In German we have the idiom "doing handstands". It describes an unacceptably high amount of effort: The circumstances require it, but they themselves are considered unacceptable. Two examples:
Nowadays, pupils have such a short attention span that teachers need to do handstands to keep them engaged. - Pupils should not have such a short attention span; the fact that they have means something went wrong (e.g. in their upbringing).
Your API is so full of bugs that I had to do handstands to solve problem X (because I had to find workarounds for the bugs, but for the workarounds I had to use other API calls which were also buggy, so they required even more workarounds). - The API should not have that many bugs; the fact that it has means something went wrong (e.g. ever-changing unqualified programmers write it).
Some hints regarding the connotation of "doing handstands" in German as far as I know:
You never do them out of free will. You do them out of necessity if you want to achieve something that requires them, but there is always a negative feeling about this, even if just subtly.
They can be strenuous but they don't need to be. So doing handstands does not necessarily mean to work yourself to the point of exhaustion.
I am looking for an English equivalent.