Pain is a pain. Or is it?

I’ve been having a pain in my back. It’s a new pain and pain relievers aren’t touching it. I get new pains checked out if they don’t go away in a reasonable amount of time and I can’t explain them with an injury. I had the sudden idea this weekend that this one might be a kidney stone. I’ve seen the PA at my doctor’s office. We’ve done some tests. Jury is still out. Meanwhile I’ve been given a prescription for a muscle relaxer and a massage therapist as I definitely have a muscle in my back in full spasm. It does not, however, explain the pains that have been appearing in my abdomen that made me consider kidney stones. So we are on watch and wait.

Meanwhile, I was contemplating pain. I have a higher tolerance for some kinds of it than most folk, having had problems with my back most of my life. On a scale of 1 to 10, if it isn’t above a 3, I usually don’t even notice it, and if it isn’t at least a 5, I usually don’t bother to medicate for it. If it is a known pain, no matter where it falls on the scale, I can usually push it to the background and just keep living my life.

This actually makes my nurses nuts when I’m in the hospital. After both of my abdominal surgeries, they would come in regularly to ask my pain level. I would always have to stop and think to answer the question. I’d pushed it to the back of my mind and was ignoring it. When I couldn’t ignore it, I’d hit the magic morphine button, and keep going. But to stop and think and then tell them “7” was just unheard of for them. Anyone at a 7 should know automatically. They shouldn’t have to think about it.

I’m told that after my first abdominal surgery, the surgeon went to my family in the waiting room, told them what she’d found, and said, “I’m amazed she didn’t come crawling into my office, screaming in pain.” In perfect unison, my family answered, “She has a high tolerance for pain.” I laughed when they told me.

I thank God for that tolerance. It helps me through the rough patches. The long-term pain has also given me empathy with a lot of people. It’s allowed some of them an outlet for their frustrations that they can’t vent to those who don’t understand chronic pain. Truly healthy people really can’t get a grasp on how exhausting constant pain can be and how it can change your mental outlook.

I was much amused at my doctor’s office today when they gave me a sheet of stretching exercises for my back. I literally laughed out loud and said, “Preaching to the choir here! If these were working, I wouldn’t be here.” I gave them the sheet back. Thinking about it later, I realized a lot of them were abdomen strengthening exercises. For those of you who haven’t heard, ab exercises are completely contraindicated for me. I am the 1 in a 1000 who should NOT do ab exercises. I am a singer. My abs are actually so strong that before I got special exercises to strengthen my back to compensate, I could actually pull my short ribs out of alignment just by sucking my gut in to tuck in my shirt. Ow. Major ow.

Reminds me of another joke. A dark one, if you will. I had been seeing one chiropractor for a year. Each visit he would ask me how I was doing. Often, the answer would be, “I’m doing fine.” It took a year before we realized that that what I meant, “I’m not hurting any more than usual today,” was not what he heard: “She’s not hurting today.” Since then, I’ve been careful to let chiropractors know of this idiosyncrasy of mine.

So, I have pain, but I have the tolerance to handle it without meds most of the time. I can’t lift heavy things, but I have friends who will come over and haul my cat litter canisters from my car trunk upstairs to the litter box for me. I have arthritis in my back, but I’m still flexible enough to startle doctors and massage therapists when they do range-of-motion tests on me.

Most of the time, I can just ignore the limitations and live my life.

God is good.

About Susan

I am a woman of strong opinion. You can listen or not, but I expect everyone to play nice and respect everyone else's right to have their own opinions. I was never much of a diarist, and I plan for this to be less about my life and more about my observations and information sharing. So let's not call this a "blog," which is a word I find a bit repellent.
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