The Itchy & Scratchy Show

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Published on The Doomstead Diner June 28, 2017


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As regular Diners know, I have been battling many health issues resulting from my injury to my neck along with chronic spinal deterioration.  Immediate symptoms after the injury were overall muscle weakness, partial paralysis of my right arm, bowel immediacy issues (when you gotta go, you gotta go!), tinnitis ("ringing" in the ears) and severe pain for a couple of months which eventually calmed down to just steady medium level pain.  All of these stem from the same place, the injury to the C3-C5 vertebrae, where the nerve bundle got squished down to about 2 centimeters.  You're normally supposed to have around 8cm of space in there for your spinal chord.  It stayed this way for quite some time, because I was uninsured and I wasn't going to go in without insurance, because first off just the testing would nearly have wiped me out financially, and second after that I wouldn't have been able to afford the price of an operation, so why bother spending the money on testing?

Injuries this high up the spinal column in the neck are very debilitating.  Had the spinal chord actually been cut through another 2cm, I would be a quadraplegic right now or preferably dead.  I didn't know all this at the time though, it wasn't until I finally got insurance from Obamacare that I went in to get the testing done. Testing mainly expensive MRI and CT scans for this task. After getting some really annoying and occasionally painful testing done by the neurodiagnostician as well, I was informed by her that if I took one more fall that I WOULD end up a quadraplegic.  Given my work as a gymnastics coach, falls are likely, so I had to leave the job.  Thus began a wonderful adventure through the legal system of Workman's compensation, still ongoing.  I'll leave the complete story of that nonsense until I get a resolution from the latest of the battles with Social Security, after a hearing I am scheduled for on Aug 16th.  This however is not the main topic of this article, the medical issues.  So let me move on here.

The diagnosis from the neurodiagnostician got me referred over to a neurosurgeon for a carving job to be done on my neck.  I was at first unwilling to do this as I wasn't sure how it would all get paid for.  However, my Workman's Compensation lawyer told me I HAD to get the operation, not to do so would severely damage my case making it look like I didn't want to get better.  So in I went in August of 2015 to have the Pros From Dover carve up my neck.  Prior to the operation Dr. Hawkeye Pierce informed me that there were no outcomes guaranteed from the very expensive operation he performs.  Sometimes people have a virtual instantaneous relief and improvement, that is the most hoped for result of course.  Second best is that after the operation there is a gradual return of functions along with the relief of pain.  Third is that the operation doesn't do any good at all, no improvement.  He didn't mention whether occasionally things are WORSE after the operation.  The anaesthesiologist Dr. Trapper John McIntyre did inform me occasionally patients have bad reactions to the anaesthetics used and die though. lol.  No statistics are available on what the percentage distribution of these possible outcomes are for any particular Pro from Dover.

I was fortunate enough to avoid Door #5 there, but I ended up with Door #4.  A few things were worse immediately after the operation, and little improved.  On the improvement side, I got a little more strength in the muscles overall and some of the range of motion back in the right arm.  On the downside, the tinnitis got worse, the bowel problems got worse, and additionally a new problem appeared, a serious loss of appetite and ability to eat much food.  It takes a real effort for me most of the time to stuff any food in my pie hole, and I sure don't enjoy it like I used to.  So my nutrition hasn't been real good over the last  year and a half either, causing other knock-on health effects.

The biggest NEW symptom (although it is going on around 6 months since it first appeared) is a persistent ITCH, which first started in the middle of my back then spread to my shoulders.  I started rubbing my back on the backrest of my office chair almost constantly, which I am still doing along with other now itchy areas as the problem has extended to the front side of my upper torso and neck as well.  The constant rubbing on my back has produced a kind of rough, red, patchy, scaly Dragon skin over the time period which kind of resembles hives.

This began right around New Year's, and at this time I was once again uninsured, because the Obamacare Insurer I had been with for the last 2 years pulled out of the system.  Also, my income dropped low enough to be eligible for Medicaid, but after applying in November 2016, no Medicaid ID card had arrived.  So I had another 3 month adventure exchanging snail mails with Meidcaid (no Goobermint, Health Care or Insurance will communicate via email) to finally get a "Manual Issuance Letter" with the Medicaid ID number on it which normally comes as a Card you can stuff in your wallet, to thicken it up some more with your 2 forms of Goobermint Issued ID (I have an Alaska Drivers License & Passport Card), your Debit Cards/Plastic Digibit money, and your food superstore discount and "rewards" card, along with whatever paper money you choose to carry for the occasions the plastic money doesn't work.  This all makes for an ever thickening wallet.  I never did receive the Card from Medicaid, but the letter has done the job with all the various Billing Offices I have visited since March so far.

I also had to get a new "Primary Care Physician", since the Internist I had been using for the last 6 years up here retired as of Dec 31st also.  He wasn't able to sell the practice to a younger Doc, even though he had a nice sized Patient list.  All he got sold was the condo office space he had in a medical and legal strip mall in Palmer.  I had to go over to his office to get all my medical records by February before he shut down, otherwise who knows where they would have ended up?  I did get them in time though.  They also gave me a list of possible Docs and Clinics to try, only some of whom accept Medicaid.  After the 3rd try I found one, a Non-Profit called the Mat-Su Health Services Center.  It's mostly staffed with Nurse Practitioners and Physician's Assistants though, not Med Skule graduates.  I think there are only 1 or 2 M.D.s or D.O.s on the staff there, and I didn't luck into getting one of those.  I didn't luck into getting one of those, I got one of the Nurse Practitioners, and while she is a nice enough woman who has been around the Med Biz a long time so far she hasn't been much help other than as a conduit to get me a referral to a specialist in the area my problem appears to be located, which she also isn't usually too sure of. So for the ITCH, on the first visit she just recommended some Over the Counter creams & ointments, which did jack shit over the next 2 weeks when I went in for the follow up visit.  Then on the next visit, she did a Punch Biopsy taking a coule of chunks out of my back Dragon Skin to send to the lab

After doing a punch biopsy on my back which ranges in colors from bright red to orange to green, she referred me to a Dermatologist who I actually know, since I coached both of his daughters in gymnastics. This process took another month, while the itching is getting worse, not better.  Finally see the Skin Pro, he has a look see and gives me a couple of scrips, one anti-fungal and one supposed itch reliever, which does nothing.  5 Weeks until the follow up visit!  By now I am itching my brains out and this is only on the back side of my torso!  I'm still waiting for that 5 week follow up visit, scheduled for June 23.

In the last 3 weeks, things got a whole lot worse than the awful they already were, as the itch migrated itself to include not just my back and shoulders, but my chest, neck, armpits,and upper arm to the elbow joint as well.  It's always the worst right after I wake up, where the itchy-scratchy show can go for a full hour.  Yesterday was particularly bad it wouldn't calm down for more than 4 hours straight, and I was basically in tears.  For the first time in my life I truly contemplated suicide.  Living like this is simply intolerable, you can't even think straight while the itch is overwhelming you.  At least with PAIN you can block it out with Opiates.  Nothing seems to work with this shit.

In the interim, while neither the Nurse Practitioner nor the Dermatologist seemed to have a clue what is causing the Itch From Hell, one of the Diners JDW came up with a diagnosis that matches my symptoms plus makes sense given my spinal issues.  In all probability this is a case of Notalgia Paresthetica, a form of Neuropathic Puritis (itching).  The itching doesn't come from the skin, it comes from the nerves.  They are being enervated by being pinched in the spine on the way out the door to get to your skin, making your skin hypersensitive to everything from touch to pressure to dampness from sweat.  You perceive this as an itch, but it's really not the same kind of itch as say a mosquito bite.   All the topical ointments and creams I have tried don't do jack shit to relieve it, and neither do anti-histamines or even ibuprofen.  According to what little literature there is on this topic, the only things besides (more) surgery that sometimes helps are cortico-steroids or accupuncture.

With this new knowledge in hand, I called the NP and told her what I thought the problem was, and asked her for a referal to a Neurologist here in the valley.  She agreed to make the referal having already seen me 3 times for this problem, but I still haven't got a call from the Neuro Pro from Dover to schedule an appointment after a week of waiting.  Next week I'll call the NP again to see what is going on with that, but I also called the Neurosurgeon Pro From Dover for a follow up visit with him to see if he can write me a scrip for something that might help.  Also, see if he can refer me to an accupuncturist so maybe then Medicaid will reimburse for that.  If I just go to one, I'll have to pay for it straight up out of pocket.  I am sure though that he will order another set of scans to see the latest condition of my spine and then after that recommend another surgery.  That is of course how surgeons make their big money, not by chatting with patients and writing scrips.  They only do that once a week because they have to so you know they are a real person and not a robot.

Will I go in for another surgery?  If Medicaid will pay for it and I haven't found any other way to relieve the problem, damn straight I will.  If Medicaid will not pay for it and it persists, at some point here I will blow my brains out.  I'm not going to spend what is still good money to keep this failing Meat Package ticking another day just so I can write another blog about the Collapse of Industrial Civilization.  Been there, done that, own the T-shirt.

The main problem far as the near future is concerned is this puts all my plans for the future, be it travelling the country in my stealth van or buying some land for SUN on ice.  I can't make any plans for the future right now until I get this issue resolved.

Like Sands through the Hourglass, these are the Days of our Collapse Lives.


10 Responses to The Itchy & Scratchy Show

  • Dan K says:


    May I suggest reading how Kundalini Yoga helped someone with a severe spinal cord injury as described in Meditation as Medicine, p. 150,

    Kundalini Yoga helped me partly recover from serious deltoid atrophy caused by long-term nerve impingement, probably deltoid palsy.


  • Dennis Mitchell says:

    Mom had an overmisdiagnosed itch. My favorite was the rheumatologist who told her it was all in her head. Guess that's what you get from a P(petty)H(heartless)D(dick). Bestus medikill system in the whole damn world! Sorry to hear your story. 

    I'm ashamed America has not done better with health care. 

  • Kristina says:

    Hang in There,  hope you get help soon. I am thankful that I live in a country with free healthcare here in  Sweden. Free meaning you pay tax and then everybody get help when they need it.

  • Joe Bloggs says:

    Hey RE,

    I, like everybody else here, am a "medical expert" in so far as I can surf the web. That's the best we can do if we do not have direct frequent access to specialists. Anyway these may be useful:

    maybe it is just a matter of trial and error to see what strategy works best for you. You can enlist your primary care doc for the prescriptions for this trial and error search for the best agent


  • Jerry McManus says:

    Nothing cures an itch like (almost) scalding hot water.  Trust me, it works.

    • RE says:

      Been there, Done that, own the T-Shirt.  In my 20’s I got infested  by Scabies.  Until I got it diagnosed and the right chemicals to kill off the little buggers, the only relief was scalding hot showers and baths.  It gave an hour or two of relief at the time from the itch as I recall.

      It doesn’t work for neuropathic itches though, at least not as well.  If I do one of these sessions, I get maybe 15-30 min of relief.


  • Dan K says:


    Following up on my earlier post, I would suggest the kundalini yoga meditation for the 5th chakra since it works on the cervical vertebrae. Although I believe cervical nerve compression was not the primary cause of my deltoid atrophy (I never got a definitive diagnosis), I had some cervical vertebrae herniation. Doing this meditation I believe sent enough energy to my shoulder muscles so I was able to decompress my axial nerve in the shoulder area using Hatha Yoga asanas. The sensation of decompressing a nerve is remarkable.

    My PT thought nerve impingement in the shoulder was the cause,  but the exercises he gave me were not sufficient to fix the problem. Also this impingement was not picked up in the brachial plexus MRI.

  • tom jones says:

    my dear RE,
    sad to say, but i don't see much hope of getting better going the way you're going.

    it's possibly too late for my suggestion as well, but here it is.  youtube everything you can on juicing, preferably get a juicer that presses as opposed to chops, but get a juicer and if you have to, pay some one to use it, forego all meat and prepared stuff, and start sipping greens and root vegetables. every swallow will help. even on this liquid diet the stool improves, especially if beets are juiced. use lemon and apple juice to get it to taste just right. no refined sugar.

    except for divine intervention, there's no way your body can repair/compensate for damage going the way you're going.  and, as you well relate so well, the 'professions' are mostly a waste of time/resourses.. an individual here and there, like yourself, fights the good fight, and can only be discovered by accident, luck, and sometimes youtube.  since youtube is the only active choice, might as well bite the bullet.  i can recommend videos if you like. juicing transforms people's lives.  it gives the body a chance to concentrateon itself in the here and now rather than leaving it to the mind or the other side.

    i'm a big big fan of yours, i hope you know that, and it's painful to know of your degeneration. but you sure add to my life, thanks.
    with a warrior's affection,

    • RE says:

      my dear RE,
      sad to say, but i don't see much hope of getting better going the way you're going.

      I have no illusions about getting "better".  I mainly am engaged in the task of slowing down getting worse.


  • UnhingedBecauseLucid says:

    Knowing now the extent to which and itch can drive a man to madness and the extent of your overall 'crippledness', I would suggest exercises to increase the limits of your newly restricted capacity. I gather your vertebraes were crushed and thus compressed the spine, so I'm not suggesting gymnastics here, but stretching exercises followed by any attempt to contract the greatest number upper torso muscles would be an experiment I would attempt. The idea is first and foremost that you need it as post operation physiotherapy, the second is that if all those tissues can be made to expand a little while getting stronger they could perhaps nudge pieces of your skeleton in a way that alleviates the problem.
    You might not be able to go for the regular version of push-ups, but doing them on your knees or leaning on a countertop might be feasible. Personnally, after a really nasty back injury at work, I found out that 7 hours a day of internet surfing on the economics, peak oil and broader collapse blogosphere was really not compatible with my job which is mostly stationary but is interspersed with somewhat regular heavy lifting or otherwise violent physical effort. I remedied my condition [mostly] by strengthening my back by doing pull-ups and chin ups hanging on the frame of the cage behind my laser cutter anytime the item being cut was going to take long enough and I was confident enough the machine would not f*** – up.

    When that wasn't feasible, I went to nearby school or public parc where you have assortments of monkey bars for the kids. Pull-ups and chin-ups are VERY helpful therapy to prevent and even cure back aches. There's just so many muscle group that are sollicited (abs, arms, all the back mucles) that it cannot do anything but have an impact on the skeleton. Just hanging from a monkey bar doing NOTHING will relieve tension on the lower back. I know you are pretty crippled, but you don't have to do regular pull-ups and chin-ups either. Find a bar that's not to high, and use your legs. 

     Increase the limit of your newly restricted capacity.

    As we age, we loose the will to deploy maximum strength.  But every now and then, I find it helpful to whip the body into submission to remind it and ourselves at the same time, that we're still alive and expecting some functions to remain operational…

    Finally, now that you've quit the Boston lagers, you may have to push yourself in the ultimate stoicist effort: quitting the cancerettes.

    Just for the science, you ought to deprive yourself of nicotine, which is a psychotrope and thus affect the neuro-transmitters.

    They're a stimulant actually, so it could be worthwhile to verify that they are not adding unwanted noise to the signal

    Finally as a last resort, you might want to experiment with another kind of psychotope if the itch drives you into unbearable madness. Perhaps cannabis could be a helpful experiment. It's been years for me, but I remember, …it's not a stimulant ! If I'm not  mistaken, it even blocks certain receptors. In the words of Dave Chapelle: "You're not crisp, …but you'll function" 

    Until you revisit the neurosurgeon, you'll have to resort to unorthodox solutions… 

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