I’ve learned over the years that there are two types of physical therapists – those who gently stretch you back into shape over the course of many sessions and those who break adhesions in a brutal few.
The first time I needed PT – for a frozen shoulder – I was cranked on by the latter.
“Take a pain pill before you come next time,” he instructed.
“I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them,” I replied.
“You won’t,” he said, completely sure of himself, “you don’t have an addictive personality.”
Maybe he’d seen enough people on them to know.
So I proactively took one before I came to the next few appointments.
And then one morning I arrived to do my exercises – brutal cranking on my shoulder no longer necessary – and was surprised to find that everything everyone said was REALLY funny.
I did my exercises alone for awhile, smiling and chuckling, when the PT came over and said, “You don’t need the pain pills anymore.”
So I stopped taking them.
I had quite a few left.
“You can get about $20/pill on the street,” he said.
“I can’t,” I said, “I don’t have a criminal personality.”
I’ve been prescribed narcotic painkillers several times in my life and each time I took one or two and had a bunch left over.
When they were prescribed last year, I refused them altogether, told the urgent care doc I’d call for the script if the pain became unbearable.
Now I wish I had taken it, filled it and hoarded the pills.
‘Cuz things have changed.
I fell taking Dixie for a walk last Saturday evening and knocked the wind out of myself. I returned home barely able to breathe or talk.
Don’t ask me what happened ‘cuz I don’t know. One minute I was walking, the next minute I was face down on the asphalt.
“Sounds like you bruised your ribs,” said the hub as I described the pain, “I did that once playing racquetball.”
Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t move. Literally. At all.
“Can someone help me?” I cried out in a raspy voice.
The hub was downstairs in the family room.
My daughter came rushing in.
“I can’t move. Put your hands behind my back and try to pull me forward into a sitting position.”
“Okay now put your arms around me and try to lift me to my feet.
Horrendously horrendous pain.
The hub drove me to urgent care to make sure I hadn’t broken anything.
I braced myself for every excruciating bump in the road, every right turn and left turn, every acceleration.
The physician assistant questioned me: “On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the worst pain you can imagine, where would you rank your pain.”
“I took 4 Advil before I came, so I’d put it at a 9 now, but before the Advil it was a twelve.” Because it was worse than I ever imagined pain could be.
While we waited for a radiologist to read the x-rays, I sighed to the hub, “They’re probably not going to want to prescribe anything due to the opioid crackdown.” But even as I said it, I expected they would. Given the amount of pain I was in.
The hub got up and read a poster on the exam room wall. It was all about their new controlled-substance prescribing policy and how they would check a registry to see how often they had been prescribed for a patient.
The nurse came in and gave me a shot of toradol.
The PA came back in: “I’m going to send you home with 2 prescriptions, one for Motrin 800 and one for Tylenol 650. You can alternate taking them.”
My face surely said, “Really? Motrin 800? When I just told you that 4 Advil only brought the pain down to a 9?”
I think she heard my face because she said, annoyingly cheerfully, “Just imagine how much pain the people who break their ribs are in.”
“You’re an idiot,” I thought, but not loud enough for her to hear me.
When she left the room I turned to the hub, “I’ve broken bones and I’ve bruised bones and I know from experience that bruised bones hurt more.”
“AND they take longer to heal.”
I should have told her what my PT said about me not having an addictive personality.
I should have told her to check my record and see that I refused Norco last time I was there.
I should have told her about all the unused Vicodin and oxycontin and hydrocodone I’ve turned in at various community toxic waste disposal events over the years.
I wished I hadn’t turned them in.
But instead of saying anything I just mustered a smile and left with the two lame scripts.
The Tylenol 650 is worthless – didn’t even come close to touching the pain.
“Tylenol never does,” my daughter said.
After four days of taking Motrin 800 around the clock my feet and ankles swelled.
They haven’t swelled since I was pregnant 28 years ago.
I called the urgent care clinic, “My feet and ankles are swollen and they never swell, should I quit taking the Motrin?”
“I don’t think so,” the voice on the other end said.
“Are you a medical person?”
“I’m a medical assistant.”
“Well I googled it and learned that some medications – NSAIDS among them – can cause swelling.”
She didn’t know that.
“You guys prescribe drugs without knowing the possible side effects?”
This is why I hate the medical profession the way some people hate lawyers.
So I quit taking the Motrin and I’m toughing it out with tart cherry juice.
Because I remember Dr. Oz saying something about it a long time ago.
And I’m wondering why the pendulum has to always swing to the extremes.
Why not start addressing the opioid epidemic by actually checking the database and refusing opioids to those who have been flagged?
Why not prescribe 2 or 3 days worth of a narcotic to a newly injured patient just to get her through the worst of it and then switch her to Motrin?
I suppose I should have insisted on stronger pain meds but insisting would have likely put a red flag in my file.
“Oh yeah, she was here looking for drugs,” I can imagine her saying to a head-shaking staff when I left.
It’s been a painful, miserable week.
When my mom fractured her spine last Spring, her doc prescribed 100 hydrocodone.
“Why did he prescribe me 100?,” she asked when I came to spend the night, “I don’t need 100!”
“I don’t know, kickbacks?,” I thought then.
“To share,” is what I’m thinking now.