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Painblogger - Welcome to my Pain

Painblogger - Welcome to my Pain

Picture of jacquie michels

Ever since I've had a pain in the neck, I've been a pain in the neck.

My pain, which radiates down my neck, across my shoulders, and down my left arm, has been shadowing me for 15 years. Although it was not caused by trauma or accident, I can remember the night it started. I was bathing my 1-year old son. I reached for a red tug boat that he wanted, and a zing of pain shot through me. Now, my 16-year old son's birthday reminds me of a different anniversary.

I ended up going to the emergency room that night. I was examined and told that I probably had a pinched nerve that would resolve with time and rest. I was given valium and vicodin to help me along with that. What I actually had, as I would learn much later, was a condition called degenerative disc disease.

One of the worst things about pain is that the pain can make you feel things that are almost as bad as the pain. I have felt like a whiner when I am too tired or worn out to last through family outings or parties. I've felt like a weakling, knowing that people with cancer, fibromyalgia, and other pain-related disorders are suffering more than I can probably imagine. I've felt like a criminal when I've pushed to have prescriptions refilled early. I've been depressed so deeply that I've had to force myself to shower and dress in the morning. And I've felt like a loser, unable to pursue my dreams or show my daughter just how great I used to be.

The medical community, as far as I can tell, is sharply divided on how pain should be managed. Some general practitioners are happy to provide pain medications for patients, but usually for a limited period of time. Follow the spectrum to pain specialists, who can be so conservative with the prescription pad that patients like me have relief for 8 hours and life-affecting pain for the remaining 16.

"The big fear here is dependence, or even addiction," said one east bay specialist. "If a patient who is not end-stage becomes addicted to pain killers, the prescribing doctor can lose their license. No one wants to see suffering, but have to walk a fine line here."

For patients, where is the fine line's edge? What are the non-medical options to managing long-term pain? When is surgery recommended, and when can it make matters worse? How can the side-effects of pain such as depression and fatigue, be minimized? Dealing with pain can present challenges and choices you've never considered before. But there is help, and things can get better. I've been on a 15-year odyssey with pain. I'll share my discoveries, setbacks, and experiences, while exploring new options from the world of medicine and well beyond.


Picture of Janet Cromer

Hi Jacquie,

I keyed right in on your blog because I've had my battles with degenerative disc disease and nerve entrapment to my left arm and hand. Themost infuriating part of the multi-specialist, multi-visit work-up I pursued was the neurosurgeon's total disregard for how this problem interfered with normal functioning. THeir assessment was based only on arm strength. As a medical and psychiatric RN, I found the omission of assessing the complete patient apalling. After the non-surgical options didn't work well enough, I had a C4-C7 anterior Cervical discectomy and fusion. Long recovery, slow to grow bone from the donor grasts that replaced discs, but the pain disappeared shortly after surgery.

I know that the osteoarthritis and bone spurs that caused the degeneration are present thrugh my spine and have the potential to cause more problems. For now I'm focused on being as strong and healthy as possible. If you'd like to chat, email me at

Best to you,

Janet Cromerf

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