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Notes of concern, ridicule: All are much appreciated

Okay, the commentary about my aching back and painful shoulder was not intended to elicit pity. Well, maybe a little.

But thank you all very much for your messages of concern — even the one who suggested that my MRI phobia makes me seem like a wuss. I could have done without that and the suggestion that it must be gender-related, but I just considered the source, and the spirit in which it was delivered, and taken. I got a chuckle out of it.

I also got some helpful suggestions on how to deal with back and shoulder pain. Most involve stretches and exercises. I've tried the pulley hooked to the door for my shoulder and it helps. I've also added a new stretch or two for improving back and neck mobility.

I actually balance on a three-foot Styrofoam log and stretch my back. The hard part is learning to balance on the thing without doing serious damage. After the initial teetering and tottering is over, it actually feels pretty good.

It's getting to the point where I could devote half the day to stretching, exercising, and then alternating heat and cold packs to stop the post-exercise anguish. It's also sometimes difficult in hotel rooms to find the space (or clean carpets) to stretch out on. And I don't leave the house without a pocketful of pain relievers. I dread the thought of what it's going to be like when I get really old, say 58.

Apparently, however, quite a few of you have similar problems. And, based on e-mails I've received, I should count my blessings, stop complaining and get on with doing stuff I want and need to do.

One reader described a process whereby a technician sends electrical charges through your nerves to see which one may be impaired. Can't imagine that would be much fun. That reader wound up having surgery. As I said, I consider myself fortunate.

Another said he has put up with arthritis for years and is limited in some activities.

I recently talked with two High Plains farmers, and before we got serious about doing an interview on planting plans for the 2007 crop, we discussed our various aches and pains. They're probably a few years younger than I am, but were already feeling some joint discomfort, hands mostly.

They said pulling on a wrench to tighten a nut is harder than it used to be and that knuckle joints ache in the process. One said he wears gloves, even in the summer, to improve his grip.

I suspect a lot of farmers feel the years of hard work, long hours, heavy loads, and bad roads every morning when they roll out of bed and every evening when the get in from the fields. The labor they've done for decades has to take a toll.

So, I'll be happy to swap remedies with you, especially if you have some that makes it easier to back a boat trailer, a chore I was never that good at, even before my neck got stiff.

In the meantime, y'all win. Electrically stimulated nerves, years of arthritis, and surgery scars trump my minor aches by a mile. So, no more complaining from me — unless I have to have surgery, and then let the whining begin.

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