Chronic Pain And The Inconvenience of Living In An Apartment

I have lived in apartments most of my life. I have never had more problems than in the apartment I currently live in.

These problems are amplified by my chronic pain — as all things are.

If you recall, my upstairs neighbor flooded my ceiling when I first moved in so much so that management had to tear out my ceiling and build a new one. She had absent-mindedly left her faucet running, then fell asleep. Water poured through my ceiling.

Then, on another occasion, I came into my family room to find 2 inches of water in the kitchen and the entryway. Apparently, she had been sticking non-disposable food items in her sink. All these food items caused the plumbing to back up to, guess where, my apartment. My sink was pouring gross, old food items all out into my apartment because when everyone above me ran their sinks or dishwashers, it all went into my apartment. Fabulous.

Well, now she did it again. She apparently, was oblivious to her dishwasher leaking water onto her floor. Over the last few months, water has been collecting in the space between her floor and my ceiling. It finally eroded the layers so badly, that yup! You guessed it, it came through the ceiling.

I hate her.

Awesomely, my 3 month pill box was right where brown, smelly water poured through the ceiling.

Of course it did.

So, on Friday, that meant I got to deal immediately with the water problem and maintenance. Plus, I spent hours on the phone with ExpressScripts trying to replace my medications. I’m extremely unhappy with them. I could not convince them that it was a replacement order, not a refill. They weren’t having it. My Calcitriol had a refill available, but my Synthroid did not. I finally convinced the supervisor to at least overnight my Calcitriol. An aside, it is now Thursday, and it still is not here. This speaks volumes to the serious downfall to mail-order prescriptions.

The Synthroid, however, needed a new prescription — that means contacting my shitty doctor. Needless to say, ExpressScripts stated that they sent a fax request for a new prescription to my doctor, that, naturally, he has yet to return. I contacted my doctor today, and they hadn’t even heard of this matter (they are the worst). Equally impressive, my doctor is not even in today, so I have to wait until tomorrow for him to tell the office staff it is okay for them to approve my f’ing prescription.

It was never, ever this hard with my previous insurance, nor my other doctor. This is a full-time job trying to get this approved and, in general, stay vigilant in regards to my doctor, insurance, and pharmacy carrier. My medications have been destroyed since Friday. It is now 6 days without my medication. Luckily, I have a mis-order of Levothyroxine on hand to take. If I did not, I would be hypothyroid by now. All because my pharmacy will not do an emergency replacement of a medication that is not even a narcotic. My doctor’s office is literally threatening my life by being too incompetent to send a fax back in to my pharmacy.

I mean, let’s be clear. I do not have a thyroid. If I do not take my medication I go hypothyroid. I will be incomprehensibly lethargic. That along with the Calcitriol to help me absorb my calcium, I could have a seizure or a heart-attack. I would have to go to the ER to get an I.V. infusion of calcium. Really? Because these two entities can’t get their act together? Unbelievable.

But, I digress. The real issue here is how difficult living in an apartment complex. So, I was told on Friday that a portion of my ceiling would have to be removed. They came on Monday to do it, and, of course, were a few hours behind. Therefore, due to me needing to manage the situation, it screwed up my lay/stand cycle immensely.

I didn’t think I had done anything drastically wrong, until as the night progressed, my pain increased exponentially. It is now Thursday, and I’m still trying to recover. The first few days were the worst. I couldn’t sleep, my back felt so tight it was like a rubber band was pulled tight from my middle back to my sacrum. I was in so much pain, that when I was in bed, my back was stiff as a board — my whole body really. I was so tense and struggled just not to cry. It was horrible. I sometimes forget just how bad it can get.

It’s a bit better today, but still not to where it was in the beginning of the week.

It’s also insanely frustrating. I’m so limited, that something as little as standing for 30minutes to an hour more can throw my whole body into a tizzy. I just don’t understand why my back won’t just relax, let go! It’s not helping anything here!

I want to be mad at the person upstairs, and let’s be honest, I am, but mostly I’m just mad that something so small would cause so much pain.

I’m not in control of my environment here, which is a horrible feeling. I’m completely effected by my neighbors and the property management people. Yes, on the surface, it seems like living in an apartment would be great — other people have to fix stuff, and maintain items, but in reality, since I have moved here, it has been a bit more work than it has helped.

Let’s see how this all goes.


The people who are to fix my ceiling called with a five minute notice. This was after 3 days of hounding the office of when they were coming so something just like this wouldn’t happen. I told them no, they could not fix my ceiling that day. They asked about whether or not they could come the next day and what time. I said sure, around 1:00. They said they would come between 12:00 and 1:00. Guess what? That never happened. At 1:30 I called them to find out where they were. Not coming.

Update to the update: It is now Tuesday and they are finally here. 3 hours to put ceiling in for a foot by foot square. Unreal. Oh, well. Time to practice those breathing exercises and to do a much better job of my stand lay cycle today.

Still not recovered from PT

field of poppiesIt’s been two and a half weeks since my last PT visit and I’m finally able to sleep through the night without being woken up from the pain. I am able now, for a few days to remain in bed when I wake up and not be in pain. That’s really, really nice.

However, my walking has remained severely limited. I’m about 2000 steps below what I normally do. For all those people out there who are worried about their weight, let me just say this. I’ve gained 3 pounds in the last 2.5 weeks. So, at this point, that’s perhaps what this 2000 steps equates to.

Besides the increased pain and the lack of concentration because of it, I’m bummed because what the loss in steps means. I was working so hard to be able to venture outside of my apartment to go do stuff. I was hoping to be able to walk to the bars come football season to at least be able to watch a quarter there. It would do me tremendous mental good to be able to be around people again. I’m so isolated and so lonely, I was so looking forward to it.

I’d rather be able to do that they have a modicum of increased range of motion.

I go again tomorrow and I am quite frightened.


This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.


Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at

Updates on hurting myself; new diagrams including referred pain, dermatomes, and flexion patterns

Straight-leg-testI tried increasing my hamstring stretch 3 days ago on June 18th, 2015 by about an inch. Typically, I place my leg on a surface that is 15 inches high, then a surface that is 16 inches high, and finally a surface that is about 17 inches high.

I’ve been doing that stretch for about 9 months now. I took a break after the Minkowsky doctor appointment that tore my back up again for a few months. Before that, I have been doing that stretch since about 2012.

When I fExercises for low back imageirst moved to San Diego, I could barely get my foot onto the 15 inches high surface. There was so much pulling on my right psoas. It took months before I could get it done comfortably. With the 17 inch high surface, I had a hard time actually lifting my leg up, I think my SI Joint was too rigid and immobile.

However, I’ve been stagnant for a few months now. So, I thought I would increase by about an inch, maybe 1/2 an inch. Basically, my fingertips usually rest at the top of my knee. On the right side I moved my fingertips to the middle of my knee cap. On the left side, I did the same.

I did this for a week with no problems.

Then those few days ago, I did it again. The right side is always way tighter than the left. So I kept the right side the same, but on the left side I moved my fingertips to just after my kneecap. I rested my weight on the leg.

I felt no pain at the time, I was actually quite cheerful I was making progress.Sciatica Pain

I woke up the next day and was like, ouch. This is going to be a bad pain day. But, I figured, no big deal, you did something slightly new that last week, you did everything right, if you have more pain, that’s just the way it is on the road to recovery.

Yeah, save for the fact that I’m experiencing pretty impressive nerve pain.

My right foot is equally numb and prickly. My right calf is very weak. I don’t feel like I can stand on it by itself for very long. There is also a weird, almost like constant charley horse in my right calf, which I realize is referred pain. When I lift my right leg, it stabs there. Not out, away from my body, but like a knee raise.

anterior_hip_muscles_Again, this seems highly unusual that that much pain would come from simply increasing a stretch, which I feel I did safely, by a half inch to an inch.

I’m so frustrated.

Therefore, I’m going to include some diagrams I spent looking at last night to figure out where my pain is coming from.

It is definitely L5-S1. Most of my pain is in the back side of my calf, on the lateral aspect of the right calf. The location on the foot seems to spread depending on, oh, who knows.

Here is also a good link from U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (1994).

On a side note, really? 1994? Couldn’t we have fixed back pain by now? Shouldn’t there be an injectable or something?


From that article, I found this diagram to be the most helpful …


Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 10.32.12 AM














Here is another good article with a really good image. The article is basically a back pain guide

L4-S1 Pain distribution






Here is one final image that I really liked:

dermatomal map of nerve root distribution









Thanks for reading. I will still post on my physical therapy appointment later in the week.


This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.


Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at


Pain is pretty bad today

The pain is pretty bad today. I’m not sure if I slept funny, or what, but it is so bad. I woke up this way. I can barely stand still I’m shaking so bad from the pain. I’m kind of twitchy, ya know? Like I’m just in so much pain my body can’t not move — like it’s trying to escape from itself. I’m not making any sense, probably because of the pain. I’m so anxious and fidgety from it. I just keep trying to find a comfortable position today. Stand … lay … stand …lay. The intervals between them are so short and neither feels good. Even my feet are vibrating the pain is so bad.

I’m not sure what to do. None of the pain meds work. I’m so hot in my apartment too, that’s not helping. I wish there was something I could do. I’m just at my wits end. I need a reprieve from all of this. A vacation. Wouldn’t that be nice? A vacation from my shitty, shitty life.

Oh, great. Now I’m crying. Just f’ing perfect.

Random Ramblings: Lots going on – failed doctor appointment, 2nd denial from social security

There has been a lot going on this last past week.

It started on Tuesday being contacted by MetLife to find out if I thought I could do any kind of work. There were a lot of questions about what I’ve tried so far and how I’ve been feeling for the last year. It was pretty emotional having to talk through how shitty my life has been the last year and a half. I actually cried on the phone. I couldn’t help it. I really wish things were different, and to try and explain yourself to someone was extremely emotional.

Then on Wednesday I decided to go see the new back D.O. again. Ultimately, I decided to try and see him again. One, I felt slightly pressured (by myself) from MetLife to have a follow-up with the guy. I just wasn’t sure since I have been in continuous, worse pain since the last time I saw him. Yet, I thought it would be good to actually find out what he was going to do for me, since I was in pain and all, I might as well find out at what cost.

The drive there is only two blocks away. It hurt so bad! A part of my back that had never hurt before, plus the annulus, and all of the lower back muscles. I had to try and hold myself up in the car just to take some of the edge off.

We made it there, and, thankfully, they whisked me right in. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him the truth — way worse. He decided that he wouldn’t do any manipulations that day and wait until I wasn’t so flared up. I have to tell you, I really, really appreciated that. I’m so flared up right now I could barely walk around the block. I asked him what he thought I should do in the mean time, and he suggested getting some cranial massage to try and relax my nervous system. I think as long as the people can come to my house, that would be in my best interest.

Today I was supposed to see that Dr House guy. Again, the office gave me the run-around. My appointment was originally scheduled for 2:00. It then got bumped to 3:00 and then 3:30. She was so bitchy with me on the phone and I just don’t want to suffer trying to drive there and find that I have to wait forever just to see him and be in severe pain tomorrow and, well, let’s be honest, for weeks upon weeks after.

I had a long conversation with my husband and we both agreed (which was really nice) that I wouldn’t go. He called the office and asked since I already had the time scheduled, if the doctor would call me for a consult — she didn’t even ask him, she just said no. I think, just after this last appointment and how bad my back hurts, I’m just not up to it. I keep trying and trying. When is enough enough? How many doctors do I have to see? I’ve seen 3 back doctors, 3 pain management, 6 different physical therapists, 2 different acupuncturists, a rheumatologist, my primary, my endocrinologist, a massage therapist, and a myofascial therapist.

I’m so frustrated by this last setback. It’s bad. It hurts when I lay down again. Walking is difficult. Stretches — forget stretches. I’ve had to lay down twice just to write this blog post.

I’ll check back in next Wednesday. That will be two weeks from onset of flare-up/setback. Man, I hope it is in between the car setback and the bike setback. 2 weeks for bike and 7 weeks for car. Although, I feel like it will be more like the car seeing as it was a similar motion — leaning back.

Annular Tear Doctor Appointments: A new doctor. Again. Again, No New Ideas And More Pain

IMG_0355I went to a new doctor yesterday. He is an osteopathic back doctor. The last time I went to see JD, my primary, I asked him, as a last result, was there ANYONE he could think of that I should see? He suggested this guy.


All in all, he was very thorough. He asked all the right questions, was on point, and really seemed to listen. I did forget about how to talk with a doctor though who is trying to put you through their exam. It’s hard because in my heart, I feel like I should be able to do all the motions he puts me through. It’s like I have a preexisting synapse that says, yes, he should be able to put my knee to my chest. Yet, I was briskly reminded when he just lifted my leg up in the air to “see” where and when it would hurt. I guess I wish they could just ask me first. Maybe say “how far can you lift your leg” instead of doing it. Doing it has caused me to be in a ton of pain yesterday and today. The problem is, these pains, don’t just last a few days. They last weeks.


I have to admit, I’m exhausted. I go see these doctors because we are hoping someone can help. That someone will have the answer. There are so many problems when I go see these doctors. One, I sort of still get my hopes up. That maybe, just maybe, he will have the answer. When they don’t, it’s so defeating. I begin to spiral all over again about how much I have lost in life. Everything. The ability to have kids. The ability to make a man happy. The ability to work. The ability to play with my nephew and niece. The ability to be a more happy and less stressed individual. The other problem is the pain. I am in so much pain right now. Standing hurts again. Yes, standing always hurts, but, now, immediately again. Laying hurts. I can’t get comfortable at night. This whole situation is intolerable.


And yet, I have another appointment with this guy next week. Why? Because I still hope. I still dream maybe I will get better. I still struggle with the fact that most people get better. That only 10% of us don’t. I struggle with the fact that even though I didn’t have sciatica, which seems to be a worse condition, I don’t get to get better. The guy who drew my blood today (another issue, just routine maintenance), he said he had back pain with sciatica 16 years ago. He had surgery and now he is fine.


I’m not fine.

Random Ramblings: Changed the date of my doctor appointment and had a tweak from a bike

I finally just decided that I wanted to bump back my appointment with the doctor “House” type doctor until my husband can drive me. It’s just that … I’m a terror in the car. It’s just so painful to sit there. I get cranky that we aren’t making the lights fast enough. I also get cranky if you drive too fast because then I’m worried about stopping. Plus, my husband is used to how much pain that I am in. If the doctor office is taking too long to see me, he won’t hesitate to say something. I need that. I need someone to have my back. Not that my friend won’t … it’s just that with her there, I would be more likely to try and grin and bear it because I don’t want her to think I’m a baby. Plus, with my husband, if I can’t make it, I can’t make it. He will understand. If we have to abort mission on the way there, he will know why. He will know that I’m not being a baby. I need that kind of support, especially since I’m so nervous about this appointment.

Plus, I had a minor/moderate tweak this week.

Here’s what happened. I was doing slightly better! My stretches were going well. I was able to walk farther and with less difficulty. I was also able to stand at my work desk for longer and without too much pain. You know, the kind of pain where you can’t stop digging subconsciously at your back because it hurts so much?

So, because of this, I decided to get a stationary bike.

When I was doing better, at PT, I rode one. I thought, well, I’ve done it before, why not get one for the house?

Therefore, I went online and tried to find one. It’s hard in San Francisco because there really isn’t a place that has a large selection of bikes that you can try out. I did find Sports Authority and they had several bikes online, but only two in the store. My husband went to see the one I liked and he bought it. When it was delivered everything seemed fine. My husband was going out of town and wanted to see me ride it before he left. I’m only telling you this because it adds to why and how I hurt myself again. First off, it was late. I wasn’t thinking clearly, I was already spent from my whole day, and thus, I wasn’t really focused. Secondly, he was in a hurry because he needed to go to bed since he had to be up at 4:00am for an early 6:00am flight. Therefore, everything was kind of rushed.

I tried to lift my leg over the middle of the bike and it was quite high. Again, I didn’t feel anything tear or anything like that, but I knew it was too high (after the fact). We aborted mission and hoped that nothing would come of it.

Sure enough, the next day, the annular pain was back in full force. It was hard to sleep, hard to stand, and just generally more painful. As the days have gone by, about 6, it has sort of gotten worse. It’s almost like the annulus hurt, then it moved to the nearby muscles, and it just keeps spreading as each new muscle group gets more and more tired from compensating. Writing this blog now is difficult. I have a burning pain just over my right butt cheek where the butt meets the pelvis. That’s on top of the annular pain and the erector spinae muscles screaming at me.

I’m also telling you this to learn from my mistake. My husband and I made up some new rules.

– No new activities after 6.

– No being in a hurry.

– No rushing each other. If someone wants to talk it over again, so be it. Better to over analyze everything than to miss something.

– Go slow in case there is something that might have been missed.

Words to live by!

I’ll let you know how long this setback was/is. I was thinking about the setback with the car, thinking maybe it was three or 4 weeks … SEVEN! It was SEVEN weeks! That was a long time!

Oh, and if you are wondering why I didn’t just get the same bike from PT, it’s because that bike was $2000!

The internet is just so hard to gauge sometimes.

Best of luck to you all!


Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Francisco. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at

Annular Tear Doctor Appointments: Pain management, original doctor revisited

IMG_0389I saw the original pain management doctor who did my epidural steroid injections, RS. I should have been seeing RS all along. He had so many suggestions for me. He thought we could try antidepressants, Valium, (for pain relief), he thought about doing PRP, minimally invasive fusions, and perhaps disc replacement. He had great suggestions for doctors. He also took all of my questions and thoroughly explained all of them. I was probably in his office for about an hour and a half. Even as we were walking out the door we decided to try, and schedule, a medial branch block of L4-L5 and L5-S1. I had the medial block last week. It told me a little bit. It gave me a 30-40% pain reduction. However, it’s hard to tell if that is because the Lidocaine numbed the muscle and ligament that has been giving me problems or if it really was just the nerve. After much discussion, and a lot of back and forth with phone calls, we are going to try another medial branch block a little higher up. Hopefully, my insurance will cover it, but since it’s not the actual “spot” on the MRI, they are feeling doubtful. Oh, well, I still need to know what is going on with my back, so it would be in my best interest to get it done.

The only sad thing is that he is going out of town for three weeks, so I have to wait for him to come back before I can get the procedure done. That sucks a bit. I tried calling his office on Monday and leaving a message, but the receptionist said she never got it. I tried back today and got an appointment. Part of me wonders that if perhaps I had gotten through on Monday that I would have been able to get an appointment. However, she made it sound like there were people far worse off than me, and that she may have not “given” me an available appointment that day anyways. So much for trying to get this all done before he left for his trip. I was hoping to get this test done, and then, based on the results, determine what to schedule for when he got back.

Well, at least I have an appointment with him post procedure to talk about it all. That should help expedite as well.

Random Ramblings: Ugh, in pain from driving in the car

Ugh. Another setback. I tried getting into my car in order to go to the doctors, but there was a small problem. My husband had driven someone to an event, and he had put the seat back a bit. Not a lot. Yet, just enough so that I arched my back subconsciously looking/feeling for the back of the seat.

Now the annular tear is on fire. I can’t sleep very well at night. My stretches are severely restricted. I had to cancel an appointment for tomorrow because I really don’t feel like I can tolerate sitting in the car for any amount of time.

I’m tired of all of these little setbacks. I’m tired of never being able to turn the corner. I’m tired of trying to keep my hopes up all time.

But, what can you do? I can’t give up. If I give up, then there definitely isn’t any hope.

So, I hope that things change soon. I really do hope.

Radom Ramblings for the day – friends equal more pain

Today is an interesting day. I had friends come over this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. I felt like I was doing okay when they were here. However, last night was kind of difficult. Lots more pain. There was a bit of burning at the site, but more so, there was a real tenderness around the muscle site.

It just sucks because I want to be able to do more stuff, I just hate suffering for it because of it. What I really need to do is find a place that is flat, so that I can walk whenever I want and get out whenever I want. It would be so much better for me.

I’m think of maybe trying Auburn, California. It looks beautiful there, it is near a Sutter hospital, and it’s a lot cheaper.

I think that might be in my best interest.

The only sad thing will I won’t have any friends around there. It’ll be lonely out there.