Do not allow Old Lady Medicine

Tunnel looking up at sky. Text: Don't accept old lady medicine. Your future is at stake. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt.DOCTOR’S EXPECTATIONS DETERMINE YOUR MEDICAL CARE

Fight for your life and your chances

Husband hands me a magazine, the Health Check that our local hospital, Robert Wood Johnson at Hamilton (formerly Hamilton Hospital), sends out to everyone whose address they’ve ever received for any reason.

In it, it talks about the McKenzie method – a way for people to reduce back pain and sciatica by doing a series of exercises which reduce the pain and then strengthen the back.

And the suggestion to do this is given by the orthopedists for a woman who is ‘a dancer’ and very active. So she avoids surgery. And they are proud of themselves because they helped her ‘avoid surgery’ (PS: she had the same diagnosis I did, spondylolisthesis – vertebrae out of alignment).

THEY DIDN’T EVEN MENTION THE EXERCISES TO ME BEFORE SURGERY.

I was over 50, and had CFS already. I told them EVERY SINGLE VISIT that I wanted to walk properly again. They didn’t even send me for PT for walking.

Be warned: what comes is something you should know: doctors will make an arbitrary decision when you come in about whether you should have the ‘treatment for those who have a chance’ or ‘old lady medicine.’

And it will affect the rest of your life.

McKenzie back exercises

I do them every day. The book is called ‘7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life,’ by Robin McKenzie, an Australian physical therapist.

My PT taught me them – AFTER the orthopedic surgeon ruined my back.

When I wake up with sciatica (much less frequently now, and usually due to lying on my left side while asleep without the little pillow – for some reason that side doesn’t like flat), I head for the floor, and, within minutes, start working the vertebrae back to the non-painful position.

They wanted to operate again; all three of the surgeons I consulted – different operation each. I walked away. Still working on getting better at walking, but the surgery took me a YEAR to recover from, and had me back in the ER for non-existent pain control, so I’m not likely to repeat.

Why are older women more vulnerable?

Because, among other things, it’s easier. Cut, get fee, blame lack of success on the patient.

They don’t expect us to improve with exercises, or to do them, so they actually give us less useful PT (warm compresses?).

If you have an older relative, especially a female one, watch for this: the key is to DO YOUR EXERCISES – and to insist they give you ones which work – just like the ones they gave the young lady, or the teenage athlete. They will hurt, but it should be bearable if you’re doing them right, and it gets better. Takes me less than fifteen minutes on a really bad day, and I do them daily prophylactically.

Ask for ‘young woman exercises.’ Tell them you’re aware of ‘old lady medicine,’ and you don’t want it. Stay away from surgeons as long as possible – once cut, things are NEVER the same (there’s a whole section of my abdomen where the C-section left me with no feeling, and the hernia above my belly button has been ‘repaired’ THREE times – and is back).

Wish I could go back in time. What do you think?


Today is the last day of the 0.99 ebook sale for Pride’s Children (upper page on the right).

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16 thoughts on “Do not allow Old Lady Medicine

  1. octupize

    A great article having your great experience. I am a doctor and I believe that the doctor should discuss all treatment options available with the patient and provide him with the required knowledge, in order to let him choose the best that suit him not the doctor.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      They should, but that would often take more time. Mostly they give you their best quick guess.

      I have CFS; so there’s a lot of that doctor attitude I’ve been exposed to that, besides the back problems. My primary doctor doesn’t know anything about it, and doesn’t particularly want to learn, and even less from me. So Iuse her for routine care, and deal with the rest myself. There are NO ME/CFS specialists in New Jersey. None. I’ve never seen one; an infectious diseases doctor did the diagnosis, and other doctors have tried various things which didn’t work. A pain specialist or two worked with me until we found that Celebrex, an arthritis drug, took care of most of the muscle and nerve pain. I don’t dare try to change.

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  2. Pingback: The first line of treatment is mostly “CONSERVATIVE”. Read this great experience before considering your options. – Octupize

  3. joey

    This is a great post. At my job, I hear this sorta thing all the time. I always encourage people to get a second opinion. I find that MANY medical professionals overlook the complaints of older people (people older than them, I note) as just ‘old age.’ But often, it’s an actual injury.
    My abdomen was broken with two c-sections in two years, and just last month I found out there’s a special PT for that. Did you know that? Why didn’t my doctor tell me that 13 years ago? Cause man? Hm?
    Ain’t gonna be no old lady medicine for me, either.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I think it would be convenient for the younger ones if we all just vanished at retirement! But ain’t gonna happen, and we’ve worked all our lives to prepare, and how would they like it if it happened to them???

      I have kids. I want to be around for them. I write. I have books I want to finish. So don’t give me the ‘old lady medicine.’ Now that I’ve figured it out, and realized they’re applying it to ME, no way.

      Join the fight. Politely decline to be ignored! Darn it, if they didn’t control the prescription pad and the orders for lab work, we could probably do it ourselves.

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  4. marianallen

    Yeah, we took my grandmother to a doctor whose only response to any complaint she had was, “What do you expect? She’s (fill in the age).” So we got her a new doctor. My grandmother has passed, but the doctor also treated my grandfather and now my mother, and she’s brilliant at listening, thinking, and finding the least intrusive and most effective treatment. I never stop being thankful that we found her.

    Good advice, as always, Alicia!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Glad you took good care of your family and found a doctor you’re all happier with.

      One of the reasons I want to move to a retirement community is to pick current medical care (and hope it’s the same in the future).

      But I also want to pick attitude – keep the seniors happy and healthy as long as possible. So I will be looking at whether they do better financially by keeping me well or not.

      I changed doctors, too, because the other one was getting intrusive. I kept her because she was willing to file paperwork I required, but once I no longer needed that because I was retired, the intrusiveness started galling. I literally couldn’t take the chance before, but I would have been on a number of medications for years that I don’t need, even now. And she had me for five years on a drug meant for 90 days; I found a yoga way around the problem, and weaned myself.

      If she was right, and I was wrong, so be it. My choice is as little medication as possible for as long as possible, because, with the CFS, getting the stuff metabolized is a problem.

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  5. Jennifer

    I too have seen many unsuccessful back operations. And, as I write this, a female relative is in hospital recovering from knee replacement surgery. She’s had a collapsed lung and other complications, and they’ve not yet been able to start on the physiotherapy required for her knees. Sigh. She’s 66 years old.

    I will avoid ‘Old Lady Medicine’ as long as I can. I wish to be like a friend of mine (who is almost 84). She had to have surgery on her elbow last year after a fall. The replacement part she now has will last for 20 years or so. She wants to book that replacement now. 😉

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m sorry you know about this in your own body – I did EVERYTHING they told me to do but it didn’t help. The surgery day was fine; the next four days were the most painful of my life, as I struggled to get them to prescribe effective pain medication, and spent a day in the ER. So, I think I’ve taken enough chances already.

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  6. juliabarrett

    Yes, PT is always one of my first options. I also go for Japanese acupuncture. And swimming. If nothing else, I’ll see my doctor. My motto is avoid back surgery unless absolutely necessary. I’ve seen too many bad results over the years. (Working in hospitals.)

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Wish I had had someone – preferably female – on my side back then.

      Looking back (hehe), the whole thing was badly mishandled at every possible juncture.

      I have a lovely (female) rehab physiatrist (MD) working with me now, and hope she can give me some answers as to why I can’t go to tiptoe (required for pushoff on each and every step you take), and whether I can do anything about it. She’s the kind who drags out textbooks, and asks for time to think. If I walk (or ski – I want to ski SO bad) ever again, it will be her work.

      I had basically given up hope (didn’t stop exercising, just stopped going to orthopedists). But I consulted a podiatrist we love, daughter and I (he solved our ingrown toenail problems permanently without surgery, and he trained with dancers). And he saw how my toes were getting crooked (the complaint I went in for – claw toes), and suggested the physiatrist.

      The right doctor will save your sanity as well as your life.

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