Hey, pain patients: You've got company. Me! Thanks to a herniated disc in my neck I'm going through some of the same stuff I have been writing about for years. Stuff that you're well aware of. With one exception. You did not wake up with a bowl of blueberries in your bed.
Dear Pain Patients,
If you didn't listen to my interview with George Knapp on his Coast to Coast AM show this past Sunday 11/15 (1) you might not know that I have joined your ranks. I am a pain patient who is navigating the same nonsense that I constantly hear from you guys. It's a real pain in the ass, but there is some humor here and it needs to be shared.
About 30 years ago I herniated a cervical disc doing something moderately stupid. Make that supernaturally stupid. But it's not really my fault (2). Who could have guessed that carrying a refrigerator up a steep flight of stairs on my head was a bad idea?
A week later it started. Vicious nerve pain down my left arm. Insane and unrelenting muscle spasms across half of my back. I was terrified of surgery so I fought it for a year. PT, NSAIDs (which destroyed my stomach), a chiropractor (3), acupuncture (4), and plenty of suffering – nothing worked (5). Sound familiar? It then got to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to take my chances with (my very first ever) surgery. In retrospect, I waited way too long. The surgery was a big nothing. Four months later I was playing tennis (but my backhand still sucked).
In the ensuing years my neck got a little sore now and then, but it was no big deal. I was able to continue doing other stupid things (naturally) resulting in many other surgeries. In a twisted way surgery is kind of fun thanks to propofol.
Last month the pain came back out of nowhere, and it was very bad; pulses of nerve pain shooting down my arm every two seconds. All day.
What does this have to do with a bowl of blueberries in my bed? Keep going.
My GP gave me a week's supply of tramadol and referred me to a very good pain specialist (6). A urine sample was required and I cheerfully supplied a batch that was so clean that you could have irrigated wounds with it. Then the craziness started. You've all been through it.
It was pretty clear that I wasn't a drug abuser looking for a bunch of Oxy. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) confirmed this. That wasn't much help, though. Here's the conversation:
Me: "Can you give me more tramadol? It might help a little but I can't really tell."
Doc: "No, your GP already prescribed some. Ask her."
Me: "OK. Although I prefer not to take it. How about a week's worth of Percocet, just in case this gets worse."
Doc: "No, you already have tramadol, a narcotic."
Me: "But it doesn't work."
Doc: "Doesn't matter. You'll have to wait until next month. You already have a prescription for a narcotic."
All of you probably are going through this, and certainly a lot worse. For me, at this time it's pretty bad, but not hopeless because I have options; injections, oral steroids, or surgery which would probably work. Even with nerve pain running down my arm 24/7 I'm scared but not desperate.
The next stop was a consult with a neurosurgeon. He described what the surgery would be like and the success rate. But he wouldn't even consider it until I tried other options. One of them was a course of Medrol, a powerful steroid, which seems to be working. But I have this strange urge to go up on the roof and start replacing shingles.
The other drug was Neurontin which makes perfect sense since it's a pretty good drug for nerve pain (7). That's where the fun (probably) began.
I took 600 mg of Neurontin and went about my usual evening activities (even though I have little memory of it). The next thing I know it's 8:00 the next morning and I'm lying on my bed with my clothes on and a bowl of sugared blueberries next to me. Make that a spilled bowl of sugared blueberries. Make that spilled blueberries with water, which turned into some mutant syrupy mess all over the place, perhaps reminiscent of the sheets you'd see in a brothel in a Western. (8) How did the blueberries get into my bed? Beats me.
I looked up the side effects of Neurontin. There's a long list even though the drug is generally considered to be quite safe. Here are some of them.
- Memory loss (infrequent)
- Confusion (uncommon)
- Mental Status Changes (uncommon)
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Taking blueberries to bed (unknown)
Was it the Neurontin? I'd say so. Of course, we need a controlled experiment. Once I'm done with it If I wake up with a plate of Eggplant Parmesan stuffed in my underwear then it wasn't the Neurontin. Probably some deep seated food issues. Like I need more personality defects.
I'm feeling a bit better but it's still not fun. But maybe this article was. If you can get a few yuks at my expense, I can live with that.
(1) And who could blame you? The damn thing was a two-hour interview from 1-3 AM. Just when I'm at my best.
(2) That's complete BS. I know it. You know it.
(3) The chiropractor did one of those neck snaps. To say it hurt would be a massive understatement. I almost beat Elon Musk to Mars by three decades.
(4) This shows how desperate I was. I've got a disc fragment wrapped around a nerve root and sticking needles in my ear are gonna help? I don't think so.
(5) The only exception was a long course of the very powerful NSAID indomethacin. It is the standard that is used in rat models of bleeding ulcers. That's all you need to know.
(6) I was damn lucky to find one. Apparently, New York isn't as bad as the smaller states.
(7) And a really lousy drug for other types of pain.
(8) OK, you and I both know this is vulgar and unnecessary. But about 700 of you have read this thing so far. Ask yourselves why.