The Importance of Treating Chronic Pain

Reading this post, I was reminded of the day in 1987 when my first neurosurgeon reviewed my CT scan with me. It showed a badly ruptured disc in my neck. He told me to forget about it and go back to work (120 hours a week, as an intern in a tough academic program).

“What are you whining about?” he sneered. “It’s only pain.”

Two days later I was in emergency surgery. He later told me he had never seen a disc so smashed. Postop, I was given steroids, but no pain meds. Gotta be tough, no whining!

This whole “just live with it” mentality used to be a common hazing technique in the culture of doctors-in-training. At one point in my second year of residency, I was living in a molded plastic body jacket because four of my lumbar discs had degenerated. I asked my program director if I could go part-time for a few months, just to have time to go to physical therapy.

Her answer?

“You’re either on the bus, or off the bus.”

What compassion. A true role model for young physicians.

Later that year, I was working in the ER and had to call the orthopedic service resident to see a kid with a fracture. The resident on call turned out to be a woman. Very rare in those days to see a woman orthopedic resident. Even more rare to see them finish their residencies, because they were usually hazed out.

This woman appeared in a long leg cast: from her groin to her toes. Had had a bad fall skiing, badly smashed up, lots of plates and screws.

Yet her other team members that night–the intern and senior resident–were happily running up and down the stairs in the hospital, expecting the woman to keep up with them. The elevator? That’s for weenies! You’re either on the bus, or off the bus, as Ken Kesey used to say. As she sat in the cramped cinderblock cell that served as our office, writing her note in the fracture kid’s chart, she propped her own broken leg on a chair. The toes were grotesquely swollen and purple. I shuddered to think of the pain she must have been in. I asked her if she was taking anything for it. She shrugged, her face a blank mask.

Someday, I thought, if she makes it through her program (she did), it could go either way: she could either become an extremely compassionate doctor, or an extreme hardass.

But this new wave of torturers is a different breed, I think. I don’t know what it’s really about, but I wish them all a dose of kidney stones. Chronic ones. No dilaudid. After all…it’s only pain! Get used to it. Get your lazy ass off the floor and stop that moaning. Get used to it! Go back to work!

EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

The Importance of Treating Chronic Pain — Pain News Network – Dec 2015 – By Emily Ulrich, Columnist

Jane Ballantyne, MD, and Mark Sullivan, MD, wrote that reducing pain intensity – pain relief – should not be the primary goal of doctors who treat pain patients.

They suggest that patients should learn to accept their pain and move on with their lives.

This statement is nothing short of infuriating to me and I imagine to anyone who has to live with chronic pain. Many of us have already heard a doctor say, “I don’t prescribe pain medicine. Pain won’t kill you.”  

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  1. Always amazed at the lack of compassion for those in chronic pain.

  2. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  September 3, 2016

    That is a bunch of hooie. I should be able to do whatever I want to my body.

  3. I haven’t told this story yet Laura
    I’ve been waiting for a good spot
    I have been going to a New family doctor since the last time I saw the other one
    He threw me out
    That’s a whole other story
    Anyway I go this this Dr before I go away for a week
    It was rite after my surgery
    Anyway he’s got a bandage on his arm
    His sitting talking to me
    And I said to myself this guy is high
    He couldn’t sit up straight
    His eyes were glassed over
    And no I couldn’t have anymore
    Pain medication
    Well so much for sucking it up
    The Sheldon Perspective

    • Now I feel sick. How fucked up is that? I’d love to know the back story, bandaged arm, looks drugged….won’t give you any, though. Fucking weird. You are having a rough time….

      • Yes unfortunately I am
        My stomach is so screwed up
        I have enough stories
        To fill a book
        I am going out for the day
        I will try to mail you later
        As always Sheldon

  4. It looks like the American doctor who doesn’t throw the patient under the bus for profit is history. Look at how psychiatrists STILL discharge psychotic patients to the streets.


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