Had another interesting and funny discussion with my orthopedic surgeon about whether the insertion of needles into the lower back is a “pinch” (him) or a “stab” (me.) This is not my first such discussion with surgeons on the subject.
Why do doctors think that intention mitigates pain? The body doesn’t know or give a damn about his intentions, even though I take time to let it/myself know that the procedure will (ultimately) make it feel better, and I use pranayamic breathing throughout the procedures.
But in reality, so far as the body knows, there’s no real difference between surgery and getting mugged. All the body knows is that it’s been taken to strangers who stab it and proceed to do things that leave it feeling betrayed, and left beaten and bandaged.
I deeply appreciate these procedures and the skill that the doctors exhibit. They are far less invasive than full surgery and they help tremendously. I am no longer in constant, excruciating pain. Trust me, daily discomfort is a major change for the better, but don’t let anyone tell you that these are painless procedures, because they’re not. I don’t like euphemisms and prefer to be as prepared as is possible for anything I’m going to do. Perhaps others feel differently, but my sense of things is that these doctors are genuinely kind people who hate giving pain to their patients and these words give them solace. For someone like me, these seem like evasions that don’t allow me to properly gird my psychological loins and take steps to diminish the pain from my end. Obviously at this point it’s moot: I know what’s going to happen and by now he knows that I’m going to counter his narrative. This is our dance, and it will continue for a while longer. But this, and various other encounters with physicians, both as patient and professional, does have an impact on how I teach the premed and other students entering medical related professions in my anthropology courses as I try to make them aware of the gaps between the ways in which we’re trained and how people actually feel and think about about their bodies and how we use our bodies in our daily, non idealized lives. To be mindful in their compassion and never forget what it’s like to be on the other end of that needle/scalpel/forceps, etc.
At the end of the day, his compromise attempt was “a hard pinch.”
Mine was “a shallow stab.”
The dance continues.