two and A Half Men or Two Broke Girls. Those ads, by law, have to list any potential problems. Which is quite often rather hilarious as the husky voice-over artist tries to rush through an array of frightening sounding side effects without inducing panic in the audiences they are trying to sell to.
But this is Britain. We don’t have that.
I could find out. The information is easily accessible on the internet. The trouble is I don’t want to. It scares the life out of me. Not least because the side effects for the one pain killer among the suite that I take everyday that I did research were truly frighting. Should this really have come as a surprise given that it was morphine?
Probably not. But since reading about it I now only resort to it when I’m in absolute agony and then only at night if the alternative is eight pain-filled hours and no sleep whatsoever.
Maybe the other drugs look mild by comparison. I don’t want to know because I still have to take them three times a day. I’m not yet in a position to cut them out entirely.
Would finishing the conduction study help hasten the end of the pain? Nope. It’s only use is to decide whether my nerves will heal themselves (which means the pain will go). Or whether I need an operation.
So I’ll grit my teeth and get on with it. Unfortunately I fear I’m something of a medical anomaly. I simply can’t deal with the sharp, but relatively, short pain caused by the nerve conduction needles. I am able to deal with the discomfort caused by having my foot in a permanent bonfire. It’s just the way it is. And the big cheese can, as far as I’m concerned, go to hell.Tagged in: health, medicine, nhs, rehabilitation, RTA
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