Tuesday, January 22, 2013

BURSITIS - a real problem

When I was in the military in 1958, I carried a very heavy suitcase up two flights of stairs. Being 24 and indestructible I didn't think twice about it. The next few days began 55 years of dealing with what was diagnosed then as bursitis. It is most debilitating because of the constant pain which never lets up until it decides on its on to do so. I've always suspected that carrying that suitcase pulled something out of alignment in the spine but several very competent chiropractors over the years have never found any connection. 

It may have been that I never had them address the problem, as the bursitis has not bothered me that much during the times I was seeking their help for other things. It seems to be exacerbated by cold weather and we have been having that here in North Carolina this winter. I have access to an extremely competent chiropractor except he's a 140 mile round trip from our house. If it doesn't let up soon, I'll be making the trip over there to see him. His deceased partner years ago was the one responsible for developing the chiropractic table that you walk up to and it slowly brings you down into a face-down prone position. Saves you from needing to climb up on a table when you're having severe back pain.

I have developed a three layer external treatment consisting of "Tiger Balm", Chinese "Woodlock" and a spray designed for relief of joint pain. After application, I have a small roll-on bottle that I bought from a bottle company (actually bought 12 for what seemed to be a reasonable price for one) and it has DMSO in it that I purchase from our veterinarian. Most of them buy the DMSO in 55 gallon drums if they treat a lot of horses. This seems to work well most of the time but there are times (like for the last couple of weeks) when the pain goes on and on and on.

The strange part started when I was going to get out of the service in 1960. By then I had received every treatment known to medical science delivered by three exceptionally good orthopedic surgeons on the base where I was stationed. Whirlpool, traction, exercise, Darvocet and Darvon and Codeine pills did some good but the only true relief came from a shot of procaine anesthetic directly in to the deltoid muscle. And that didn't last but about four hours.

Now there is a rule in the military that if you contract something while in the service they will not discharge you until it is cured. So while standing in front of the sergeant who was preparing my discharge papers and suffering with a particularly severe attack of the bursitis, the sergeant said, "I notice here that you were being treated for bursitis. You still have problems with it?" 

"Oh no, sarge, it's doing just fine!" Actually what I had been doing was going to the base infirmary with an empty bottle of a prescription for codeine tablets every time the shift changed. They had a lot of people there and apparently didn't keep up any sort of record of how many times you had a prescription refilled. Over a period of a couple of months I had developed a stash of 300 codeine tablets. It was for emergency purposes only as I despise the junk since it makes me woozy. However, my chosen profession was playing the piano professionally and if the bursitis interfered, chances of my keeping a job were not too good. 

Now the kicker: about a month after I was discharged, I woke up one morning and the bursitis was killing me. On top of that, I felt like I was coming down with a cold. My choice of treatment at that time was a couple of Dristan tablets. So I took two and twenty minutes later the pain from the bursitis was gone. I remember saying, "No, it doesn't happen like that. I've had all kinds of treatment by very competent, well trained doctors, It's just a coincidence!"

Three and a half hours later the pain was back so I said, "What the hell. I got nothing to lose" and took another two Dristan tablets. Again, twenty minutes later the pain was gone. At that time, Bayer Aspirin had a small metal container that held twelve aspiring tablets. I bought one and put the aspirin into the bottle I had and filled the container with Dristan tablets. For the next three or four years I would not leave the house without that container because I knew that if the bursitis pain came on, I could get rid of it in twenty minutes. In the meantime I threw all the codeine tablets away. Never did use them.

Around about 1964, I heard about a Dr. Noel who had an office on Veteran's Highway in New Orleans. He supposedly had a sure fire treatment for bursitis using the new steroid prescriptions. I went to him and the first thing he did was give me a massive injection of Vitamin B-12. Then he gave me a prescription for some tiny steroid pills that I had to take everyday for about ten days. I remember calling him up and asking why I was constantly urinating after I taking the prescription. He told me not to worry about it, as that was part of the function of the steroid to get the stuff out of the body that was causing the pain. 

I remember that the bursitis pain did not come back for several years and when it did I could no longer find Dr. Noel. I don't know what happened to him. I started carrying the Dristan tablets again but didn't need them much anymore after I got into a substantial personal vitamin program in the early 1970's. However, there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why the pain occasionally comes back. Being a typical erratic male with little thought to cramming a bunch of pills down my throat every day, occasionally, because of my certifiable neglect, the pain comes back with a vengeance. 

It seems to be associated sometimes with my 40 year fairly consistent intake of calcium/magnesium tablets which allows the pain to flare up if I miss taking them for any length of time (one week or more). I have been taking B-12 fairly regularly for 40 years but at times just get away from doing that. Writing this has caused me to wonder if that may have something to do with the reoccurring problem. It's a real enigma wrapped in a conundrum. 

There is a solution somewhere in this article. I'm not sure exactly what it may be but I'm fairly certain that a bit of continued research on the Internet will shed some light on it. If you have any sort of information about this problem, please take the time to communicate it to me. I will add it to this article and make sure to mention your name.

Yours in the search for good health,

Fritz Owens