Welcome to My Pain Party

For the last two years or so the teeth on the upper right side of my mouth have felt off, as in not right.. I especially noticed this during those long days in the saddle on bike tours. Some days it felt as if one of my teeth was going to pop out. It wasn’t painful, just strange.

Sunday morning I woke up and made breakfast. With my first sip of coffee I experienced a dull ache in the same area of my mouth. The more I ate and drank, the more intense the ache became. When I was in graduate school, I experienced the same pain sensation in the front of my mouth. The problem was an infected root in one of my two front teeth. The solution was a root canal.

I decided to wait and see what happened. I took acetaminophen for the pain and went about my day. The next morning the pain had subsided. I called my dentist and made an appointment for Thursday (today), thinking that perhaps this pain was a side effect of my second Covid vaccine shot last Thursday. On Tuesday the dull ache was gone, replaced by only a stabbing pain when I chewed using one of my upper right teeth. Yesterday, the pain was nearly gone altogether but every so often I’d get a jolt when chewing. This morning it felt better still.

In late morning, I went to my dentist. He took an x-ray of the offending area and did some basic investigations for the source of the pain. I knew which tooth it was but sometimes problems in one area of the mouth create referred pain in another area. (This is the essence of spinal stenosis. a pinching of the spinal cord that appears as a pain in the leg.)

Although the x-ray was inconclusive (a mass of nerves in the tooth were obstructed from view by a crown) the dentist diagnosed a tooth with necrotic nerves, or in layman’s term a dead tooth. He referred me to an endodontist.

The endodontist took me right away. She did a similar examination and added one extra step. She put ice cold material on some sort on the suspect tooth and the one next to it. I felt nothing on the bad tooth but the neighboring tooth was ice cold. She looked at the same inconclusive x-ray and agreed with my dentist. My nerves in my tooth were kaput having most likely died sometime on Sunday. (My sister-in-law who is not a dental professional made the same diagnosis, by the way.)

We discussed treatment options. Basically, there are few. Do a root canal or pull the tooth. I picked root canal. I was expecting a brutally difficult procedure but it was unbelievable benign.

After three painful shots of novocaine, one on each side of the tooth and one in the roof of my mouth, the endodontist put a clamp of sorts around the tooth. She put a cushion between my upper and lower teeth on the opposite side of my mouth so I could relax my jaw in an open position. Then a tent of sorts with a hole in the middle was placed over the front of my mouth.

Instead of looking directly into my mouth, the endodontists used a very cool microscope. She looked into lenses at a 90 degree angle from the opening in my mouth. Her line of sight was reflected down the main mast of what looked like a large lens with an integrated light that illuminated the work area. I was given sunglasses to wear so that the light wouldn’t bother me.

The procedure involved drilling through the crown to the tooth. She removed decayed tooth material under the crown then went about extracting the roots. Since my root channels were tight (something she could see on the x-ray) she had to spend several minutes opening them up, being careful all the time not to compromise the structural integrity of the bone.

I had thought ahead and taken Flonase beforehand which allowed me to breathe freely through my nose despite having a rough time with spring pollen. As long as I focused on not gagging I had no problem just letting her go at it. An assistant suctioned my mouth from time to time but this was more for the endodontist’s benefit than mine.

The endodontist walked me through all the sensations I would be feeling. “You’ll feel some pressure.” “This will be a bit noisy.” “You may hear a beep or two.”

After a few seconds during which I expected to feel pain, I realized that my mouth was so numb that she could have hit the tooth with a sledge hammer and I wouldn’t have felt a thing.

I could tell that the drilling had entered the tooth itself because the taste changed. Different but not nasty. After the drilling and some carpentry with a dental probe, she used another tool that felt like a spinning piece of sandpaper.

After perhaps 30 minutes of this, she announced we were almost done. She warned me that she was going to put some “medicine” in the tooth and that it would hurt. Yep. Just for a nanosecond I felt a sharp stinging pain like a very fine needle or electric shock.

Finally, only a couple of minutes later she closed the top of the tooth with a temporary filling and I was good to go.

She said that when the novocaine wore off I’d feel pretty much the same as earlier in the week. I’d have an intense dull ache that would fade away over a few days.

I went home and had a soft lunch. About an hour later the pain hit. And it hit. And it hit. The only riding I did today was on the couch. I took some acetaminophen and tried to think of anything but the ache in my mouth. It crested after two or three hours but I was pretty miserable.

The endodontist called to check up on me at around 6 pm. She said everything was going by the book and told me to call her if I had any problems.

In ten days I go back to have her finish the job. Then I go back to my dentist for either a filling or a new crown.

Not exactly an encouraging day

I was awoken by pain in my left ankle at 4:30 this morning. Apparently the acetaminophen I took had worn off. I relocated to the couch were I could more easily hang my left leg off the side. The pain abated after a half hour and I went back to sleep.

I made it through breakfast before the leg started barking at me. The ankle had calmed down but the calf ache was back, as was a new symptom that feels like a wad of clay inside the outer part of my left hip. Between the wad of clay and the nerve pain, my bio-mechanics are all messed up.

So I went for a bike ride. (You knew that was coming.) Within a mile or so my leg calmed down. I rode to the Lincoln Memorial and back on another exceptionally nice March day, except of course for the fact that it is mid-January. The CrossCheck and I are getting along very nicely.

I got off the bike a few times during the ride. As of two weeks ago, all the symptoms that bothered me during last summer’s bike tour had faded away. Today, when dismounting, the pain in my outer left hip came back. It feels like my leg is going to collapse. What fun.

After 30 miles I called it a day. If I couldn’t ride, I am pretty sure I’d lose my mind over this nerve problem.

I went to my second Feldenkrais appointment in the afternoon. The therapist observed my posture and my gait. She accurately noticed that in medical terms I am all kinds of messed up. Then she examined my neck and shoulders which seemed to be awry during my little walk across the room. Very tight.

Next she had me do some movements to loosen the muscles in that area. The movements actually work pretty well and are surprisingly simple. The idea is to learn or perhaps re-learn how to move making best use of the entire body. The best analogy I can come up with is learning how to throw a baseball. If you only use your arm, you can’t throw very well. If instead you involve the arm, the shoulder, the hips, the legs and the back, you can bring some heat.

After that, the therapist was going to examine my back as I lay in a prone position. My left leg decided to start barking again so I rolled on my left side and assumed a fetal position. The therapist spent ten minutes feeling various parts of my back and backside. She noted that my lower left back is very tight and suspects that this new symptom might be the result of a bulging disc. Oh joy.

Long story short, she said that I was a pretty complicated case. It probably has been developing over a long period of time and would take a long time to reverse (with, of course, no guarantees).

I have to agree with her. It seems like every day I get a new symptom. They all seem to conspiring to keep me moving like a robot and to keep increasing my pain and discomfort.

I have to say that I am disappointed. I thought the idea of these sessions was to teach me how to do a regimen of movements to alleviate my pain symptoms, but that didn’t much happen. I realize I can’t expect immediate results, but I feel like I’m treading water. In any case, we agreed that I would keep next week’s appointments on her schedule for now.

Tomorrow I go back to the orthopedists to get his take on my situation.

A Day of Frustration

Today was a day of promise and frustration.

Last night I set my alarm to get up for Friday Coffee Club. I woke up at 3 am went downstairs and noticed that it was 2 am. Somehow my alarm clock had been changed. Rather than wake up Mrs. Rootchopper, I just put it in my head to wake up on time. And I did.

I slept well. My back was very relaxed from the Feldenkrais class.

The ride to Friday Coffee Club was easy. I had taken yesterday off from riding and I had a tailwind. There was a sizable crowd at Swings. I met a Twitter follower and re-met someone who is currently living in New York City. The latter reads this blog and is considering a cross country tour this summer. To him I say: DO IT!

The group at my table traded medical war stories. One person had had back surgery that worked except for the fact that part of one foot is numb. Another person had a DVT and a pulmonary embolism. Still another told is of how his Achilles tendon ruptured when he dismounted his bike last summer. None of these three people is over 45 years old. We’d all be wolf dinner if we’d lived a few hundred years ago.

Today was apparently Wear-Strange-Things-on-Your-Helmet Day.

Standing at Swings was not agreeable to my left leg so I ended

up sitting for most of the get together. I rode home 15 miles without a problem. This stenosis thing is just bizarre. I can ride all day but can’t stand for ten minutes. For the next couple of hours, I had no leg pain.

Mrs. Rootchopper and I decided to run a few errands. First, we went to the bank to get a document notarized. Next we went to the phone store for new cases for our cell phones. Next up was the post office to mail our notarized document. Our final errand was to the Apple store at a mall to get a new battery for my phone. I walked maybe 100 yards to the store from the parking garage and stood around for a few minutes. My leg pain came back so strongly that I had to sit.

The battery was only charging to 65% of capacity. While Apple replaced it we went to the food court. By the time I got there, on a scale of 1 to 10, my leg pain was a 9.5 .

After an hour of sitting, we went to pick up the phone. Again I had to sit while the phone was brought out from the back of the store.

On the way home, the pain went away. I started charging the battery. I checked the software. The maximum capacity of the battery was 65%. Did they forget to replace it? I’ll see how the phone performs before going back to the store.

In the morning I made an appointment with the Feldenkrais instructor for an hour-long session next week. I am hoping that some good will come of it. I am not at all hopeful that Monday’s PT appointment will be worth the bother but I am going through with it.

After today’s pain party, I have decided to reschedule my orthopedist appointment to next week (from the week after).

No mas.

I Am Going to Kill My Body

It’s been four weeks since my cardiovascular system mutinied. I feel perfectly fine. I plan on going for a long-ish ride tomorrow. I plan on not dying.

My body has recently decided that it’s not through screwing with me. I was up half the night with a pain in my foot. It’s the return of my Morton’s neuroma. (It’s an inflamed nerve that runs several inches between and behind my “ring” and middle toes. It felt like someone was sticking a knife in my foot.

The nerve finally calmed down after a couple of hours. I swear I could hear snickering coming from my foot.

Today I went to the dentist for my semi-annual exercise in mindfulness. I HATE going to the dentist. I get all tense expecting intense pain while my teeth are being cleaned. This is not without reason. I have had some pretty unpleasant dental visits including the time the endodontist prepared to close off the hole in my front tooth from which he had removed my root. The problem was that he removed only half the root. There was still a live nerve in the hole. I literally jumped out of the seat. He said, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” I kicked him in the balls and said “Neither was that!”

Okay I lied about the kick in the balls. But the pain went straight up my nose into my brain. It was an Olivier/Hoffman Marathon Man moment. (Ironically, I ran marathons at the time.)

The blood thinner has caused my gums to get all inflamed in the past week. I tried a home remedy that seemed to calm things down. I just put mouthwash in my mouth and hold it along my gum line. It stings but the gums waved a white flag.

The cleaning today went much better than expected. Occasionally during the cleaning something would hurt. My hands tensed up waiting for that jump-out-of-the-chair moment. So, and here’s the mindfulness part, I focused on the fact that the pain was insignificant. I consciously relaxed my hands which relaxed my arms and my shoulders. And reminded myself that I am just anticipating pain that will probably not arise. And every time I found my hands clenching, I’d just repeat the routine.

It sounds pretty weird but it worked.

So my body tried to get me again but my brain triumphed. Until the dentist came in and said words I hadn’t heard in ten years: “You have a cavity.”

I go to the dermatologist next week. Do you think maybe I should reschedule?