It never hurts to ponder pain, or all the chemicals capable of easing it, but what better time than August, National Pain Awareness Month? That's why we rang Dr. Jennifer P. Schneider, in Tuscon, Arizona.
Schneider, author of Living with Chronic Pain, practiced internal medicine for twenty years before becoming a "pain specialist." No-nonsense in her personal and professional approaches, Schneider clued Unreal in to the fact that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain -- an incurable but highly treatable condition.
Unreal: What's a "pain specialist"?
Dr. Jennifer P. Schneider: A pain specialist provides adequate pain relief for patients with pain and is knowledgeable about its various aspects, including addiction risk.
What does addiction have to do with pain?
[Laughs] A lot less than most people think. See, the most effective pain medications are opioids -- narcotics. But they are also a very popular type of drug.
Seems like you'd be quite in demand.
What is an opioid, and how is it different from an opiate?
An opiate is a natural derivative of the opium poppy, of morphine. An opioid is a more general term which includes not only the opiates but any synthetic drug that has the properties of morphine.
Please describe your three favorite opioids.
No. I don't have three favorite opioids. That is a bad question.
Ouch. You say that personality type affects one's ability to cope with pain.
People with chronic pain often can't do a lot of things they liked to do in the past. They can't work, they can't do the physical things they liked to do, for a lot it's too uncomfortable to have sex. How you deal with the emotional part of pain depends on your personality. If you understand your personality type, you'll know better what are going to be your challenges in dealing with the pain.
What personality type copes best with a pain in the neck?
No type copes best with anything.
What's the best remedy for a pain in the ass?
[Laughs] Where is this conversation going?
Just lightening things up. How would you treat a pain in the heart?
Have you ever had a pain in the heart?
My daughter died two years ago.
[Pause] Well, on a more lighthearted note, how about a pain in the ass?
Yeah. Who hasn't?
If Billboards Could Talk
Whither pajamas? So essential in childhood, so frivolous in adulthood, when it's way cooler to do the no-pants dance in bed than get all warm and snuggly. But what if you're stranded outdoors on a blanket in the middle of a grassy field, alone with your thoughts?
Surely the sleepy, wayward bloke pictured here must be pondering such a dilemma. Here's what might or might not be on his mind, part of Unreal's ongoing quest to determine what, if anything, billboards would say if they only had a voice:
A) "Dang! I forgot the picnic basket!"
B) "I never knew a plaid white-trash muscle shirt could be so liberating. Maybe it's the flannel."
C) "This is where the gayliens told me to meet them, and this is how they told me to dress. They'd better show."
LOCAL BLOG O' THE WEEK
"This is Frippy"
About the blogger: Frippy is an artist who specializes in drawing legless bunnies. Things that annoy her include "the word podcast, Americans who deliberately use British spellings to appear more intelligent, and sexual innuendo in Def Leppard songs."
Recent Highlight (July 31, 2005): Friday after work, I resumed my side project as a guinea pig and underwent more voluntary MRIs for some study. Unlike last time, however, the experience was not quite as comfortable. I was in a machine dedicated to taking functional images of the brain and the tube on this scanner was narrower . Additionally, I had a plastic cage placed over my face before they crammed me into the scanner. Built into the face cage was a small mirror, angled so I could see the back of the tube (or, if I looked down, the reflection of my eyes), a view I found not slightly disorienting. A big portion of this session involved responding to something projected on the wall behind the scanner, thus the need for such a view.
Again, I had headphones piping in a local radio station but the volume was low and the music was immediately drowned out by the scanner. I could have easily spoken up and requested the techs turn it up, but found myself preferring to listen to the clacking and whirring of the MRI scanner. I seriously enjoyed detecting nuances and subtler tones in the scanner noises.
Friday night, I was alone. Josh went on a solo camping trip. Meanwhile, I had a farmer's market shift in the morning, so I turned in relatively early. Or rather, I attempted to turn in relatively early. My attempts were thwarted by a horrible, knotting stomach ache. Before long, it became evident that something I ate during the course of the day didn't want to be digested. It was half past midnight when I realized that there was little chance of me being fit for work in four hours, so I called Jean, who was up late packing the last items in her apartment, and asked for help. Because I was alone and unable to wander far from a toilet for very long, Jean offered to take a break from packing and brought me some Gatorade and grape Pedialyte.
Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog? Send the URL to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somebody Buy My Crap
Item: John Paul II Bandana
Condition: Like new
Seller/Age: Anthony, 42
Location: St. Louis
Issue: August 14
Unreal: What exactly is a "John Paul II bandana"?
Anthony: It's a white bandana, kind of the shape of a snow cone. It's not the type of bandana you wear on your head. It says "John Paul II 'Defender of Life' Papal Visit Jan. 26-27, 1999."
How'd you get the bandana?
It's my mother's. The pope was passing it out when he was here. He touched it.
Why are you selling it?
After the pope passed away, my mother figured there would be a lot of interest in it.
But the pope died, like, five months ago. Aren't you a little late?
Well, she was trying to get someone to put it on the Internet, but no one ever did. Then one of my sisters called with the number to the "Bargain Box."
Do you think your pope bandana could be worth more than the $200 limit?
It probably is. It's probably worth a lot more.
Have you received many calls?
You're the first one.