Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the psychology of pain

If you seek medical care because suddenly you have developed some disturbing symptoms, the diagnostic visit to the doctor is never without apprehension. You know something’s wrong and you'd like to be told that it's not life-threatening and that it wont require periods of debilitating treatment and years of anxiety about whether you’ll live beyond tomorrow.

You’re relieved when your doc orders tests, and then tells you – so far so good! [These days, this is as much as you can hope for. Gone are the blissful times when doctors actually say things like -- go home and relax... you’ll be fine... take it from me – there’s nothing wrong with you. Today, that kind of reassurance is a law suit in the making.]

But I find that, for me, it is entirely a different experience when I’m told to see a sports doctor. Wow, I am one of the super elite that challenges her body to the max! Sure, something snapped somewhere along the way, but hey, we are now going to figure out how to glue it back together! I am up there with football players and Tour de France riders! I am going to see a sports guy!

Actually, it turns out to be a woman. A professor, too. She's big stuff.

I immediately ask her – do you mostly see athletes? She acknowledges that they are a big part of her practice. I beam. There are posters of cyclists on the wall of the examining room. I am in a spot reserved for people with muscle and grit.

And I wonder – do people choose to practice sports medicine for the same reason an occasional student of mine will choose to go into entertainment law? Or animal law? Because they love the movie stars, the animals, or athletes?

My shoulder, which has been bothering me now for maybe half a year, receives a different and not altogether bad diagnosis and prognosis (I read up later that many people think they fully recover from this condition, because it gives the appearance of being healed, even as it really isn't... pain's gone, must be fine;  that would be a good things, as far as I’m concerned).

I take in her every word (as do her underlings – med profs travel with an entourage) and submit myself to a slight procedure then and there and then wave a cheery good bye. Feels better already, I say.

Wait until this afternoon, you’ll be less chipper – she responds.

Eh, these doctors – they like to scare you. She’s used to bringing down the inflated ego of a football star.

I pedal to class. Lovely day, la de da.


Also a long day. I have classes to teach and a long line of students during office hours.

I dash out for a coffee break. It really is gorgeous outside!
Even as, just at the entrance to the Law School, I see this bird – a hawk, laying in waiting.


Yes, there is some poor unsuspecting creature that is about to be clawed to pieces. There he goes!


And now I begin to feel something akin to claws tearing into my shoulder.  The aftermath of seeing a sports physician:  an evening of pain in order to get me past the hump.

I pedal home wishing I had many handfuls of ibuprofen pills in my backpack. And why is it so dark anyway?


I remain in pain. But I continue to imagine that I am in the kind of pain that belongs to athletes and sports fanatics.

And eventually, in time, I may reach a point where I'll be fooled into believing that I am done with this. An injury properly healed -- through will and grit. Yeah!

In the meantime, there's ibuprofen.