My Story: Male Doctors Don’t Listen

Lisa Pelligrinelli

Lisa Pelligrinelli

For over 10 years I went to my male doctor with severe chronic neck pain and constant muscle spasms. The pain would last for days and leave me in bed afraid to move in fear of triggering another spasm.

At the time I was around 30 years old, attractive and very physically fit.

Some days the pain was so bad I would cry to my doctor. What I always got from him was “take some Advil.” A couple of times he wrote a prescription for Naproxen.

Finally I was sent to an orthopedic surgeon for an MRI.

I was told nothing was wrong with my MRI from the new physician. He said to me, “If I pulled a random person off the street they too would have herniated or bulging discs.”

Then the doctor walked out of the room and never came back.

I thought he would come back so I could ask where all my pain was coming from.

I felt as if I was really losing my mind. The pain was just overwhelming and so hard to deal with every second, every minute, hour, week, month and year.

For a decade I let doctors tell me nothing was wrong and the pain was all in my head. Many, many times I wished for death and did think a lot about ending the pain.

My girlfriend told me of her female doctor and I switched. I was stunned when she listened to me and sat there for as long as I needed her to hear me.

She sent me into pain management after seeing the initial MRI I had with the first doctor and orthopedic surgeon.

For the next two years I tried everything to get rid of the pain, including five facet injections, medication, three rounds of prolotherapy, acupuncture, monthly massage, Botox injections, epidurals, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. Still the pain continued.

I got the name of a neurosurgeon in Miami who some say is the best in the world — including myself. This doctor will not even see you without first having your MRI faxed to his office.

An X-ray of Lisa's neck after two surgeries.

An X-ray of Lisa’s neck after two surgeries.

 I was invited to come see him a week and a half after sending out my still original MRI. Two weeks later I was on his operating table undergoing a six hour surgery.

Because of all the excessive bone growth in my neck the doctor informed me my original injury must have happened when I was very young- around three or four years old!

I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), a surgery that removes herniated or degenerative discs. I had another ACDF with the same neurosurgeon almost a year later with another triple fusion.

Today I still have constant chronic pain. The surgeries were successful in that I don’t get the sharp pinching pain in my neck anymore but it did leave me with permanent nerve damage down my right arm and  into my fingers. The surgery did make things better, but at the same time made things worse. Very hard to explain but I’m happy with my decision to have the surgery since I took two years trying everything else-

All this from the original MRI over 10 years ago when I was told over and over again that nothing was wrong with me.

There is something really wrong with the medical community where they just look at you and assume you are young, attractive and physically fit and they just brush you off instead of really listening to your problems.

I remember bawling uncontrollably each and every time I was told the pain was in my head.

bulliesLisa Pelligrinelli lives in Boca Raton, Florida with her husband and two bulldogs.

National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to editor@nationalpainreport.

 The views, opinions and positions expressed in this column are the author’s alone and should not be construed as medical advice. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report, American News Report, Microcast Media Group or any of its employees, directors, owners, contractors or affiliate organizations. National Pain Report and American News Report make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information in this column, and is not responsible or liable for any errors, omissions, or delays (intentional or not) in this information; or any losses, injuries, and or damages arising from its display, publication, dissemination, interpretation or use.

Opposing views, opinions and positions about this column are welcomed by National Pain Report, American News Report and or Microcast Media Group. Publication or lack of publication of opposing views, opinions and/or positions does not imply, suggest or expressly reflect an endorsement or disapproval of the originating commentary on the part of National Pain Report, American News Report or Microcast Media Group.

Tags: , ,

15 Responses

  1. kathy cooper says:

    Im went through something so similar! I now have a Neck implant, for years I was told it was “Stress”, “Hysteria”, “Somatizing”, “all in my Head” fortunately after years of referrals one Neurosurgeon bothered to read my numerous MRI’s! I had no Cartilage in my neck! Unfortunately the surgery was too late to prevent nerve damage in my arm, and Chronic neck pain! There is a clear Gender factor! I know I was misdiagnosed because I am female! We are so sensitive ya know! Some Doctors I have seen have actually copped an attitude, because I am taller than them, they are so insecure about their manhood! Some women are impressed by Doctors, not me! They get pissed if you don’t show the proper deference, and act like giggly female, after all don’t all women want a Doctor? Yuck!

  2. Jim Williams says:

    The health care system is broke in America. I agree that it doesn’t matter weather you see a male or female doctor. I have been to both and have been treated like you have been ( I.e. it’s all in your head, your imagining this pain, your a drug seeker etc.)

    One of the problems is that doctors are so specialized that if you do not have what their specialty is then they blow you off. I have ankylosing Sphondilitis that went undiagnosed for 10-12 years allowing the disease to get so bad that I could not even walk. It wasn’t even a doctor who told me that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, it was my neighbor who also has it. The diagnosis was confirmed by her doctor.

    Unfortunately like you, I had spinal fusion and was told I would be better and have no pain after the surgery. 17 years later I had to retire because the pain is so bad it was affecting my decision making and my job was one that lives depended on me making the right decisions. I was only 54 and loved my job. The pain had taken away so much of what I loved to do.

    But back to the issue, the doctor who finally told me I needed a fusion also told me that based on the size of the fusion hat I should not be having that much pain. But the he said that everyone is different and there is no way to tell how much pain a person is in. He went on to say that the size didn’t matter if it was causing that much pain then it was up to me to decide if I wanted to have surgery or not.

    Now they are messing with pain management. I don know we’re I would be if it wasn’t for pain management. Yes I still have pain but at least I have a life!

    Jim W.

  3. Anne says:

    I’ve had chronic pain since I was a child. I can remember coming home after school and cuddling with the heating pad (the thing became my best friend.) I go to a pain clinic where I am prescribed not nearly enough pain medicine. I am treated poorly for needing this medicine.The doctor is rude and refuses to up my dosage. It wasn’t enough to start with and everyone knows your body gets immune and it takes a little more here and there to help. I know white men who go there that get double the amount of pain medicine that I get and I guarantee they have far less wrong with them than I do. They are also half my age. I know these things for a fact as one of them was my daughter’s boyfriend and the other is a neighbor. (I am a 52 year old white female.) The only thing the doctor will raise for me is Opana and that’s because the drug has been ruined. Its gelled now and takes forever to break down in one’s system IF it does at all before you have a bowel movement IF you can have a BM on the stuff. God help you if you should have diarrhea as it will never break down soon enough to give you pain relief. This drug really scares me now as it looks like it is bound together with some kind of white polymer type glue and the pills themselves are FLAMMABLE!!!!!. I have never seen a pill burn before but they do! Imagine what they’re doing to one’s insides!!! For anyone who is wondering how or why I know that they are flammable (NO, I do NOT snort nor do I smoke or shoot my medicine, nor did I before they were crush proof) I have a friend who is a terrible pyromaniac and they lit one to see if it would burn and it did. The excitement wasn’t with the pill, it was the fire…. I am truly concerned what these pills will do to us in 5 or 10 years and the fact that they will refuse to believe it came from the Opana. I have to wonder how long these were tested before they were shoved down our throats. There is a new Oxymorphine (generic opana,by Global) out now that is not crush proof and it is wonderful !! My friend got it last month and he felt better than he has in years!! He’s lost so much weight on Endocet’s Opana without even trying!! Its a good diet pill I guess but pretty much worthless for pain now. The price is still sky high too even though the medicine is not nearly as good as it was before it was made to be “crush proof.” Sad part is, Endocet already has an injunction against Global to try to stop the sale of their generic version. I will never believe that this is a concern of safety but rather a desire for a monopoly (like Purdue got so no new generics could be made.) In the meantime we are the Guinea Pigs to be tested on. There was NOTHING wrong with the first Opana and Oxycontin. Leave them alone!!!!!!! I feel sorry for the people that have lost loved ones from drugs but its not the drug killing people, its the people killing people. Just like the old saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” Humans are going to do drugs and if the drug companies keep taking them away and ruining them then Herione and Cocaine will prevail!! Why don’t we need a script for alcohol by the way? Its the nastiest drug out there. Probably because the DEA and FDA fat cats sit back slamming drinks every night. I know plenty of people that can take their pain meds and drive their children anywhere they need to go safely. Can ANYONE honestly say that about a person drunk on alcohol?? Thank you for reading and sorry it is so long!

  4. Beth powers says:

    First off, Love your Bulls My husband and I owned two English Bulldogs and love them so much. This does not surprise me unfortunately. I am so sorry that you have suffered for so long and who knows, if they had fixed this from the start, maybe you would of avoided such pain. I hope that there are Doctors and or Health of all professions read this. I worked in a Hospital and the one thing they never taught us in college how to have empathy or to try to not judge their patients. I worked in E.R. And I can understand becoming callous to the “freagrent flyers”. they make it only harder for us who do not a use meds but rely on them. it only takes common sense and a open mind to see those who really are tru,y in pain and just need help. there looks and actions hurt.

  5. Lisa says:

    Thank you for all the supportive comments as it’s hard to open up like this having my face attached to my story- I have to remember this is the internet where people can and will be mean and hateful but at the same time supportive and kind

    To those who claimed b__t… there is a growing body of literature that indicates women are more likely than men to be undertreated for their pain.

    It was not just one SINGLE male Dr. but several- my general internest Dr, the Orthopedic surgeon, the Dr. who performed my epidurals- who told me “he’s seen worse” and another consult- all of them male.

    Yes, there are good male and female Dr’s out there as well as Dr’s who aren’t as good.. this point can be made about almost everything-

    It was my experience and my personal story- of course it does not apply to every male Dr. out there… please re-read the part where I said I LOVED my male Neurosurgeon who was absolutely wonderful, caring and compassionate.

    Please remember this was over a decade that I suffered needlessly- if only someone checked

    Thank you again for sharing my story

  6. If y’all want to take control of your pain, health and well-being research Trigger Points, Myofascial Release Therapy with Foam rollers, balls, bars etc.
    >Get proactive and ask or demand that you get the proper therapy … that has to be done on a daily basis, some on a weekly basis.
    >Get you heads together with stress management via prayer, meditation, Mind-fullness etc.
    >Get your flesh primed for healing with Vitamins minerals and trace elements. Purge your body of toxic meds like cholesterol meds, bone density meds etc.
    >In my office, I ask new patient to disregard all the diagnosis, images and thought processes from prior providers … biased data.
    >Remember if you don’t do nothing … ain’t nothing’ gonna happen! It’s on YOU!

  7. Tami DaSilva says:

    I have been chronic pain patient for 5+ years now. I’s not a gender thing it’s a business. I just went to neuro because they require you to see them so many times to keep your pain med scripts available
    . I have tried epidurals, prolotherapy, Physical therapy, chiro, aqua therapy, facet shots and root nerve burning at the facet joints. Long story short 13 bulging discs with 6 herniations, tore my bicep, subs cap and supraspinitis. Latest MRI’s show compression on my spinal cord at T10 yet I was told we could only discuss the numbness in my right leg because he has 15 minutes per patient I had already exceeded my time frame and I have too much wrong with me to discuss at one time. I did get have we tried Botox for your migraines? So unless I want shots and my visit generates a 500$+ visit for them they don’t bother to help me anymore because they are out of ideas. Well I have an idea it’s time for new Drs and fresh eyes. You have to be your own advocate. I have also had the issue of I’m not overweight I get dressed, fix my hair and they actually note what state I’m dressed in I saw my chart said wearing shoes. Really should I live in sweats and appear disheveled so my pain is more believable? I live in sneakers and flat sandals is this relevant to my medical treatment?

  8. Jane says:

    Oh come on, this is COMPLETE b——t.

    I had more female doctors tell me I was making my pain up and overreacting than male doctors. This article is blatantly sexist, how can anyone say that “male doctors don’t listen” when she had a SINGLE experience with it?

    Maybe if collectively the entirety of chronic pain sufferers across the world had similar experiences or repeatedly were told these things by men, sure, maybe. But it’s still generalising and it’s ONE person’s completely narrow-minded experience.

    The doctor that FINALLY believed me about my Endometriosis (MY WOMEN’S DISEASE) was a MAN. I had male and female doctors tell me I was making things up, but more females than males. Does this mean I go around telling everyone female doctors are evil and won’t listen? No.

  9. Terri Herring says:

    Lisa, I am so sorry you had such bad experiences for so long & with so many doctors, whether male or female. Chronic pain is debilitating & life changing. There are just too many doctors in the system that hesitate to refer patients to a pain management specialist because they know they will lose the anuity of our visits. I for one stayed with a rheumatologist for way too long for fibromyalgia & begged him to give me something stronger for the pain. By the time I referred myself I was suffering with post traumatic stress from the daily beating of pain & my life was a mess. If I have any recommendations at all for people in pain it would be to see as many doctors as needed & not to wait too long to take pain meds if you need them because it takes a long time to recover from the stress of waiting. I see you are in Boca, my daughter Jen lives there & will be opening up Vince Camuto designer shoe store at the mall soon. Stop by & say hi to her. God Bless. P. S. Love your dogs!

  10. All of you are correct! This is a sad and unfortunate case of the state of modern medicine. Doctors (male and female) are at fault!! I’ve been in medicine for 30 yrs and witness the majesty and the mess of my discipline. That lead me on a journey of Why??? I found out the answer and it was always under my nose … the patient’s nose too. Pain, chronic pain is in the flesh or myofasical tissues. ALL PT, Massage therapist and Chiropractors are aware of trigger points. Myofascial pain issues and therapies have been in text books for decades, but not in the past 10-15 yrs. MF pain has been ignored and is causing lots of misery. Ignore MF pain and doc are obligated to look at the bones and if something is found in the bone, then you are fixable. If nothing is found, then you are crazy. MF pain is real and sufferers need to educate themselves so they don’t get wrapped up in all the chaos of ignorance.

  11. Tim says:

    I have had chronic pain issues for over 30 years now. I have seen both male and female doctors many different times and have mostly got the same answers that you did. I was finally diagnosed with Psoriatic arthritis with osteoarthritis and tendinitis affecting almost all of my major joints about 3 years ago. Male or female is not what made the difference. What made the difference was that I did not except the various erroneous diagnosises and negative comments I endured for so long. I did a lot of research myself and took control of my own healthcare. I have had my entire cervical neck fused and both knees replace in the past 16 months – both male and female surgeons with equally good results. Don’t make the failure of our healthcare system a male or female thing – find good doctors that are willing to take the time to listen to you and help you.

  12. Constance says:

    I am sorry it has taken you so long to get the help you both need and deserve.
    I am not physically fit as in I am overweight and my male doctors have put EVERYTHING I have ever had wrong with me down to this fact. I’m not bedridden, and am rather active, but no matter what, I was always told it was because I was fat. Recently I changed to a female doctor and she has found a couple of things that require treatment that have absolutely NOTHING to do with being overweight. She was appalled that I was not able to get help sooner.

  13. Lisa,
    Your x-rays make me cringe, I hope your pain is not as bad as before and hope you don’t need anymore surgery. When this orthopedic surgeon I saw about 18 years ago when he put my x-rays up to take a look at them he had to check the name on the x-rays to make sure it was me. He said this looks like the neck of a 80 year old man with a bad degenerative disc disease. He asked me how long have you been walking around like this and what do you do for the pain. I said nothing but take ibuprohpen because doctors don’t believe me when I tell them I’m in the amount of pain I say and they just say take 2 aspirin and call me next week. This was a well known surgeon at the Medical Center in Houston. Thanks to him he sent me to the pain management and this was the beginning of a long road to getting my chronic pain under control.

    So I could not have surgery and had to live with the ongoing chronic pain in my cervical spine. I did finally find a pain specialist and he took care of my pain problem.
    Things have been okay for almost 24 years now living with chronic pain. I have restrictions and cant lift heavy things but I still work out and walk on the treadmill, this helps with the pain a lot if I just keep moving. A lot of small things I put together keeps my pain in its place and that’s how I get by day after day ,year after year.

    Regards,
    Mark S. Barletta

  14. L says:

    They do the same if you are middle-aged and relatively pleasant looking; I try to be optimistic but have had severe depression for a year now, and out of steam.
    I’ve had my pain since my late teens (whiplash), but also had a childhood incident. My pain issue is almost fifty years old.
    I was treated similarly, however by a FEMALE doctor: “It’s all in your head.”
    However, about 15-20 years ago, a male doctor sent me for x-rays, and since I’ve had MRI’s and catscans. I’m a neurosurgery candidate (ACDF too) with damage from C2-on down. But I have acquaintances met in pain management classes who remain in as much pain – or worse – after surgery. I’ve tried all the potential therapies you have tried and more, including MBB’s and rhizotomy.
    This morning, I’ve been on hot pack for an hour, and will now try ice. And a cup of tea. My life goals have been put on hold. I’m lucky to get the dishes done. It’s a daily, lonely, rather pointless struggle.
    I don’t think the issue is the gender of the doctor, but simply that most doctors don’t investigate pain thoroughly – they do not have the tools to do so, demand exceeds resources, and the allopathic system simply fails us, plain and simple. Chronic pain is pandemic, and will be more so as baby boomers age. This is a critical issue.
    Thanks for your article.

  15. denese warn says:

    i truely don’t believe any doctors listen or care unless it brings in a hefty $$ amount .. i agree the modern medical community as a whole leaves MUCH to be desired .. i for 1 am done with them ..

122 queries. 0.670 seconds.