Blog Archives

Product Placement Fail (Back Pain Revisited)

Having scoliosis has been a boon for my activity level the majority of my life as even the slightest wrong move sends my sciatic nerve blazing in pain and surrounding lower back muscles seizing up as my body tries to immobilize the affected area.  A few years ago, I ended up pulling my back out by catching my daughter in my arms as she jumped precariously off the back of my car (always the adventurer, she).  As the pain got worse and my back got tighter, I dragged myself to Wal-Mart for some Doans because that was the only thing that has ever helped my back pain when simple heat application and stretching would not loosen it up.  Making it to the pharmacy, I stood there helpless and shaking my head to find the coveted back pain medicine on the bottom shelf where I had no hope of bending over to reach and retrieve it due to my lower back being locked up (though that didn’t stop me from trying in pain vain).  Finally, some kind person did wander by and, realizing my predicament, was nice enough to assist.  I mentioned this obvious oversight in product placement to the cashier who just kind of laughed.

For the past couple months, I have been working a job that requires heavy lifting – which incidentally was not mentioned in the interview – and frankly, it’s done my back in.  The past week, I have been experiencing pretty intense nerve pain throughout my lower back and legs and finally come Friday, my back became stiff enough that I got sharp pains trying to do even simple bending (such as getting up from a chair or lying down in bed).  Again, no heating pad or pain pill is working.  My neighbor C. gave me a Soma, which I took hoping it would relax the muscles enough to at least leave me pain-free for a couple hours but it did not help.  This time I headed to CVS for my Doans, thinking to myself, “History cannot repeat itself.”  Sure enough…

Thankfully, my daughter was with me this time and she automatically dove down to get the boxes of Doans (luckily marked buy-one-get-one-free) that were once again on the bottom shelf.  I actually complained to the cashier on this one too, saying Wal-Mart does this too but I expect such an oversight from them, not from CVS.  She agreed with me, she apologized and said she would bring it up to the manager.  Think about it… someone with back pain is going to have trouble bending over. If they’re going to a pharmacy to buy some back pain pills and those pills are on the very bottom shelf – isn’t that a little cruel?  It reflects poor planning at the least and I can’t believe that two separate stores would fail to see this logic when creating their stock layout.

PerBlog April 10, 2013

Trying to come up with some radical new idea (ok, maybe “radical” in this day and age was a bad term) – a BIG new idea for research for my next FME article.  With everything happening in the news, I should not be at a loss for a topic, however my fear is that I will just come across as repeating the same news we’ve been hearing every day.  What would YOU like to read about, or hear a fresh view on?  Tell me in the comments!

Just to drop an update on myself, ever since my boss passed away on December 28th and the company subsequently closed on January 2, I have been seeking work.  For 3 1/2 months, I have been living on my tax return and the grace of friends and charity however that is all running out quickly.  If I don’t find viable work *this month* I will be facing very dire circumstances.  

The stress of this has caused my blood pressure to shoot up as the worry is constantly there, 24/7, and I have rarely been able to sleep at night for the past couple months.  A week and a half ago, I ended up having to break down and go to the doctor with the joints in my right wrist severely inflamed – I was unable to move my wrist, hand or fingers at all.  The wrist was treated and cleared up in a matter of days with a brace and a prescription anti-inflammatory but we still don’t know the cause of it.  X-rays showed no fracture, blood tests showed no elevated uric acid and therefore no possibility of gout, and the doctor also ruled out arthritis.  It remains an excruciating mystery but at least I have leftover meds to treat it should it recur. 

While at that doctor visit, whereas the wrist was treated quickly enough, the focus of the visit quickly turned to my blood pressure when my vitals were taken.  Back to that – my BP was 210/140.  YIKES!  The doc immediately gave me a Clonidine and told me to go to the emergency room however if you’ve ever read my previous post about Lawnwood Regional, you’ll understand why I was loathe to even consider stopping in there.  In the end, I did not go to the ER, taking the prescription for Clonidine and hoping that would start to lower my numbers.

Like an idiot, I started right in on the full prescribed dose.  Had I remembered the problems I had when starting on another BP med several years ago (heart rate below 60, fainting, inability to walk more than a few feet without severe difficulty in breathing), I would have started small and worked my way up to the full dose.  The first 3 days of full-dosing this time, same thing.  I was fainting, could barely breathe due to very slow heart rate, and (thankfully this was over the weekend) was barely able to stay awake for more than a couple hours at a time.  My thinking and reaction times were very slow so driving anywhere was NOT an option.  By that Monday, I was vomiting and fainting and I stopped the med completely (another stupid thing, but I did consider how my BP would shoot up in doing so). I called my doctor and told him I *have* to do this my way.  By stepping the dose up slowly over the next few days, I was fine on the prescribed dose.  Hitting my system all at once though is something my body just couldn’t handle.  

In taking my BP every couple days over a week and a half, I saw the numbers were going down but not nearly enough.  I called the doc and reported the latest readings and he still *insisted* that I go to the ER.  It was either that or drop another $60 at his office to be seen for another reading and a dose adjustment.  I did not have $60, I’d just dropped my entire unemployment check at his office at the initial visit, so this time I had no choice – I had to go to Lawnwood. 

Checking into the ER, my initial reading put the staff on alert:  240/120 – Hypertensive Crisis.  The previous afternoon’s reading was around 203/116 – I am willing to bet that just the thought of having to go to this hospital spiked it.  Immediately, I was in a bed hooked up to a monitor, getting about a dozen vials of blood drawn, the works.  The odd thing is, I *felt* fine, but this is why they call hypertension “The Silent Killer.”  They ended up doing a chest X-ray on me and an EKG.  Bloodwork came up clear, X-ray came up clear, I don’t know what the EKG said.  After receiving additional medication, 3 hours later my BP had reduced to 174/91 – the lowest it’s been since this whole ordeal started.  That was enough for them to discharge me with two new medications in a combo pill to be added to my original one.  

Because of the urgency in getting those numbers down to stay, I have gone headfirst into the full dose of the new med(s).  Since I lack a way of checking my BP at home (can not afford a home device), I have to go to a pharmacy or a fire station to get it checked for free.  Driving right now is not an option, so it’ll have to wait until my head clears from the new med.  What a headache this has all been, especially thinking of all the medical bills when I’m trying to survive on a tiny unemployment check that pays my rent but nothing else 😦

 

I’ve Had It With Back Pain!

This is a perblog post because there is nothing else I am able to do at the moment. For the first time in three years, I ended up pulling my back out again. Hefting 500 20-pound bags of oyster shells to help build an artificial reef didn’t do it. Helping the neighbors move didn’t do it. No, it was bending over to pick up a piece of trash in my yard that sent a searing pain ripping across my lower back and just about dropped me. Barely made it back inside clinging to the wall for support and now I can’t stand up. Or turn. I hate my back 😦

Severe acute ear infection – The pain is intense…

Friday night began with my noticing swollen glands on both sides of my neck, under the ears.  They were roughly pea-sized and did not hurt.  Given a few hours however, they had quickly grown to small marble-sized and it became painful to turn my head all the way to the side.

By Saturday morning, the glands had grown even larger and more tender, with the area in front of my right ear now having a hard knot of swelling.  Now the real pain was starting to set in — so I thought.  At A.H.’s house for the day, the pain nearly had me in tears.  She gave me ear drops with Benzocaine in them.  They made the ear start hurting worse.  Not supposed to happen that way.

As the day progressed, I was nearly in tears.  The side of my face had started to swell and could not be even gently touched.  A.H. gave me an IB800 and an anti-biotic (I’d taken Biaxin prior for a bad sinus infection and from what I remember, it kicked the shit out of it — I now have a full 7-day course of it).  An hour later and with the pain still worsening, C.H. gave me a hot towel to put over the area.  I don’t know if the IB finally kicked in, or if the heat helped, but the pain finally started to lessen.

I got home and the IB wore off.  Oh my gods.  I had to go to bed early, I couldn’t take it.  My daughter was lovely enough to bed down herself, seeing how much obvious pain I was in, but first came to quietly rub my back asking me if there was anything she could do to take the pain away.  Oh I love her so much.  By then I was in tears with another hot towel, having taken another 600mg of Ibuprofen and another Biaxin before lying down.  She attempted her Reiki, but I could not stand even the slightest touch, so she let me be.

Every two hours, I woke up, the pain worse each time.  I have gotten scarcely any sleep.  The right side of my face feels like it is on fire from my eye to my jaw.  I could barely open my mouth enough this morning to take another 800 of IB and another antibiotic.  Talking and smoking a cigarette are out of the question.  Taking a drink of tea just about floored me.  Even putting my glasses on is painful.  The swelling can only be described as horrendous.  The pain – just flat out intense.  I had a lot of ear infections as a child, and have had surgery on both ears a total of 7 times as a child.  I don’t remember *any* of my ear infections causing this much swelling and pain though.

I hope to God the meds I took this morning start working soon.  It’s almost unbearable.

Confiding in a dear friend last night, he tells me it sounds bacterial, and that the antibiotics should start working within 48 hours.  He says if it’s the “right type of bacteria,” then the Biaxin will work.  He is near deaf in one ear because of all the ear infections he had as a kid.  I have about 40% hearing loss due to all my ear infections and subsequent operations (tubes, etc).

My official diagnosis and patient info-sheet states:

Otitis externa

Also known as external otitis and swimmer’s ear, otitis externa is an inflammation of the skin of the external ear canal and auricle. It may be acute or chronic, and it’s most common in the summer. With treatment, acute otitis externa usually subsides within 7 days (although it may become chronic) and tends to recur.

Causes

Otitis externa usually results from bacterial infection with an organism, such as Pseudomonas, Proteus vulgaris, streptococci, or Staphylococcus aureus; sometimes it stems from a fungus, such as Aspergillus niger or Candida albicans (fungal otitis externa is most common in the tropics). Occasionally, chronic otitis externa results from dermatologic conditions, such as seborrhea or psoriasis. Predisposing factors include:

❑  swimming in contaminated water (cerumen creates a culture medium for the waterborne organism)

❑  cleaning the ear canal with a cotton swab, bobby pin, finger, or other foreign objects (irritates the ear canal and may introduce the infecting microorganism)

❑  exposure to dust, hair care products, or other irritants (causes the patient to scratch his ear, excoriating the auricle and canal)

❑  regular use of earphones, earplugs, or earmuffs (traps moisture in the ear canal, creating a culture medium for infection)

❑  chronic drainage from a perforated tympanic membrane.

Signs and symptoms

Acute otitis externa characteristically produces moderate to severe pain that’s exacerbated by manipulation of the auricle or tragus, clenching of the teeth, opening of the mouth, or chewing. Other signs and symptoms include fever, foul-smelling aural discharge, regional cellulitis, and partial hearing loss.

Fungal otitis externa may be asymptomatic, although A. niger produces a black or gray blotting paper–like growth in the ear canal. With chronic otitis externa, pruritus replaces pain, which may lead to scaling and skin thickening with a resultant narrowing of the lumen. An aural discharge may also occur. Asteatosis (lack of cerumen) is common.

Diagnosis

Physical examination confirms otitis externa. With acute otitis externa, otoscopy reveals a swollen external ear canal (sometimes to the point of complete closure), periauricular lymphadenopathy (tender nodes in front of the tragus, behind the ear, or in the upper neck) and, occasionally, regional cellulitis.

With fungal otitis externa, removal of growth shows thick red epithelium. Microscopic examination or culture and sensitivity tests can identify the causative organism and determine antibiotic treatment. Pain on palpation of the tragus or auricle distinguishes acute otitis externa from otitis media.

With chronic otitis externa, physical examination shows thick red epithelium in the ear canal. Severe chronic otitis externa may reflect underlying diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, or nephritis.

Treatment

Treatment varies, depending on the type of otitis externa.

Acute otitis externa

To relieve the pain of acute otitis externa, treatment includes heat therapy to the periauricular region (heat lamp; hot, damp compresses; heating pad), aspirin or acetaminophen, and codeine. Instillation of antibiotic eardrops (with or without hydrocortisone) follows cleaning of the ear and removal of debris. If fever persists or regional cellulitis develops, a systemic antibiotic is necessary.

Fungal otitis externa

As with other forms of this disorder, fungal otitis externa necessitates careful cleaning of the ear. Application of a keratolytic or 2% salicylic acid in cream containing nystatin may help treat otitis externa resulting from candidal organisms.

Instillation of slightly acidic eardrops creates an unfavorable environment in the ear canal for most fungi as well as Pseudomonas.

Chronic otitis externa

Primary treatment involves cleaning the ear and removing debris. Supplemental therapy includes instillation of antibiotic eardrops or application of antibiotic ointment or cream (neomycin, bacitracin, or polymyxin, possibly combined with hydrocortisone). Another ointment contains phenol, salicylic acid, precipitated sulfur, and petroleum jelly and produces exfoliative and antipruritic effects.

For mild chronic otitis externa, treatment may include instilling antibiotic eardrops once or twice weekly and wearing specially fitted earplugs while showering, shampooing, or swimming.

Special considerations

If the patient has acute otitis externa:

❑  Monitor vital signs, particularly temperature. Watch for and record the type and amount of aural drainage.

❑  Remove debris, gently clean the ear canal, and then dry gently but thoroughly. (With severe otitis externa, cleaning may be delayed until after initial treatment with antibiotic eardrops.)

❑  To instill eardrops in an adult, pull the pinna upward and backward to straighten the canal. For children, pull the pinna downward and backward. To ensure that the drops reach the epithelium, insert a wisp of cotton moistened with eardrops.

To prevent otitis externa:

❑  Suggest that the patient use custom-fitted earplugs to keep water out of his ears when showering, shampooing, or swimming.

❑  Warn the patient against putting any objects in his ears, such as cleaning the ears with cotton swabs or other objects.

❑  Urge prompt treatment of otitis media to prevent perforation of the tympanic membrane.

❑  If the patient is diabetic or immunocompromised, evaluate him for malignant otitis externa (drainage, hearing loss, ear pain, itching, fever). Appropriate treatments include antibiotics and surgical debridement.