When I first met Allie, her overall health was good, but she described a long history of emotional ups and down that were being treated by a psychiatrist and various medications. I saw her every year or so for a routine physical, and very little changed over the years. Then, one day, she came to my office complaining of back pain. When I asked if she was taking anything, Allie nodded.
“Pretty much everything the pain doctors have given me,” she said. “Steroid shots, all kinds of pain pills, creams and lotions. You name it and I’ve probably taken it. But everything either makes me dizzy or nauseous, and now none of it is working anymore. I hope you have something better, because I’m desperate.”
Very often, I see patients who are in pain, and my heart goes out to them. Pain-relief medications primarily mask symptoms but do nothing for the real cause of the problem. And to make matters worse, many prescription pain relievers are addictive and come with a long list of undesirable side effects.
In Allie’s case, the psychiatric drugs complicated the issue, since many pain relievers do not mix well with medications for emotional difficulties. If she continued mixing medications the way she was doing now, Allie’s health could suffer serious setbacks.
The first order of business for Allie was to find out why her back was hurting. Since she was in her 50s, I suggested a DEXA bone density scan to determine the condition of her bones. Allie’s scan revealed that she already had osteoporosis. Since weak bones were causing the pain in her back, I prescribed an intense regimen of food-based calcium while she weaned herself off pain medications.
In just three months, Allie’s back pain was nearly gone. Six months later, she was back to normal.
“It never occurred to me that I might have osteoporosis, and none of the pain doctors I went to checked for it,” Allie explained. “I could have ended up in terrible shape, hunched over and in pain all the time, if you hadn’t suggested the bone density scan. It’s such a relief to be off the pain pills and taking care of the real problem.”