arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oh! My Back!



I try not to complain about any ongoing health problems I may have, unless I can make a compelling narrative out of it. After all, I do have a variety of ailments with which I can bore my readers silly. They include my heart disease, obesity, short stature (really, this should be considered a terminal illness [badum ching!]), my feet, my ankles, my back…bingo!

I’ve known since childhood that I had flat fleet, although I have always thought of myself as normal. (Ooh! Add delusional to my list of ailments above.) I can only imagine what my fellow members of humanity must think of me as they’ve witnessed my daily, fool hardy attempts at ambulation. They must marvel:

First Human: “Look at him! Good lord! He’s got flat fleet, one leg shorter than the other, and his hips are all screwed up!”

Second Human: “And he’s probably delusional, too! Poor devil!”

I know, I know, I was talking about my back, but my feet have a lot to do with this topic. Believe me, if the feet are off kilter, then everything else up the line through the ankle, knee, femur, hip, and back are thrown off too. And thrown off in a very painful way…

My pedal condition meant that I could not purchase shoes off the rack. My parents would take me to a shoe store at the other end of town (i.e., Philadelphia), where they could buy shoes which gave me the proper support my feet needed. The insides of the shoes were built up to ensure maximum support and extreme discomfort. I would complain to my parents that they hurt, but they always responded, “Oh, you’ll be all right, once you break them in.” BTW, this NEVER HAPPENED! The shoes guaranteed maximum support, extreme discomfort, and would resist being broken in for the life of the shoe.

The importance of having proper foot support was not high on my list of concerns 20 years ago. Now, however, as I get older and my hips continue to get more and more misaligned from the rest of my body, I find that the resulting sciatic condition is too unbearable to place low on a list of priorities.

In recent years, my body would send subtle signs that it was time for me to adjust something to alleviate the pain. And by subtle, I mean sudden shooting pains from the hip down to the knee. Popular over-the-counter salves and balms would not work. After a while, I figured out that my body was telling me that it was time to purchase a new pair of shoes, which is what I did a few months ago.

I purchase shoes (EEE wide, removable insoles for placement of a custom orthotic) from Hitchcock Shoes online. I usually buy one pair which lasts me a year, at which point the heel of my left shoe is worn down most unevenly in comparison to the heel on the right shoe. In past years, just replacing the shoes is enough for the sciatica to go away. This didn’t happen this year, which led me to consider replacing my custom orthotic.

For the last 10 years, I have had orthotics made at the nearest Foot Solutions. The last pair was guaranteed to last five years, which I found out was last year when I went to be fitted for a new orthotic this year. The fitting is a unique process - it comprises my standing on a set of round headed pins that conform to the shape (or, in my case, mis-shape) of my feet. This impression is printed on a 3-D computer image and sent somewhere to have some sort of sole carved out of plastic and lined with cloth. 

These orthotics cost four times as much as the shoes, and I suppose they could be covered by my health plan. No, correct that: I suppose they could be applied to the sky high deductible on my health plan, but then I would have to go to my doctor (in-network fee negotiated office charge also applied to deductible) who would refer me to another doctor (who would also have an in-network fee negotiated blah, blah, blah) who might write a script or letter of medical necessity for the insoles which then could be…oh, eff it!

Up to this point, I’ve had to rely on stretching exercises, which are supposed to be performed every day of my life for maximum effect. This does not always happen when it is scheduled to happen before I get out of bed every morning, owing to leg cramps. There’s nothing like a good charley horse in the calf that can make a sciatic condition seem trivial.

I learned these exercises during physical therapy sessions for a previous episode of sciatica several years ago. Oh yes, I suppose I could go to physical therapy again, but I have huge health care debts now due to the laughable excuse of a health plan I have.

Besides, who needs physical therapy when I have my TENS unit. This Transcuteneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator device was also purchased during those previous physical therapy sessions, and paid for by a real health plan which I had at that time. For those not familiar with a TENS unit, this is a machine about the size and shape of those pocket calculators we all carried when we went to high school in the 70s. Ah, the 70s! When we were young, strong and sciatica was nothing more than a famous curse uttered by W.C. Fields. (“Suffering sciatica!”)

Anyway, these units, powered by AA batteries, send small pulses of electricity to the nerves in my back, which generally makes the pain more tolerable and me more tolerable to live with. The unit is adjusted by degrees from 1.0 to I have no idea, although I did crank that puppy up to 47.0 one day recently. 

Some people may swear by the healing powers of marijuana, but sometimes my TENS unit can be just as good as any joint I may have smoked in college.  (Janey, I swear this on a stack of dime bags!)

So now I have everything in place for my sciatic condition to improve. New orthotics and new shoes to support my feet, a TENS unit to alleviate the acute shooting pains, and various over the counter pain medications for further soothing.  So now when humanity sees me approaching they can say to each other:

First Human: “My God! Look at him! He’s got flat feet, one leg shorter than the other, and screwed up hips!”

Second Human: “Yes, I see, and I’ll bet his health insurance sucks too! Poor devil!”

(Thank you for reading. Ah, TENS unit! My precious...”)

5 Comments:

Anonymous Janey, the Herbal Healer said...

Well, we are aging together, my dear college buddy and BFF! I too had sciatica (and plantar fasciatis) and had special shoes made. I also lost 70 pounds (I went from 320 to 250; I am 6'1" tall) which greatly reduced my aches from the waist down.(My knee injury, from a college bike ride, still aches. WTF was I doing exercising?)

And I swear on a stack of dime bags that marijuana is still the best medicine of all! :-)

September 27, 2014 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

chronic lower back pain: what a bane.
what a burden. I hope it doesn't dominate your life as some of my patients do poor devils.

September 27, 2014 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Nadege said...

How horrible to be in pain all the time! I "still" have health insurance and a very good podiatrist. I've had 4 foot surgeries. I will have my right foot fixed next year. I was fitted for orthotics last week but for me, they haven't helped me very much. This will be my 5th pair. If one leg is shorter than the other, you need a special insert to bring your hip leveled with the other. In the old days, chiropractors used to measure legs and provide inserts. I will ask my surgeon when I see him.
I also have arthritis in my lower spine so I completely commiserate with you.

September 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger David Jeffreys said...

As far as the cramps are concerned, be sure you are getting enough potassium in your diet (bananas, and other fruits). I have to take potassium pills because of the diuretics (Lasix). They are huge white capsule shaped pills which are difficult for me to swallow. I have to break them in half.

September 29, 2014 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you Janey for your thoughts. I know weight losse would help, but....

Hi Spo! I'm trying not to let it cramp my life style, but it is affecting my blogging. I can't sit at my computer chair as mush when the pain hits.

Thank you Nadege. I think my inserts are built to bring my hips level, but after 50 some years, the damage may be just managable than reversible.

Thank you David for your thoughts. I had Lasix with an accampaning potassium supplement after my heart surgery

October 4, 2014 at 2:42 PM  

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