The 10 leading causes ofdeath in the United States in 1995 were, in order, diseases of heart, malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, accidents and adverse effects, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes mellitus, HIV infection, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (Rosenberg, Ventura, Maurer, Heuser, & Freedman,
My Life 3-1 Back Pain
Sometimes I think of my back pain as a familiar companion. He may not be overly friendly, but he certainly has remained with me for a long time.
I can remember when we first met. I was sitting on a stool at a punch card machine, and all of a sudden he was there. Although I have often wished it were otherwise, l knew then that he was determined to stay with me—if not forever,at least until I gave up the ghost.
One thing he did do was provide me with the opportunity to learn about doctors and what they can and cannot do. In my eagerness to be rid of him, I consulted internists, orthopedists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, osteo— paths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and even psychiatrists. I was prodded, punctured, massaged, radiated, needled, vibrated, and elec— trically stimulated. I had X rays, my— elograms, CAT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, muscle examinations, and many other kinds of tests. I took aspirin, In— docin, Tofranil, acetaminophen, ibu— profen, Prozac, cortisone, and myriad other pain killers, stimulants, and re— laxants. I did exercises, wore a Taylor back brace, had hot packs, took steam baths and whirlpool baths, and had my neck and back twisted and cracked. Some of the treatments had what I now realize was a placebo effect, but I be—
gan to suspect that it was more than balanced out by an iatrogenic effect. Any improvement I experienced was temporary and not worth the cost and discomfort of the treatment.
Eventually, I resigned myself to the notion that my back pain was like the man who came to dinner and de— cided to stay. But a funny thing hap— pened on the road to despair. When I simply decided to quit worrying about the pain, when I learned to avoid situ— ations in which the pain was intense and to stop immediately and relax when it came calling, it abated and was more tolerable. I gave up looking for a dra— matic cure and learned, if not to love, at least to feel at home with a certain amount of pain.
Today, my old companion is still with me, but he is not as irksome as he once was. Somehow, we have worked out a kind of modus vivendi in which I don't concern myself so much about him and he reciprocates by not bother— ing me as much. Perhaps this is the way it is with all lasting companion— ships. We only learn to live together when we stop trying to change each other, take each others' moods and id— iosyncracies into account, and thank our lucky stars that we are able to get along as well as we do. It also helps to know that everything ends sometime.
1996). With the exception of HIV infection, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, the death rates for all of these disorders increase steadily with age.1
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