I have a new toy. I got it from my chiropractor today, and I call it the Back Zapper, though its real name is the Prostim 1000, which, according to the FDA, is a “Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS)…used for the symptomatic relief and management of chronic intractable pain and adjunctive treatment of post-surgical or post-traumatic acute pain.” Fancy!
Basically, I stick little stickers to my neck and back, wire them to a battery pack, and turn them on. The electrical charge is supposed to help my “pain sensors” chill out a bit; it basically feels like a tingling or stinging sensation, depending on how high I set it, and once I got over the initial “I have stickers on my back that are kind of sort of shocking me on purpose” weirdness, it’s quite relaxing.
I’ve got the new toy because my chiropractor finally figured out how my insurance would pay for it, and because since I came back from Congo my neck has just not gotten over itself.
(The back story, for those who don’t know: In 2004, I was in a car accident in Florida. A middle-aged man in a large, new, expensive pickup truck plowed into us while we were stopped at a red light, pushing our car into a Hummer. I had two doctors verify my back and neck were permanently screwed up and that I would need treatment for the rest of my life, but I only got a tenth of what my lawyer asked for in the settlement, after all the medical and legal fees were paid, because the insurance said those doctors were only giving their “opinions” and we could not prove I would actually get treatment for the rest of my life. Ha.)
Well, apparently the combination of the flight to Africa, the two weeks of bumpy roads, and the final 48-hour stretch of being vertical in some manner spelled disaster for my neck, and now I’m back at the chiropractor’s office at least once per week until things are under control. The last two weeks have been loads of fun—headaches every day that have made me feel cross-eyed and caused me to avoid any and all facial expressions because my eyebrows seemed directly connected to the pain, and any change in their orientation would force me to close my eyes and put my hands to my face until the worst subsided. Which I’m sure has been just as fun for those around me as it has been for me. My apologies for any unintentional stink eyes I’ve thrown your way. Sadly, my “neutral” facial expression can be fairly ominous.
So today, my chiropractor put the Back Zapper on and let me walk out with it buzzing away. But then I decided to stop at this shop on Oleander called Progressive Gardens; it’s a whole store devoted to organic gardening of all varieties, and I had never been before. So, I started to take off the device after I parked the car, wanting to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment. The first week of grad classes at UNCW, I had to wear a heart monitor for a day. I was wired up, and those wires connected to a giant black box that I managed to hide in a purse. It was my first day of classes, and I spent the whole day with that brown purse cross-slung, trying not to let on—like, I don’t know, I was really really attached to my bag. No one asked about it, so they either didn’t notice or just accepted that I was going to be the weird one.
Anyway, as I went to take off the Zapper, I discovered, much to my surprise, that the orientation of one’s neck can change the amount of current one perceives going through that sticker-thing, and whatever way I moved was the exact wrong way. It zapped me, the stinging sensation getting stronger, and I became convinced, with good reason, that the device was trying to kill me. I pulled at the stickers and yanked them off—then I discovered that something about fingers makes them much more sensitive to the current, and my fingers were zapped worse than my neck had been.
Finally, I got the offensive stickers off my neck and my fingers, unplugged and then switched off the device, and went in the store, hoping no one had been looking at my car while I was having my dilemma.
But fortunately the Zapper—which I think I will call “Zap” for short—and I made up, and I’m quite enjoying its company. The headache still arrived on schedule tonight, but it was noticeably less intense, and I even experimented with a few facial expressions. Some of which might have been caused by Zap and its seemingly random bursts of intensity, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.