Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 26, 2009

If they can send a man to the moon . . .

The other day a guy got on the elevator with me, and I saw from his badge that he was Doctor Umptyump, Rheumatology. So I asked him, "Can you cure my medial epicondylitis?" That's how you say tendinitis in the elbow in doctorese.*

"No, but I can inject it."

"I understand that just makes it worse in the long run."

"Yep, it's not a good idea. You should just live with it. That's what I do."

If you look this up (it's not actually tennis elbow, it's the opposite ligament, on the inside of the elbow, but same idea) the book says that with a few weeks rest, it will ordinarily resolve. Sometimes, and sometimes not. It can also be chronic and quite intractable, as my new friend the rheumatologist obviously knows. And there's not a damn thing medical science can do about it. (The injection he referred to is a cortisone injection, which will knock down the inflammation, but can permanently weaken the tissue. Sometimes athletes have it done so they can get back in the game but it's not a trade off that makes sense to me.)

The larger point here is that medical advances have largely missed some of our most prevalent annoyances. They still can't cure or prevent the common cold, osteoarthritis, or chronic tendinitis. I don't think that colds have much of an impact beyond being a nuisance, but the musculoskeletal deterioration we tend to suffer as we grow older does cause people to become less physically active and so can contribute to bigger problems -- such as diabetes and heart disease, not to mention depression. UI don't intend to slow down if I can possibly help it, but not everybody's pain threshold is as high as mine. Just a little hint for the good people at NIH.

*I once saw a podiatrist because I had suddenly developed a very stiff big toe. He said, "Oh, you have hallux rigidus." I said, "What's that?" He replied, "That means a stiff big toe." I wasn't paying for a Latin lesson. And no, there was absolutely nothing he could do about it except teach me how to say it in Latin. It's osteoarthritis.


robin andrea said...

Saw on 60 Minutes last night that the newest drug to be coming down the pike is Resveratrol. Take one a day and it will clear up all those aches and pains. Not only that, if we take it everyday, we won't really age. Osteo-arthritis, diabetes will be things of the past. The good doctor said we'll probably just die in our sleep. (I told Roger I would prefer dying in mid sentence.) Why does everyone want to live so long? I can see wanting to live without pain, but how long is a good, long life?

C. Corax said...

Oh, boy, Robin, I can't wait for the black box warning on that one!

Mezamashii said...

What do you think of the whole glucosamine, chrondroitin, MSM & Omega 3 fatty acid supplement routine for osteo-arthritis?