Pain management can be a pain

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Perhaps one of the reasons I can be a pain in the butt to people has to do with suffering from pain in my own butt, and knees, oh, and fingers, elbows, neck, back, shoulders, and head. Some days, managing pain is a pain in itself.

I was made fun of as a kid by my siblings. No one could run around and play as hard as I did and then be found sitting in front of the TV with ice packs or heating pads in an attempt to quell the pain that hit followed. It got to be where my father, a doctor, thought I was a head case rather than someone suffering from something else.

Setting the bicycle aside and not riding is not an option (Tim Forkes)

Today, it is no different for me. I’ve been tested for plenty of things that might trigger pain and inflammation in my body and have not found anything definitive. Some doctors tell me I am just getting older and need to slow down, but then they do not comprehend the pain I feel is the same as I felt when I was ten. Others have sent me to see a psychologist to delve into my “issues” with the hope of finding a connection, without success.

I have spent too much money on a variety of products and supplements designed to reduce pain and inflammation without much success. My activity level does not seem to make a difference so I continue to workout hard and push myself because I enjoy doing so and figure if I am going to hurt, I might as well do what I enjoy.

Still, there are days like today that are worse than others. I wonder if I have one of those bodies that remind me of weather changes via pain. We have had a sudden increase in the wind the last two days and with it has come a sudden increase in the stiffness in my fingers, tenderness in my elbows, and pain in the back of my head.

Then again, those may all be the result of my returning to road bicycling this past month after back surgery. Who knows? Or maybe it is the result of cutting back on one particular medication that makes me feel tired during the day with hope my pain will be fine and I won’t need so much caffeine to remain upright. And if it is none of those things, then maybe it was the work I did yesterday replacing half a dozen anti-siphon valves along with other physical tasks. There just is no way of knowing.

I know, it’s my diet, right? So far, I have not noticed anything different when I eliminated certain foods and products. It’s not alcohol either since I was not drinking at ten years of age and my lone evening beer is not enough to do much more than just quench my taste buds.

Having played all kinds of sports as a kid and then continuing to train hard all my adult life, I have learned the difference between an injury and pain. I have found it in me to be tough enough to block out the pain from a chip fracture in my ankle just so I wouldn’t have to miss an entire soccer season. Stress fractures in my lower leg were ignored as I pursued running PR’s. Knee surgeries were put on hold until I absolutely had no choice but to get them if I wanted to walk across the room without having to swear out loud from the discomfort.

Ron Irwin

Thanks to seeing my dad self medicate to deal with his back issues, I can say I have never asked a doctor for anything more than a stronger anti-inflammatory because I wanted nothing to do with narcotics. However, there are times I can see why so many others choose that path simply because it gets old trying to find other avenues for blocking out pain.

One thing pain often ends up doing is isolating you. It makes you want to retreat and not be around others simply because you ache and yet, studies show socializing helps relieve some of the most common pains we experience. However, compassion also goes a long ways toward helping. It seems we can find ways to be compassionate toward others when they have a cast, are forced to use a walker, or are stuck in a wheel chair, but when you appear to be normal, we tend to think someone is just a wimp when it comes to pain. Without the compassion, the pain sufferer is more likely to retreat further and keep the pain they feel to themselves. It gets complicated to say the least.

As tired as I have grown of the painful stiffness and tenderness that periodically makes me just want to go to sleep and not wake up until I am pain free, I continue to choose to look for ways to rid myself from it while remaining active for as long as I can. I will postpone a needed procedure on my hand for the time being because frankly, I don’t want to go to the doctor because as much as it hurts when it my fingers curl up and locks, having needles poked into the tendon sheath and injected hurts worse. Maybe by the time I go, it will be time for the same procedure again on my other hand and I can kill two pains with one office visit.

I also know I will continue to workout in my home gym three days a week and ride my bike another three days because not to means I will have more down time to feel whatever it is that has made a home inside my body.

In the film North Dallas Forty, there is a scene in the beginning where Nick Nolte goes through a variety of movements to work out his kinks as a result of being a professional football player. His body snaps, crackles, and pops in a routine that has become a way of life, just as swallowing some pills and smoking a joint has, to make him functional. He does what he does because it works for him and allows him to do what he wants to do.

For me, I do what I have to do as well just so I can continue doing what I enjoy doing. Maybe I will up my one med I have cut back on and increase my caffeine a bit and see if that makes a difference. Perhaps the weather will change for the better. Maybe there is a new diet out there for me to try that will help. One thing I do know, I won’t stop moving and pushing my body because for me, doing so is my preferred drug of choice. Besides, if I stopped, I wouldn’t know what to do with the extra time.

Top photo: YouTube screen shot of Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers on the floor in pain
after a collision with Dewayne Dedmon of the San Antonio Spurs