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Pinch My Grits

Or in which PapaScott learns first hand of the frailty of bones, tendons and joints in the human body.

It seems that the entire fall I've been dealing with aches and pains of one sort or another. In October it was my right shoulder. It would twinge when I would twist it a certain way (for instance, when backing out of a parking space I reach twist around to look out the back) or when sleeping on my right side. I hadn't injured myself as far as I could remember (altuough thinking back now, it was about that time when I carted off a couple cubic meters of dirt from a pile in the backyard). It seemed to appear by itself, and I hoped it would go away by itself as well.

Three weeks later the pain was still there and it wasn't getting any better, so I finally went to the doctor. I really dislike going to the doctor. For one thing it seems to be such a waste of time to take 2 to 3 hours of my time for a 5 minute office visit. For another I don't like trying to describe ambiguous things like pain in a foreign language. When it comes to anatomy, my German vocabulary fails me and I feel like I'm reduced to pointing and grunting. It has nothing to do with our family doctor himself. He's nice and friendly and knows me by name, which might have something to do with the fact that I'm privately insured.

At any rate, he diagnosed "Periarthritis humeroscapularis" (which I think is Latin for shoulder pain) and prescribed ibuprofin and some toxic metamizol drops. If it wasn't better in a few days, I was to see a specialist for a cortisone shot (to get an immediate appointment, I was to utter the magic words "privately insured"). It did get better, but wasn't completely gone. The thought of a needle in my shoulder doesn't thrill me at all, so I haven't gone in for the shot yet.

In the meantime it's November and a new stabbing pain appeared in my left leg. I first noticed it getting up in the morning, so I thought maybe it was a compensation for no longer sleeping on my shoulder. I didn't notice it at all when standing or walking, but it was there when sitting, and would shoot from my hip down the back of my leg when standing up, when stepping on the clutch when driving, or getting out of the car. It didn't get any better, instead after a couple weeks it seemed to be getting worse.

The worst day was last Friday, when between taking the train to Hamburg, sitting at the children's theatre, going out to eat, then riding home I was on my butt for nearly 5 hours straight. I complained a little bit too loudly, and MamaMaus declared she would drag me to the emergency room first thing in the morning. "But our family doctor has office hours on Saturday." "No, he'd just give you pain pills and send you home."

So on Saturday morning I was at the emergency room. I waited an hour for the intern, who diagnosed a pinched sciatic nerve (Ischiasnerv). He gave me some pain pills (Arthotec and tetrazepam, just enough for the weekend) and sent me home.

The pills worked, but by Monday they were gone and I headed to my doctor to get a real prescription. But the doctor wasn't in. Monday was a national doctors' and pharmacists' strike to protest the proposed health care reform, and the practice was closed. With tears in my eyes, I searched for pharmacy that was open, and asked for something over-the-counter that was similar to Arthotec. That got me through to Tuesday, when my regular doctor was back in. He told me how evil Ulla Schmidt (German Health Minister, author of the health care reform) is and gave me a proper prescription. If it's not better in a few days, I'm to see a specialist.

In the meantime I've done some reading on sciatica, so I know the problem is in my lower back, and that it's a fairly common problem for men between 30 and 50. It will probably go away in a few weeks, anti-inflammatory medication helps, but I'm going to have to pay close attention to my back from now on. I'll have to set up a proper workspace here at home (the MacBook on the kitchen table is handy for watching Christopher, but is murder for the back), take frequent breaks and take plenty of walks. That's all stuff I should be doing anyway, but now I have a constant reminder in my thigh.

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