Monday, November 20, 2006

Electroshocks and Narcotics

Usually I rant, but I noticed that I very rarely kvetch in these pages, despite the fact that kvetching appears in the mission statement of this blog. So without further ado:

Yours truly has a bad lower back.
I had managed to keep my discomfort to a minimum until recently, when I don't know what (sitting too much in a bad chair, a new pair of boots, beats me) triggered some moderate lower back pain again.
I am very frustrated because it took me about a year and a half to control it and now I'm back to the beginning. So I went to a new doctor. I had to change all my doctors because of my new insurance. (That is a longer kvetch best reserved for another day).
So I tell this new doctor I have lower back pain. He tells me he is going to give me a muscle relaxant and something stronger than Advil. Then he suggests I have a diagnostic test that consists on giving me electric shocks in the legs. He doesn't really explain why, to find out if there is nerve damage, I believe, and he doesn't bother explaining to me what to expect. A nurse administers the test. The shocks are relatively painful, some like sharp jabs, others like burning jabs. Very unpleasant. If these minor shocks are so painful, imagine when they are increased and used to torture people. Or to burn them to a crisp in a chair. The test was useful to me to imagine a situation of torture.
In Mexico City, in Garibaldi Square, people like to hire a guy who has these two charged cylinders and everybody holds hands and an electric current passes from person to person while the guy increases the voltage until people can't bear the shock anymore. Why people find this amusing I will never fathom.
The test takes a while. The nurse leaves me alone with the machine pinching my legs hard for a while. When it's over, they leave me alone in the room and then after a long while the doctor comes in and triumphantly announces that there is nothing wrong with my nerves. Well, I sort of knew that without the shock treatment, but thank you. Without as much as asking where it hurts, or touching my back, he gives me two prescriptions, for the "thing stronger than Advil" and the muscle relaxant. I assume the first is an anti-inflammatory. It turns out it's a painkiller, a synthetic opiate that can cause dependency and a host of other alarming side effects (I checked it on WebMD). Both caution they cause drowsiness, not to use machinery, no alcohol, etc. I take the muscle relaxant before going to sleep and sure enough soon I feel nicely relaxed and I conk out. Except in the morning, I can't get up. I am completely groggy and almost disoriented. The muscle is certainly relaxed but the rest of me is pretty useless for the rest of the day. Then I try the pain killer, which is what I'm on while I write this. I feel a bit spaced out, I keep hitting the wrong keys on the board and the pain is still there, albeit less. But now my skin itches.
Meanwhile, yesterday I went out on my bike for an hour and of course when I dismounted I was in pain, so I iced the region and took two Advil. Advil works like a charm.
So the moral of this story is: I don't know if I want to take these drugs, but they'll come in handy in case I need to kill myself.

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