Out & About: We Shouldn’t Have To Negotiate For A Diagnosis

Acupuncture being administered
Acupuncture being administered

I have not been Out & About much lately due to the fact that I have been dealing with pain in my back, which is seriously turning into a pain in my backside.  I have been in horrid pain at the base of my neck the middle of my back and at my lumbar area.  The pain was consuming me and wrecking my world.  I decided it was time to take action as it wasn’t getting any better.  I needed a diagnosis.

Pain Scale Physicians Use
Pain Scale Physicians Use

With this new health care program, I now have insurance so I called around to many, many different doctors in my area hoping to find a primary physician and schedule an appointment.

“I’m sorry but Dr. Soandso won’t be taking new clients until June” or “Dr. Soandso is booked until September” was the typical response.  I was so frustrated and scared about the pain that I just went to Urgent Care.

I sat in the Urgent Care lobby waiting for my name to be called; surrounded by people with masks on. A nurse stood at the opened door and called my name, relief washed over me as she ushered me into the back; I was going to get some help.  She took my vitals and told me all about her life and her children moving to the Midwest while I sat there in pain.  The doctor finally came in, had me bend over to see the extent of my reach and had me perform a couple of arm extensions.

He diagnosed me with muscle spasms (uh huh…) and gave me a prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxers and sent me on my way with instructions to follow up with my physician if this didn’t get any better.

 “You need an MRI in order to see what is really happening”

It took longer at the pharmacy to get my prescription filled than it took to get in and out of urgent care.  I finally made it back home.  Excited to get relief of this pain, I took two pills and rested, eventually becoming sick to my stomach.  The pain medication and I didn’t get along too well to say the least.


I put up with the pain for a couple more weeks, pretty much living flat on my back with a moist heat wrap on or in a hot bath. Relief is hard to find because it hurts to stand, sit and walk a good majority of the time. I tried to find a local doctor but to no avail.  Breaking down, I called my primary in Salem.  Yep, I had to go to Salem to be seen.  I was able to get in within a couple of days which is a small miracle really. So on Tuesday, off I went.

The nurse took my vitals and noticed my blood pressure was a little elevated, she said this was probably “due to my pain”. Huh!  I had no idea they could tell from your blood pressure.  The doctor came in and immediately became concerned with my red face, concerned because of the severity of how red it was and tried to convince me this was something new (I have had it for years).  She thought it was Rosacea.  Yes, I told her, it was. She wanted to keep talking about it and try to find a solution as she typed on her computer.  I finally convinced her this was my face and my life and it’s just the way it is.  Let’s move on to my pain.

I knew going into this appointment it would be difficult.  She refused to help me the previous times I had talked to her about my back, refusing to give me X-rays on previous appointments, stating they wouldn’t show anything and sent me on my way. So here I am again sitting in front of her nearly a year and a half later.

This back pain is nothing new, it’s just worse. I have been dealing with it for quite some time now, there is history here.  I told her I wanted an MRI or X-rays at the very least. I need to know what is happening to my back.

“Last year you complained about hand and arm pain and you wanted X-rays or MRI’s…” 

(she was beginning to make me feel as if I am a hypochondriac).  I was having pain in my arms and hands and eventually legs and feet the previous year that was gradually disabling me. Instead of an X-ray or an MRI she sent me to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) for an EMG test.  This testing is good for something perhaps (torture) but it is archaic (in my opinion).  For half an hour they shocked the muscles in my fingers,  arms, legs and feet.  The next half hour, they took a 2 inch needle and stuck it into the same muscles in my hands, arms, legs and feet and had me flex those muscles while the needle was still inside me.  I can’t begin to explain the pain associated with this procedure.  It had a lasting affect on me for some time afterwards (that’s another column).  I will never go through a procedure again unless I have full knowledge of what to expect, especially if there is an easier test that I feel comfortable with.

“I am in a lot of pain and I can’t function in my daily life any longer.”

Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy

She continued typing on her keyboard as she proceeded to tell me that she just returned from a seminar “up on the hill” OHSU regarding X-rays and MRI’s and it was discussed how these diagnostic tests are over prescribed.  Again, I insisted that this is what I wanted.

“You should go to physical therapy” she stated.

It really was all I could do to hold myself together at this point.

You haven’t even looked at my back, you have yet to examine me, how can you recommend physical therapy when you don’t even know what is wrong with me” I asked.

“Our spines are made up of many different interconnected bones (she is using her hands to show me what a spine looks like). As we get older, our bodies don’t work as well as they used to” She said to me.

“I understand that but it shouldn’t involve excruciating pain!”  I refuse to accept this, period.  We have pain for a reason.  It is a built in function that tells us something is wrong.

“You can’t possibly be in as much pain as you say you are.  (I rated my pain level pretty close to a 10 on a scale of 1 – 10)  “People who are in as much pain as you say you are in show different symptoms.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing.  How can someone tell me what kind and how much pain I am in or I am not in?  I am just flabbergasted at this point and nearly in tears.

“You should go see an acupuncturist, that’s what I do” she states.

Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic Care

I told her I am all for that.  I would rather go holistic healing than be drugged up on pain medication that will only mask the pain, let alone hinder my ability to function in life.  I want to know what is wrong with me, and I want a referral to a chiropractor and an acupuncturist once we know what is happening, but I want X-rays or an MRI first.  I need to know what is happening to me.

She was very adamant that she didn’t want to give me either.

“Aren’t you afraid of the effects of the radiation from the X-rays or MRI in the future?  She was losing her patience at this point.  “Aren’t you afraid you will be diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer 10 years from now?” She asked me.

She has been my doctor for close to 2 years now.  It was my pleasure to tell her “I don’t have a thyroid.  I had radiation 7 years ago to get rid of it!”   You can read a piece I wrote about it here.  She got extremely frustrated at that point and said fine, we will order you an X-ray.  She also agreed to refer me to the chiropractor and acupuncturist of my choice.  She just wanted me gone.

This was by far the worst experience of my life at a doctors office.

She called the nurse in and told her we were doing a full body X-ray; did more typing on her computer and left the room. I was taken to a small room to change into a gown and waited for the X-ray Technician to come and get me.  Placing the lead apron around my waist, we proceeded to take the photographs of my neck area.  I couldn’t stand it any longer and with the curious mind that I have, I asked the X-ray technician if X-rays were extremely dangerous?  “Not any more” she replied.

I explained to her what had happened with the doctor and that she was pissed because I am having them done (I really needed to tell someone, I just can’t believe what had just occurred).  She apologized for the doctors behavior and we proceeded to take 6 X-rays.  Two of my neck, middle and lower back.

X-ray of my Cervical Spine
X-ray of my Cervical Spine

I received an envelope in the mail the following Saturday with copies of my X-rays.  My results came back showing Scoliosis and Degenerative Disc Disease in my Cervical Spine area.  I have not gotten a call from my doctor in Salem to talk about my results or a plan to help me get through this problem.  I am so disappointed in the way I was treated and I wonder how many other people have gone through what I went through with her, or with another doctor.

We should not have to negotiate to get a diagnosis from our health care provider

I knew going into that appointment it would be difficult, but I went in with a plan and I was sticking to it.  I refused to be put off or have my pain dismissed and I refused to be put on pain medication.  What is astounding to me is that she didn’t even see me, she didn’t care to examine me and did so only because I pointed it out to her that she had failed to even attempt to examine me.  She was willing to pass me off to someone else without even trying to figure out what the problem was and tried to convinced me that the only problem I had was getting older.

One of her explanations to not give X-rays or MRI’s was that “When people have X-rays or MRI’s they are diagnosed with other things and things get all crazy, finding things they weren’t even looking for”.  I say right on!  If you find something that you weren’t looking for then that is kind of a bonus!  Someone is really getting their money’s worth from that test!

I hear it over and over that we need to be our own health advocate.  I get that now.  I am a lover not a fighter and I would rather keep the peace, but I will fight for my health.  I will not take no for an answer ever again.  People don’t get to talk down to me, or treat me badly.  I do not care if they have a certificate in front of or behind their name, it doesn’t matter.  We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

I will stand up for what I need and I won’t stop until I get it.  I am so very disappointed in the fact that I had to go through what I went through this past Tuesday but I learned from it.  If you know you are being mistreated, or put off by your doctor you don’t have to take it and you shouldn’t.  It’s okay to tell them no, they are wrong.

I have not found a Primary physician a Chiropractor or Acupuncturist yet, but I have faith that I will find relief once I do and I can once again enjoy life and get Out & About.


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