Medical Research Charities > News > Sometimes Pain Is a Puzzle That Can’t Be Solved, New York Times

Sometimes Pain Is a Puzzle That Can’t Be Solved, New York Times

My elbow is killing me.

I mean that quite literally. Yes, it hurts, but it is also destroying me, the me as I was without a bad elbow, a happily balanced collection of parts all working modestly, silently, efficiently toward a common good. Kidneys, liver, knees, elbows — what a great team we were. I put my hands in my pockets without wincing, typed without thinking, sat at work judiciously evaluating everyone else’s distress.

My elbow is erasing all those iterations of me.

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It’s a common problem: extensor tendinitis, otherwise known astennis elbow. I do not play tennis; my mistake was painting two dozen bookcases all by myself a few years ago. The back and forth of brush and roller apparently tore enough fibers in my tendon that almost anything makes the left elbow throb now — leaning on it, twisting it, sleeping one degree off the angle it prefers, the little tyrant.

I am ruled by my elbow. The days it feels good are rare and happy. Otherwise, it is my constant companion, whimpering and tugging at my sleeve.

At work, we are in the middle of a giant paradigm shift in pain treatment. I listen to the plaints of patients trapped in the new normal. Some past doctor, in the spirit of times gone by, once decided to eradicate their pain with whatever it took. Now I am supposed to remove them from the substantial quantity of opioids that, apparently, was what it took.

Click here for the full story by Abigail Zuger, M.D., The New York Times.