The Farm Repor — @#$%, That Hurts!

      54 Comments on The Farm Repor — @#$54, That Hurts!

My apologies for the recent lack of activity. It’s been … how do I put this? … an interesting couple of weeks.

A few months ago, I started getting occasional pains in my left shoulder when I raised my arm with my elbow bent. It just seemed to come and go. After a workout at the gym one weekend, it came to stay. So I went to see the same orthopedic surgeon who operated on my knee back in 2012.

He of course started with the conservative approach: a cortisone shot and a stretching program. That actually worked on my right shoulder some years ago when I had pain and tightness in there. But this time around, the stretching program just caused my left shoulder to throb. I went back for an MRI so the doc could get a deeper look. Here’s what he found:

That round protrusion shouldn’t be there, or at least not so close to the top of my humerus. It’s probably a kinder, gentler version of the big ol’ bone spur I had surgically removed 14 years ago. When that spur dug into the joint, it felt like being stabbed with a dagger. This time it’s more like a hard pinch when I raise my arm and the bones collide.

It’s not an emergency situation, so we scheduled a surgery for November 3rd. The surgeon will shave away some of that bony mass to create more room for the top of the humerus. Looks like I’ll be wearing a sling when my birthday rolls around. And here I was, all happy with myself for not looking or feeling my age …

I’m right-handed, and the pain only kicks in when I raise my left arm to shoulder height. Being a male and somewhat hard-headed, I concluded this means I could continue doing work around the farm on weekends.

After making great progress on Sara’s cabin a year ago, we got sidetracked with the holidays and then with finishing the book and the film.  We haven’t done any construction since.

I’d like for Sara to enjoy the finished cabin before she heads off to college in four years, so last weekend, I took a Dremel saw and cut back the sections of wood that join the 2 x 4s in the ceiling. With the excess wood gone, we’ll be able to finish nailing planks to the 2 x 4s. I managed to do that without raising my left arm to the pain point.

This project we had planned for this weekend was to toss the rotting stumps that surround our front-yard fire pit into the forest, then replace them with fresh stumps from the big ol’ pine tree that nearly hit the house some months ago.

After we tossed the rotting stumps, I asked Chareva to help me drag the bridge that crosses our creek back into place – it had floated several feet downstream during the last heavy rain.

As I was dragging my end along, my left foot slid down the bank and into the creek, which put me in a bit of an awkward, partly-sideways position. Now, the smart move at that point would have been to set the bridge down and get into a comfortable position before lifting again. But being a male and somewhat hard-headed, I decided I could just yank the bridge into position with my upper body.

I don’t think my back made any actual sound, but if the scene had been captured on video and I were in charge of sound effects, I’d probably use the violin-pluck DOINK! sound made popular by the Three Stooges. Then I’d follow it with whatever sounds are appropriate for masking a long string of curse words.

I straightened up slowly, hoping it was just a passing tightness in the lower back. Nope. I’d twisted something out of position, and bending in any direction gave me a stab of pain near my spine, just above the belt.

Well, that certainly changes the weekend project plans.

I ended up spending the rest of Saturday and Sunday either in bed or sitting in my well-padded Lazy Boy recliner. I only moved when I had to. Chareva and the girls brought me food and drinks. I numbed the pain with red wine on Saturday and acetaminophen on Sunday.

Today I paid what I’m now calling The Dumbass Tax to my chiropractor. Fortunately, he’s very good and offers a hefty discount for patients who pay with cash. He confirmed what I already suspected: I’d yanked my lower spine out of position a bit.

The second manipulation on my lower back gave me a little pain spike followed by rather a lot of relief. I still have pain and swelling from a strained muscle back there, but it no longer feels like a nerve is being compressed.

I’ll pay The Dumbass Tax again on Wednesday, then see how I feel. At least I can get out of my chair and walk a bit now without wincing in pain. That’s good news. After all, I have to walk into the surgery center next week to have a bony mass shaved from my shoulder.

You’ll understand if my posting schedule continues to be a bit sporadic.


54 thoughts on “The Farm Repor — @#$%, That Hurts!

  1. Dianne

    Yeouch! Tom, I’m so sorry. But blessed is he (or she) who has a really good chiropractor. Mine’s 25 miles away, but she’s worth the trip. Besides being tops at nudging my various components back into place with her little jackhammer, she’s also an expert on diet and natural remedies and my staunch ally in my war of resistance against my MD’s attempts to put me on statins.

    Here’s wishing you a successful surgery and a speedy recovery from everything.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Our chiropractor is on the other side of Franklin, but worth the trip. He seems to have the knack for identifying what’s wrong and adjusting just enough to fix it without undue yanking and cranking.

  2. Firebird7478

    The Three Stooges violin bow pluck — that’s how my hamstring sounded several years ago when I popped it while doing wind sprints.

  3. Kathy in OK

    Life is nothin’ but smooth sailin’ — until it isn’t. Then it sucks. Surely the timing has made you ask “did I get a little too cocky about the age thing?” Wishing you a speedy recovery from both. And thanks for thinking of us out here. There’s no telling how many there are like me who come here to see what you have to say, whether about the farm, the overlords or whatever.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I absolutely got a little too cocky. Other than when I accidentally slam a t-post hammer onto my own skull, I’ve been able to do a lot of heavy-duty outdoor work with no ill effects. The bridge reminded me I’m not 25 and can get hurt if I’m careless.

  4. Devin Van Curen

    I’ve been following your blog for six years now and the fact that Sara is going off to college in four years is making me feel old! :-O

      1. Emily

        It’s what doctors gave me for years for back pain. They said it wasn’t addictive whatsoever and had very few side effects. Completely wrong on both counts. If you look it up, you’ll find a lot of people saying it’s harder to kick than heroin. It took me over a year, and I took less than I was prescribed. My short-term memory still isn’t up to what it was before I took it.

        The DEA has finally realized they were completely wrong about it and moved it to Schedule IV, but I don’t know if that knowledge has seeped through to doctors yet. Last I knew, the World Health Organization still thought it was great. It’s ravaging Africa right now. It happened to be invented by a Nazi doctor who worked at the same company that made thalidomide, btw.

      2. Lori Miller

        What’s worked for me through a number of accidents and dental work over the past few years:

        *High fat meals.
        *Music. Works for people who tend to get immersed in things.

        There has been work with using virtual reality to help burn victims control their pain; I haven’t tried VR myself.

          1. Firebird7478

            Knox gelatin is also a good option. I replace the fruit juice with extracts and sweeten with stevia. The extracts are artificially flavored but that’s the sacrifice I am willing to make over sugary fruit juices.

      3. Nurse Dave

        Tramadol (trade name Ultram) is a centrally acting analgesic (synthetic narcotic) used to treat moderate to severe pain. Presumably the warning is so you don’t end up wandering the streets of Franklin looking for your next fix after the prescription runs out. Only recommendation I’d have is don’t take it if you’re pregnant.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Thanks. My rule is no Vicodin. I was on that after the previous shoulder surgery. Awful stuff. I couldn’t hold a complete thought in my head when I was awake and had bizarre dreams when sleeping.

        2. Emily

          No, the warning is because it’s a particularly foul drug, even as these things go, and as of a few years ago doctors were treating it as perfectly safe and totally non-addictive. Sounds like plenty still are, even with the recent “discoveries” of how horrible it actually is. (“Discoveries” in quotes, because somehow I don’t trust a Nazi doctor and the company that made thalidomide to care much about how terrible their drugs are, and I don’t trust that this didn’t come as a surprise to them.) I’d have said “no opiates at all” if I meant what you’re saying. I’ve experienced Tramadol, talked to others who have, and researched it extensively. Frankly I think it shouldn’t exist at all — it’s worse than Oxycontin.

          The myth that Tramadol’s non-addictive is because they’d tested it when injected and found it wasn’t bad. But they didn’t test how it’s actually taken, which is swallowed in pill form. And it’s far more powerful when swallowed. It’s like percocet plus Zanax, basically, with both extreme addictive qualities and a slew of awful side effects. I was addicted badly to it after taking less than the doctor prescribed. They’d have happily kept throwing it at me, and they did push me to take more. But I was sick of being sick. The first two months of going off it were hell on earth, though luckily I can’t remember them well. The next year after that wasn’t fun either.

          Btw, it also made my pain worse after the first couple weeks.

          1. Dianne

            Tramadol didn’t work for me anyway after joint replacement surgeries. My sister said it didn’t help her much either. Hydrocodone worked best for both of us. I don’t like the generally punk and muzzy-headed way it makes me feel, but after a hip or knee replacement, you sorta need something for a while.

  5. Bob Niland

    re: After all, I have to walk into the surgery center next week to have a bony mass shaved from my shoulder.

    Is this an outpatient deal, or overnight hospitalization?

    If the latter, you need a defensive strategy for dodging the deceptively named “hospital food” (and any municipal water they serve you, if you’ve been dodging chloramine-laced muni muck).

    In any case, antibiotics are apt to be used. I would already be on a double dose of a high potency multi-strain probiotic, and continue it for 30 days post surgery.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’ll be outpatient. I haven’t stayed overnight in a hospital for 36 years and hope to go another 36.

  6. chris c

    Oh sympathies!

    I managed to do something unspeakably painful to my left shoulder a few years back. Don’t ask what, I just woke up with it. Doctor prescribed Co-Codamol and referred me to a physiotherapist. I wasn’t expecting much but I went along just to see, knowing there was an osteopath with an excellent reputation not far away. Meanwhile I studied some diagrams of all the levers and pulleys between the shoulder and neck and concluded that it was so poorly designed it was a minor miracle that it didn’t go wrong more often.

    The physio was actually pretty good, had a good poke around and checked out just how far I could move things without yelping, and dug through his files until he found a leaflet on what he thought would be a good exercise routine. When he looked up I was doing exactly what he has about to recommend, as I had already found it helped.

    There didn’t appear to be anything that justified an x-ray or further investigation, so we left it at that at the time, with instructions that I should come back if it got worse or didn’t start to resolve.

    The worst aspect was that it was at its worst when I relaxed, and trying to get to sleep was a nightmare until I found the one position where the pain abated, for a while. Which was different every night. Propped up on the side with the other thumb carefully inserted into the armpit was probably the most consistent. Someone else’s thumb might have worked, but I was divorced by then.

    In the end it improved to where I could back carefully off the pain meds, which was when I first discovered the pharmacy’s Rule about selling Co-Codamol, after the doctor’s script had run out and she was too busy to make another appointment for more, so I reverted to undiluted Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen until that started to give me the same tinnitus I previously only got from aspirin. Eventually even Ketoprofen ointment started also giving me tinnitus, since when I have been VERY careful with NSAIDS.

    A couple of weeks back I did exactly the same thing to my right shoulder. Again I don’t know what, I just woke up with it. Fortunately this time it wasn’t so bad and wore off quicker.

    Reminds me a bit of the old Tommy Cooper joke

    “Doctor, I broke my arm in two places!”

    “Well, don’t go to those places!”

    Oh and I did the back thing once too, I stepped on a piece of metal someone had dropped on the floor in the machine shop as I was walking through and kind of shot forward a few inches. Instant agony. I ended up able to sit, lie or stand quite pain-free, but whenever I moved position, the agony returned. I think a torn muscle, which again eventually wore off. That should have been accompanied by a loud cheek-pop.

    Just be careful out there . . .

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeesh, you went through some awful experiences. I don’t mean to sound wildly optimistic, but I expect this surgery to be less painful than the previous one. They had to saw my shoulder bones apart the last time. I still have a gap.

      1. chris c

        Just curious but did you get this sort of thing much when you were low fatting?

        I would get semi-regular outbreaks of not-quite-frozen shoulder and not-quite-carpal tunnel, which in retrospect I put down to glycation of the tendons, or tendon sheaths.

        There was generally some kind of mechanical event that set it off – for example when I moved offices and had a different desk layout with the computer screen offset to the other side etc. I succeeded in transferring the problems from one shoulder to the other. It’s much less common now but when it occurs I suspect long term damage may be a factor.

        Not sure whether this might also be responsible for bone issues too though. Maybe long term depletion of D3 or K2 or something which has now resolved but left you with ongoing issues?

        Best of luck anyway, especially with the pain relief. Opiates kill my pain quite successfully but I do NOT enjoy the side effects. Tramadol sounds like a horror story I’m glad I never experienced. I’ve read tales of people not realising they were taking more than one drug containing acetaminophen and taking a dose sufficient to wipe out their livers, like Night Nurse and Day Nurse. My Ex took mefenamic acid, but only for one week in every month, seemingly without problems, but I know people who developed permanent tinnitus from just one dose of some of the newer NSAIDS/COX inhibitors. My mother was prescribed full strength codeine which she took ad-lib for years without getting hooked, but my father became addicted to Solpadeine (Co-Codamol). I’ve been known to steal the occasional codeine or mefenamic acid as a useful add-on to acetaminophen, but only occasionally. Back in the day I even knew people who took occasional heroin without getting hooked – it seems both the addiction potential and the side effect profile of many painkillers vary hugely from individual to individual.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I have no idea what causes those bony masses to form. At least this one isn’t shaped like a spike.

  7. Linda

    Hi Tom,

    I certainly wish you the best for your surgery and recovery! I’ll miss your posts till you are back.

    And I agree with everyone else who has expressed sentiments about Tramadol. It’s awful! About four years ago (before I did my research and quit statin drugs,) I was beginning to have real muscle pains, trouble walking, etc. Of course, my doc wouldn’t hear that it could be because of the statin drugs, so she prescribed Tramadol. When I said that I had a real problem taking any kind of pain med, she said, “oh, you can definitely take Tramadol!” Well…that wasn’t so. It was worse than the pain! I not only had pain and trouble walking- I also had some mental disfunction- fuzziness, not remembering things like I left the stove one, etc.! I quit the drug and told my doc, and of course she wanted to prescribe something “better.” I refused and by that time, my research and you and Jimmy had convinced me to get off the damn statins. I did. Now my policy is to take one aspirin if absolutely needed and nothing else. Having been so many years in the ER, I never take acetaminophen because the worst overdoses I’ve ever seen were due to that, because they can’t be reversed. Tylenol kills livers! I’ve found that pain has a function and it actually helps in your recovery. It helps you focus on areas that need work. The statins first crippled me, but when I quit the Tramadol, and started self-imposed physical therapy, now, at least I’m able to walk with a walker. The pain helped me focus on the areas I needed to work on to get out of the wheel chair! If the docs would remember their training and nurses also, they would turn to more natural pain relief- heating pads, cold packs, mild exercise of the affected area, etc., not the ever-present prescription pad!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Chareva’s parents had a neighbor who died because he ruined his liver with too much Tylenol.

      I’m definitely to ask the surgeon what pain meds I’ll be on. I’ve had surgery that involved cutting away bone before, and skipping the pain meds won’t be an option. One of the screwups in the previous surgery was that someone forgot to give me pain meds before I woke up from the anesthesia. The pain was excruciating. I woke up screaming for help. They had to dose me with a quick shot of morphine.

      1. chris c

        Or Meatless Mondays.

        I always eat extra meat on Mondays to compensate. I’ll continue to do so until they invent Wheatless Wednesdays and Soy-Free Sundays.

          1. chris c

            I’ve been observing them both for years – every day. I think the original concept was from Amy Berger. Like many of my generation I was raised with “fish on Friday” and I tend to eat some most days. Chicken used to be for Christmas, to continue the alliteration, it was only in the seventies or so that it became cheap and widespread. Or do I mean cheep?

            Quorn should only be eaten when there’s a Q in the month.

  8. Kerstin DeRolf

    Tom – here is wishing you the best of luck with your surgery.

    r.e. the pain meds – might I suggest glancing at this article: for their discussion on arnica – I am a big believer in using this to help with pain, and more and more ERs are also starting to use it for helping with pain and swelling and bruising, esp. after surgery. Best of all – it does not interact with any meds they give you, so you can use it in addition to whatever is prescribed.

    In fact, even the Huffington Post recommends it: FWIW.


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