Scoliosis causing back pain? No, it’s that “extra” weight you’re carrying.

Catherine writes:

There is congenital spinal curvature in my family. Every female member, no matter what her weight, has it. This includes me. Mine is “three way,” meaning that I have an abnormal twist from side-to-side (scoliosis), an abnormal twist from front-to-back (lordosis), and a rotational twist (kyphosis). This means my back muscles are constantly working much harder than they should. It naturally follows that I can throw my back out easier than most people, and I’ve had bouts with pain so debilitating I could barely walk.

A few years ago I went to a doctor complaining that the back trouble was worse than usual. The doctor did not even look at my back but rather told me that the cause was that my extra weight was pulling the spine out of place. He suggested that if I just “ate right” I’d lose the weight and all my problems would go away. He didn’t even suggest any exercises to help the muscles even after I mentioned that it’d been some time since I’d been in physical therapy. He only suggested over-the-counter naproxen.

Three weeks later, I was in so much pain that I could not even stand up straight. At the age of twenty-eight I was walking with a cane and I could not even dress myself. I went to another doctor who took one look and immediately prescribed strong muscle relaxants, prescription pain relievers. I was walking normally in three days; once the immediate problem settled he was happy to give me information about strengthening exercises. It was then and only then he brought up my weight — and it came by way of asking if he could take some blood in order to check my thyroid function.

I stayed with that doctor for years.

Vomiting all the time? You’re depressed.

Rose writes:

The worst experience I’ve had with doctor was when I suddenly became very sick at the age of 29 and I couldn’t hold down food. I was vomiting an average of 7 – 10 times a day, at some point I was living off nothing but Ensure puddings. Sometimes I would look at a person eating a sandwich and cry because I wanted to be able to eat a sandwich again.

The doctors flat out didn’t believe me. The gastroenterologist diagnosed my condition as “functional” (meaning mental) and put me on anti-depressants. The Paxil I was given caused vertigo and vomiting – try to think of what this does to a person who can hold almost no food in her stomach. After blacking out and landing face-first on the floor (at home – thank goodness) I swore I’d never take them again. The GP who had referred me to him gave me a stern lecture on how I could never get help from doctors if I wouldn’t take the pills they were giving me. When I began to cry to her that I couldn’t take pills that would make me black out and faint because I’d be putting my life at risk, she got particularly furious and yelled “Shut up and stop acting like a little baby. If you want to cry, do it on your time and stop wasting mine!”*

When the illness began I’d put my weight at about. 145 – 150 lbs and I’m 5′1, so I was “overweight.” My metabolism slowed dramatically during the illness (to keep me from starving to death – thank you metabolism!) I truly believe this was a big part of why they wouldn’t take me seriously, because they saw me as too fat to be in a state of starvation. When the GP took my weight at 142, I commented that I was losing; she rolled her eyes contemptuously at me and said “You HARDLY look like you’re wasting away!” The last time I saw her, now simply resigned to never getting better I noted I felt dizzy and weak, but I was trying to just get used to it. She looked puzzled and said “I wonder why you’d be weak.” I never went back after that. With that one comment, she made clear to me that what I was experiencing would never be taken seriously by her. If she had believed me in any way, shape or form, she wouldn’t have wondered why a person who hadn’t eaten solid food in almost 6 months was weak.

It was a wonderful, compassionate chiropractor who finally diagnosed me with a hiatal hernia and started adjusting my stomach so it could line up in such a way that food could pass through it. I still see him about once a month 8 years later. For the first 6 months, I needed to see him twice a week and he wasn’t covered by insurance. It was well worth it, he gave me my life back.

I can only imagine if this is what I was put through, without even being “officially obese” what very big people are put through. And I’ve seen some of it through my husband, who has a 46 BMI, but I know it’s even worse for women. I’m so glad this travesty is finally getting the attention it deserves. Thank you for this site, it’s doing a wonderful and very necessary service.

Can’t breathe? Either it’s asthma or you need to lay off the baked goods.

Good Ship Tabasco writes:

I spent eight to ten years with doctors treating me for asthma and telling me to lose weight.

I never had asthma. I could lose some weight.

Two years ago my poor breathing had gotten to the point that it took three efforts to get to the top of the stairs in my house, and twice I fainted at the top. My husband counted that I was stopping to catch my breath every fifteen steps. I saw doctors and doctors. I had one who told me that my stress incontinence was the result of being too fat.

The one that finally broke the camel’s back was an allergist, a female, who, when I saw her said that I just needed to exercise more. She said that the reason I couldn’t get a full breath of air in my lungs was because I didn’t “lay off the baked goods.”

Two weeks later I discovered that the reason I couldn’t bet a full breath of air in my lungs was because I had a pericardial effusion measuring almost a liter, and idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, an incurable, deadly disease that has nothing to do with weight, nothing to do with smoking, and everything to do with doctors looking at the obvious.

Two years of treatment, I can run up a flight of stairs, and I have lost 40 lbs without significant change of diet.

I didn’t pay her bill.

Sign me as The Admiral

Insomnia? Sleeping too much? Lose weight.

Mary writes:

I had always had problems sleeping, ever since I was very young. But when I was in high school, they got worse. I was tired all the time, I could barely stay awake in class. All I wanted, more than anything, was to stay in bed every morning.

One day when my mom was tired of hearing it, she told me that if I wanted to stay home I could. But I had to go to the doctor. I told her that was fine with me, because I couldn’t stand those feelings any more. The fatigue wasn’t my only symptom, but at the time I wasn’t connecting the others to my problem.

The doctor did some blood tests, and declared that I was fine. He gave me a boring list of ways to help me sleep better (keep the room dark and quiet, don’t drink soda for hours before bed, etc). He then told me that all of my problems with fatigue would go away if I would just exercise and lose weight.

Once a year, for about three years, we had the same conversation. I didn’t point out that I was more active than I had been at any other point in my life. I didn’t point out that while I was heavy (at the time, 5’3″ and 165lbs) it wasn’t worse than it had been before the fatigue. They ran the same bank of blood tests every time, he gave me the same list of sleep tips every time. And every time, he told me that if I just exercised and lost weight, I wouldn’t be so tired.

I told my mother I would never go back to that doctor. So when I went off to college, and the fatigue started affecting my class work, she took me to another one. He gave me the same list of sleep tips (turn the clock away from the bed, go to bed at the same time every night, but don’t go to bed if you aren’t tired, don’t drink or eat anything too soon before sleep…) and prescribed Ambien.

The sleeping pills knocked me out as they were intended, but I woke up feeling groggier and more disoriented than before. Then one night, I didn’t go to bed immediately after taking them, and experienced the now infamous hallucinations. I stopped taking them.

I waited another year before I went back to any doctor. This time, because of family history, I wanted to get tested for diabetes. The doctor, for the first time, sat and listened to my symptoms. Then he started asking questions, ones that I’d never been asked. I had never even considered them. He ran the same battery of blood tests, but concluded that I had been suffering from Depression, probably since that first visit six years before. He prescribed an anti-depressant.

It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t a sudden change. But slowly I started to climb up from the place I had been in before. Unfortunatly, that wasn’t the end of it. Since then, I’ve even had a gynecologist tell me I should lose weight, when I honestly have no idea what it had to do with the problem I was seeing him for. He never explained it, just put it in his list of recommendations, and started rambling about BMI. When I moved, my new primary care physician was once again more concerned with my weight than listening to me explain my symptoms. Only now we had the added crutch of my depression diagnosis. I was labeled before I got in the door, and I still don’t actually have a good picture of what is wrong with me. Like many others, I’ve given up on seeing a “primary care physician.” I no longer trust them to take the time to really diagnosis problems. If I have a severe enough problem, I see a specialist.

I don’t understand why the doctors can’t grasp that I know my own weight. Each of them talks about it like I hadn’t noticed that I was fat. The anti-depressants made me gain a massive amount, and I have only started to lose that. But I know my own body, I know my own weight. I don’t need them to remind me of it, I don’t need them to say, “You know, you are overweight.” Really? Is that it? Is that why stores don’t carry sizes that fit me? I had no idea! I don’t need another person to tell me I’m fat. I don’t need another person to tell me all the lies about how dangerous it is to be fat. I need someone to listen to my symptoms, diagnosis a problem, and help me treat it the best way possible. Losing weight is not always the best way.

Pelvic pain? No, it’s back pain caused by your fat.

OptimistiCynic writes:

About five years ago I developed a pain that felt like a low level menstrual cramp all the time, deep inside my pelvis. It didn’t vary over the course of the month, or with movement. I put off seeing a doctor for awhile, because I have a high pain tolerance, and because I knew I’d be told to wait to see if it changed. When it didn’t, I went to see my primary care doctor. I told him about my high pain tolerance, that I have a history of medical problems progressing too far before they’re diagnosed because when other people would be in screaming pain I am not.

He agreed to refer me for a CT scan, and said that if the scan wasn’t helpful he’d send me for a colonoscopy. But then he started talking about how he would like to prescribe Byetta, an injectable medication for diabetics, to treat the body fat that had resulted from my metabolic syndrome. I said that I do not have metabolic syndrome. Well, he said, it would help with weight loss because it has an appetite surpressant effect. I don’t overeat, or have metabolic syndrome, I said, so why would I want to do that? He had no answer. He ordered the CT scan and some bloodwork (which I could tell would relate to whether I had metabolic syndrome or not) and said we would talk after the CT scan.

Several weeks later I got a call from his nurse. The CT results showed nothing, she said, and my bloodwork was normal. (So much for the metabolic syndrome!) I asked about the colonoscopy. No, she said, the doctor wouldn’t order that until I got physical therapy for my back pain. I don’t have back pain, I said. I have pelvic pain. Well, she said, we need you to go to physical therapy first and then we’ll talk.

I could tell that I wasn’t being heard, because the doctor and nurse had reversed course on the need for a colonoscopy, but more importantly I could tell that the doctor in particular was focusing on my fat, and misdiagnosing me with other problems like overeating and metabolic sydrome because of it, rather than helping me with my pelvic pain.

I found anther primary care physician, and took my CT scan results with me. I then saw that the results had NOT been normal, but instead had recommended a colonoscopy to check up on a shadow that had appeared on the scan! My first doctor and his nurse had lied to me about the results.

My new doctor, in our first meeting, led me through a thorough discussion of my medical history which included asking about my mental health. At the time I was very lonely, living in a very isolated place, and when she asked me about my social relationships I started to weep, because at the time I had none. We talked about this for a few minutes, and then, briskly, she asked, well, what are we going to do about your weight? You need to lose at least 100 pounds. I was taken aback. The timing of her question seemed to imply that the reason I had no friends was because I was fat! Even if she hadn’t intended that implication, her timing was awful.

I said that I had spent my entire life dieting and had researched the medical evidence for and against it, and would no longer pursue behaviors that weren’t helpful. As it was, I’d lost about 10% of my body weight over the last year through no deliberate effort, and wasn’t that supposedly associated with improved health outcomes? Her response was that if I’d lost 10% then I could lose another 10%! And where would that end, I wondered?

She got defensive and argued with me that she knew plenty of patients who had reset their bodies set points with diet and exercise! They’d lost hundreds of pounds and kept it off! I sure hope she publishes that evidence in a medical journal because her patients are apparently completely different from any other population in the world! But I didn’t think quickly enough to say that to her. As it is I was proud to be able to snap out of my weeping and into standing up for myself as quickly as I was. Though it was wrong that I should have had to do this, particularly since my fat was NOT why I was seeing her! She did order the colonoscopy, which came back clean.

In my followup with her after the colonoscopy I could tell that she was treating me with disdain. Her tone of voice was brittle and clipped. She didn’t seem to want to touch me. She had me bend and stretch, and she manipulated my legs and back, all of which I told her had no effect on my pain, which by now had gotten worse. Well, she said with disgust in her voice, this must be back pain because of your weight. It’s NOT back pain, I said, it’s pelvic pain. Well, whatever, she said, there’s nothing more I can do.

I didn’t trust her anymore anyway, but I couldn’t believe that I’d now gone through a second doctor who only saw my fat, and couldn’t work with me to diagnose the problem I’d come with.

By the time about a year had passed I was starting to get new symptoms, abdominal bloating and cramping that I’d never had before. I researched it online and found that my symptoms matched up with ovarian cancer! It was completely believable to me that I could have had undiagnosed ovarian cancer all along, with doctors unable to see it because they were distracted by my fat. I talked to a friend, who told me I had to go see my OB/GYN right now! He was right, and I did. I went to the OB/GYN’s office and flipped out crying in the lobby, begging to be seen, sure in my heart that something was seriously wrong and that nobody believed me.

The OB/GYN did take me seriously, and though I could tell he wasn’t completely convinced of the need for it, ordered a exploratory laproscopic surgery (after a vaginal ultrasound showed nothing). When he went in, he found one of the worst cases of endometriosis he’d ever seen. The leisions covered the inside of my entire pelvic area, and had adhered one of my fallopian tubes to an ovary, effectively halving my fertility. He treated as much of it as he could during the surgery. When I’d woken up and we talked, he told me that he was surprised I’d been able to stand the pain that the endometriosis must have caused! I told him AGAIN that I have a high pain tolerance, and was frustrated that once again, because doctors hadn’t listened when I’d told them that, I’d had a medical condition progress much further than it needed to.

There are so many reasons that I’m angry about my treatment throughout this episode. First, my two primary care physicians saw me only as a recalcitrant fat woman, and only made cursory attempts to diagnose my pain as anything other than a side effect of my fat. Endometriosis has no association with body size at all.

Second, if I’d believed the doctor who prescribed 100 pounds of weight loss, my diagnosis would have been delayed even longer, assuming that I even could lose 100 pounds!

Third, my fertility has been significantly damaged by the delay in my diagnosis and treatment. I’ve seen studies that claim that obesity diminishes fertility, and I know that in my case that is absolutely true, though not for the reasons that fat-phobic doctors would assume. Prejudice about my fat kept my doctors from treating me effectively, delayed my treatment, and gave my endometriosis time to damage my reproductive system significantly. Yes, my fertility was damaged by my obesity, or rather it was damaged by my doctors’ prejudice against my obesity.

I have a lot of anger about this episode. I am already at an advanced age to try to have a family, 41, and the difference between having a healthy reproductive system and a damaged one may very likely make the difference in my ever being able to have children or not. If I ever try to have children and fail I will know that doctors’ fat prejudice is very much to blame.

You’re fat and sweat too much – reason for rash….NOT!

M@rla writes:

For years—years years years—I’ve had problems with a rash of acne underneath my breasts, and sometimes around the groin area. Oh yeah, VERY attractive! I’ve discussed it with several different doctors, and each time the result is “It’s caused by being overweight. You sweat more than normal people. If you weighed less, you would sweat less*, and this problem will go away.” You know, the typical “lose 50 pounds and call me in the morning” advice. And I would sometimes be given a topical acne treatment, either prescription or OTC, and it never did any good, because you know my problem was caused by THE FAT.

(*And of course this is hilarious, because now that I actually DO weigh less than before, I sweat MUCH more, because I exercise much more. You can’t freakin’ win with doctors.)

So a few months ago, I stumbled across something on the Internet about elastic dermatitis. Allergic reaction or sensitivity to the latex in elastic. Which is the reason why some doctors can’t wear latex gloves. And in a related concept, when elastic is bleached, it is even more irritating. Hmm. And here I have this RASH in the areas of my body—and ONLY in those areas of my body—where I consistently wear ELASTIC. Elastic which has frequently been bleached (thank you, menstruation!)

After reading about this, it suddenly dawned on me, “This isn’t acne.” The articles I read suggested treatment with a simple OTC hydrocortisone cream. So I went to my local drugstore, bought a store-brand cream for $5, and within TWO DAYS I could see improvement. Within six days the rash was GONE.

Gone. Just like that. Now seriously, how fucking hard is it for a doctor to misdiagnose this??? It’s nothing exotic, it’s not some kind of obscure tropical disease, it’s a very very very common condition! BABIES get it! Medical professionals get it! And those very same medical professionals could not recognize it in ME, because they were blinded by my fat dripping into their eyes. And they wonder why people consult Dr. Internet instead of wasting their money on a “real” doctor…

This isn’t one of those life-or-death stories, but it’s a damned good example of the blindness. And it was a big deal to me! those rashes were very disfiguring, and my skin has been permanently affected by them. Fortunately not in areas generally available for public viewing, but it’s not a healthy thing mentally to know you’ve got a hideous secret going on in your underwear, either.