Chronic Pain and Movie Theaters.

I love a good movie. Especially on the big screen. But in the past few years, my chronic pain has made the experience somewhat less enjoyable. I deal with it because it’s worth it, but it gets difficult to handle sometimes.

You know how movie theater seats are. They aren’t that bad, but they are specifically designed to not be too comfortable, because they don’t want people sneaking into the theater and seeing more than one movie on just one ticket fare. They are required to have wheelchair space, which they should be, but they aren’t required to do much more than that, and that leaves people with different kinds of disabilities in limbo.

For instance, take the front row. Who can stand to sit there? Why do they even have a front row? If you’re unlucky enough to get there when the theater is full, and the only seat that is left is in the front row, you’re in for an agonizing 2 hours, especially if you have chiari. At that point, I would just leave. It’s not like you could go up to somebody and be like “could you give up your seat? I have an issue with my skull.” Yelling that over the previews would just be too awkward.

Most of the time, I make it a point to get there in decent time, so I can pick a good seat. I don’t mind the back row, sometimes I prefer it. I try to sit in the center of the row so I’m not turning my head to see the screen head-on for the duration. keeping my head in a turned position for longer than a few minutes gives me an instant headache. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have my driver’s license, because I can’t look over my shoulder.

Sitting for long periods is always aggravating to chiari. It puts a lot of strain on my already-vulnerable neck and shoulder muscles. I always get a headache about halfway through the movie. I sometimes take preventative painkillers or muscle relaxers before the movie but it doesn’t always work. Sitting absolutely upright for a few hours is just bad for some reason. I find myself leaning my face on my fist to alleviate the chiari discomfort, but that always aggravates my trigeminal nerve, which can be excruciating. Halfway through the movie I feel like I start getting the “I can’t wait for this to be over” feeling, even if the movie is great. It sucks when you’re sitting there and you feel it coming on. You get a pulse in the back of your head. You feel like your brain is beating like a heart against your skull, which it actually is, since spinal fluid pulses with your heart. Your neck muscles tighten, then your back muscles, into burning knots. The back of your head gets full of “pressure” which can be likened to sinus pressure. Then the pain starts to wrap around to the front of your face. It goes into your jaw, ear, and eyebrow.

When I’m at home watching a movie, I have the luxury of lying on my side on the couch, which will eventually bother me too, but it’s so much more comfortable, and I can usually watch a whole movie like that without much of a problem.

In certain theaters, the sound is too loud. The theater in my area has imax, and if your theater room is next to the imax theater, you won’t be able to hear your own movie because the imax speakers are too loud. This is always a good headache starter, and makes it a lot less fun if you already have a headache.

I’ve gotten to the point where the pain is so bad from sitting, that I cringe at the thought of going to the movie theater. I still go, it’s the kind of rebellious person I am, but I notice now that I concern myself with how long a movie is.

On a side note, I wish they offered more at the snack bar that was sick-people-friendly. They post signs all over that say “no outside food or drinks”, and they don’t really enforce it, but it seems unfair. I’m not a diabetic, but I have bad reactions to large amounts of sugar, and sometimes salt as well. If you can name something that would be safe for me to eat from the movie theater, I’ll stand on my head for ten minutes.

That being said, I’m a big “food-sneaker-inner.” I have to do it, and if they ever give me a hard time about it, I’ll just tell them about my health problems and ask them if they want a lawsuit. So far though, no one has ever looked in my bag or noticed my giant bottle of water that I bring in.

Plus, who wants to pay four bucks for a handful of candy anyway? 

It would be nice if one day I could comfortably enjoy a movie on the big screen. In the mean time, I’ll just deal with it. It’s most definitely not going to stop me from seeing Iron Man 3, so suck on that, chiari.