The Zoolander Syndrome and the Healing Power of Anesthesia

ZoolanderWhen I was young, I read a series of autobiographical books by British veterinarian James Herriot called All Creatures Great and Small. I have no idea how well-known those books are, but they were a delightful read, even for someone who wasn’t all that interested in farm animals. Herriot is a great writer, and he tells a great story. And you’re always rooting for him to get the girl (one girl in particular).

A few of the stories he tells in those books have stuck with me over the years. One of them involves anesthesia. There’s a chapter in one of the books that discusses several animals that Herriot heals simply by removing their pain for a while. Without the pain, the animals are able to proceed with normal life while their bodies take care of the healing process.

I mention this today because I tweaked my back last week. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I did, but I’m sure it was something stupid, like trying to put on socks while standing up.

The result has been fairly intense pain when I raise my arms above my head, stand up, sit down, lie forward or backward, or roll over in bed. Rolling over in bed is the worst, and apparently I do it a lot. Last night I woke up on my back (a position I can sleep in but not fall asleep in), and it was a major decision to roll over onto my side. I think I made a pros and cons list at 6:00 am before going for it.

The biggest hindrance is that I can’t turn right. Yep, just like Zoolander. Left is fine. Right? It’s dead to me.

I was discussing this ailment with a doctor friend of mine, and she told me to take a lot of Motrin until the problem went away. She explained the scientific reasons for doing so, which involve nerve receptors and little particles that roll around in my blood like tumbleweeds and something about a flux capacitor.

But as I took her advice today, I realized that something else was at play: Diminished pain. With the pain partially removed, I’ve been able to move a little less like a robot and a little more like a human. Muscles that were overcompensating were treated normally for the first time in days. I was giving my body a chance to heal.

I’m no doctorologist, but I think Herriot had a pretty sound theory. Has something like this ever worked for you?

5 thoughts on “The Zoolander Syndrome and the Healing Power of Anesthesia”

  1. I’ve read that if some women are progressing slowly through labor (not dilating quickly), getting an epidural or some other kind of pain blocker can speed up that process a lot. They can stop fighting the pain and contractions once they don’t feel them anymore, and their body goes through the stages much faster.

  2. Without getting into particulars, a doctor suggested anti-depressants a few years ago. It ended up dulling my responses to life a bit: on a scale of 1-10, everything came out 4.5-5.5. No peaks or valleys. It forced a reboot of my psyche for a bit until I could understand what was causing the pain… and then it was no longer needed.

    So yeah, completely agree that sometimes this is the right course of action. Get better.

  3. I think Herriot’s theory is pretty accurate, and have used the “mask the pain with pain killers to heal,” in the past. Earlier this year when I took a tumble in the shower I hobbled around like an old lady for a few weeks, until I broke down and visited my doctor, who recommended giving me a shot of pain killers in my spine where the pain was the worst, as well as a prescription for some heavy duty pain pills. Within minutes of getting the shot I started to feel better and the simple task of walking was no longer unbearable– by the next morning I was almost back to normal and only ended up taking the stronger pills a couple of times.

  4. I absolutely LOVED James Herriot when I was a kid. I have all his books and read them numerous time….I love the fact that you enjoyed him as well 🙂


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