The Reign of Pain


By Neil Offen

My neck’s a problem. Nothing terrible, but when I turned my head to back the car out of the driveway the other day, there was this crack, a shooting pain and I immediately lost any ability to speak Esperanto.

Recently, there’s been a series of these kind of moments. Last week, it was my left knee that gave out, refusing to walk down the stairs. Walking up the stairs, two weeks ago, it was my right knee, which at least was a nice change of pace. The week before that, I think, it was my right hip but only because I strained it when stretching to loosen that residual stiffness in my lower back. Or maybe it was my left hip and my upper back.

And depending on the day, there are a number of intermittent aches, pains, twinges, cramps, pangs, stitches, stabs, spasms, pinches, stings and otherwise unidentified throbbing sensations.

Let me be clear: None of these aches and pains is, so far, a particularly big deal. I am generally healthy and, in fact, quite normal for my age. The problem is my age. The problem is I wonder if my lifetime warranty may be nearing expiration.

That means stuff occasionally hurts. Not all at once, but here and there, from time to time, from head to toe. And worse, I also occasionally get paper cuts.

These aches and pains are, of course, the price we pay for still being alive. On balance, it’s worth the price, even if that price has been marked up and shipping is extra unless you have Prime. It also remains significantly better than the alternative.

Still, as we get older, these physical annoyances are as regular as we no longer are. So, what can we do about them?

We need to expect them, prepare for them and ultimately find a way to live with them — and to remind ourselves that the twinge in the calf or the throb in the shoulder is, for the moment, nothing more than a twinge in the calf or a throb in the shoulder.

That is, it’s a question of perspective. For instance, when you get a cramp in your foot and can’t walk, it’s important to remember that you most likely have another foot. Let it work for its keep! It may turn out that this foot was your favorite one all along.

If your back is so stiff you can’t stand up after sitting for hours on the couch, then don’t. Stay on the couch. It’s likely another episode of “Two and a Half Men” will be coming on shortly.

When your shoulder aches and you can’t lift your arm up above your head, you should consider going upstairs to the second floor where your arm will already be up and you’ll most likely only have to reach down.

If you feel a tingling sensation at your fingertips, let go of the ice cream and close the freezer.

Don’t pay any attention to the soreness in your hip or the tenderness in your elbow. You will soon forget all about them during your colonoscopy.

While it’s never a good idea to hear yourself gasping when you are exercising, or even while you are scrambling eggs, remember you can always turn up the volume in your headphones and drown it out.

And instead of worrying too much about that pounding sensation in your chest, take a moment to meditate. Sit down, notice the sounds around you, gently focus on your breath and then, in your own time, call for the ambulance.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column will appear twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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2 Comments on "The Reign of Pain"

  1. Ellie Kinnaird | July 13, 2021 at 6:03 pm | Reply

    Thank you, Neil, for coming back. You made my day.

  2. Hilarious

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