Quick Tips for Common Ailments

By Timothy Hinkhouse

From PHN Issue 38, Fall 2018


Don’t you just hate it when your day hits a brick wall because you feel a blinding migraine coming on? Some people, it practically debilitates them and leaves them curled up in the fetal position in a dark room on their bed with a cool wet cloth on their forehead while wishing for any immediate relief.

When you feel the pain of a migraine coming on, it’s a good idea to get well hydrated. If you have on call medicines that can help relieve your pain, such as beta blockers, then ask your officer to call down to medical and get those ASAP.

Over the years of being in prison, I have seen people going to great lengths when trying to get treatment for a migraine headache, whether it is self-medication, court litigation or being treated by a prison doctor. The first hurdle when you go through the medical department is a nurse. Some think they are qualified to diagnose your illnesses — which is only true if they are a nurse practitioner, not a regular RN. You can look up your state’s board of nursing rules in the law library to see what their limitations are within the scope of their license(s).


Anyone reading this in prison knows that the food is usually the source of our nausea, the feeling of sickness in our stomach either immediately after we eat or sometime later on. Depending on how sensitive your stomach is, there can be an urge to vomit as well. Believe it or not, nausea can also be alerting you to something else that is wrong and needs to be addressed. It’s a good idea to seek medical attention if the nausea lasts more than two days, you’re dehydrated, or an injury or infection is causing vomiting.  

The following can help ease nausea:

  • Ginger ale
  • Plain crackers
  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Apple sauce
  • Toast

If you are vomiting, try to drink gatorade to put back the valuable electrolytes that your body has lost. Otherwise, try drinking small sips of water, which will aid in rehydration too.

Sore Joints:

Now that I am getting older, I find myself dealing with sore joints. My mantra each day is, “Getting old sucks!” My cellie, who is 15 years older than me, always asks, “What are you going to say when you are my age?” I tell him, “Being old sucks!” — and then we both laugh. As we age, things tend to hurt more, and we notice them more often. There isn’t a whole lot we can do to cure that, but there are in-cell treatments that we can do.

Resting gives our bodies a chance to repair themselves, and I love taking naps. We can take ibuprofen, but be careful… Too much isn’t good for the liver. Another way to treat joint pain is by wearing a compression garment such as those for arthritis. An Ace bandage can help if there is swelling. A brace can protect your joint. We can also use a hot pack by using hot water on a towel, then putting it into a plastic bag and applying it to the affected area. Same goes with a cold pack, if you can get some ice and use that or a cold towel. It’s best to put some cloth between you and the ice to protect your skin. One thing I do that works for me is some light stretching. I don’t do yoga, but I have talked with folks who swear by it and seem to have less overall pain.

Back Pain:

Chronic back pain can have various causes. I was someone who suffered from back pain, and then I spoke with a guy who got me into lifting weights, which has strengthened my core. Ever since I have been exercising, my back doesn’t hurt like it used to. I would encourage those of you reading this to look into doing some core exercises to strengthen your back. This could make your life a little better.

The last suggestion I will make for those of you suffering from chronic back pain: Try to get your body weight down to a normal range for your height by walking, doing some light exercise, watching what you eat and taking good care of yourself. Carrying around extra weight can put more stress on your joints and also cause lower back pain.

One last thing to think about… If you have support from friends and family on the outside and you can’t get anything done to improve your situation on the inside, you can ask them to call the institution and start asking questions on your behalf. If you don’t have outside support, then you can write the following people to let them know what is going on:

Manager of Accreditation Services
National Commission on Correctional Health Care
1145 W. Diversey Parkway
Chicago, Illinois 60614-1318
(773) 880-1460

Good luck!

—Tim H.

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