Comments From A Chronic Pain Sufferer

“For four years I took the over-the-counter codeine-containing drug Mersyndol. I used to double the dose to cover the pain. After that I took a range of prescription opioids. I always had to make sure I had enough pain medication in the house. If I didn’t have enough I would panic at the thought of running out and not being able to control the pain. I was never told I could manage my pain without medication. I couldn’t stand how drowsy they made me feel but I was led to believe there was no alternative. I only learned about how to manage pain without medication after 30 years, when I attended a pain clinic. I would have had better outcomes if I had managed my pain differently from the start. I wouldn’t have stopped working at such a young age and I would have been more active and healthy.

There is still a lot of misunderstanding in the community about pain management, and it is very important people who want to stop taking opioids have the right support and the means to do so. I’ve had 22 surgeries in 35 years including two knee replacements, three hip replacements, three back surgeries, a shoulder replacement, pelvic bone transplants and surgeries in both feet. But I have arthritis and it is never going away. After my third back surgery in 2013 I landed in intensive care with horrific and uncontrollable pain. I was referred to the Greenwich Hospital Pain Clinic and completed a 10-week pain education course covered by Medicare. Since then, my life has completely changed. With the help of the pain clinic, I replaced medication with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and pacing my activities throughout the day. I find the concept of pain psychology fascinating. I can control the intensity at which I feel pain. I do this through distraction, meditation and visualisation. I’m committed to a multidisciplinary approach for pain management.

My pain management team, who I see weekly, involves a physiotherapist, nutritionist and pain psychologist. I do eight hours of pain management a week and exercise every day. I don’t take opioids, which is the hard road but it’s a better quality of life. Before I felt like I wasn’t contributing to this life because I was so consumed by my pain. Now I feel in control. Learning how to change my thought patterns has empowered me.”