Chronic Pain, can you overcome it?

Being diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder is not a joke and can be debilitating and very distressing.  You feel completely alone, with no hope, wishing your life could be different, imagining how things would be if you didn’t have this and let’s not forget, the endless searches on the internet on what remedies, exercises and sheer miracles will help you to get through this and even overcome it, right?

The thing is, you are the only one who can take action and work towards recovery.  BUT, HOW? You’ve tried so many things, different practitioners all with conflicting advice and its confusing, right?!  Well, I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but this is my story and I hope that I am able to help, because this is the reason I am writing this.  Its not for financial gain, or anything else, I just hope this helps anyone who reads this and that will be my reward.

Your chronic pain is unique to you, it could have started with an injury many years ago that you thought you recovered from completely. It might be the result of bad posture, muscles that are overworking due to others not activating when they’re supposed to; you just don’t know until you get an accurate evaluation,

One day, I woke up and I couldn’t get out of bed, for no other reason but that every movement I made caused me the most excruciating pain in my lower back.  I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary the day before so, this was a very new situation I found myself in.  Eventually, I did get up and even made it to work, thinking it would go away, but, I lasted all of 15 minutes before I was in a taxi on the way home.  I went for my first Chiropractic treatment and that gave me enormous relief!  From then on, I stuck to that, even considered myself on a ‘maintenance plan’ and that worked for me for a few years. That was 15 years ago and things have gotten a little worse.. 

Having a life where I was completely incapacitated every 4 weeks, for up to 7 days at a time, is incomprehensible, but it happened to me last year, for 8 long months! I have pretty much tried EVERYTHING!  From visualisation techniques, Bowen Therapy, Meditation, Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Remedial Massage, Yoga, Pilates, to even changing to an Alkaline-forming diet!  With no change. More extreme treatments such as Prolotherapy, helped for a short time, but let’s face it, if any of these things did help me, I wouldn’t be here writing this. All practitioners have told me over the years is that I need to get movement into the joints and muscles, however, when I’m in a flare-up, movement makes it worse! What works for me is just to get into a comfortable position and sleep – for 3, 5 or up to 7 days, dependent on how bad it is. Then when I was able to move and resume normal function, I became too scared to do anything like going to the gym in case I cause a flare-up and resulting in being unable to work! But (if you didn’t know), not exercising actually exacerbates muscle atrophy and therefore, makes your chronic pain worse! What a vicious cycle!! SO, what do you do?

I actually considered SURGERY.  I was at my wits end and felt like there was no other choice. I spent money I didn’t have on an expensive MRI, which proved that surgery was not necessary as the physical structures showed no reason to pursue this. I was devastated – so surgery wasn’t going to help, nothing I had tried in the past helped, so, what was I going to do?! I had no idea what was next, all I DID know, was that I was not going to let this control my life.  This condition had already taken so much away from me and it was time that I took it all back! I prayed for help and it came. I saw an Osteo who I hadn’t seen in ages and when I did, he did his best but looked at me and said “you really need to do something about this, I feel like this is a band-aid situation”. He was right, I had found the practitioners whose techniques made me feel better, but I wasn’t getting better. The relief was very short-lived. He referred me to an Exercise Physiologist, who I call ‘The Wizard’.

The best advice, above all though, is what I was told at the very beginning: “don’t focus on the goal (as in what I wanted to achieve in the future), but to focus on the process”. This snippet of information has been invaluable in my recovery! Mainly because when you focus on your goals, you put pressure on yourself to achieve them in a certain timeframe, which may or may not be achievable, giving rise to negative self talk if you don’t get there. Whereas, when you focus on the process, you notice small wins every day, every week and that gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment and before you know it, you’re pushing yourself more and achieving goals that were thought to be impossible when you started! The prognosis was simpler than I thought, I had muscle imbalances. By no means has it been easy, its been about consistency, dedication and commitment every day over a 9 month period and I’m still working on it! At least there’s no surgery or anything drastic on the cards. ‘The Wizard’ has an intricate knowledge of pain and the perception of pain in/by the body.  At first, It was all about tricking my body into believing that certain movements, etc, were ok and would not cause pain. Utilising strapping tape to (again) trick the body into feeling that the area of concern was, in fact, stable.  Constant, very specific exercises to my own imbalances & weaknesses and maintaining a routine on my part has been integral. 

4 weeks ago, after having to re-learn how to walk properly so as not to have pain when I went for a walk, I mapped out a 5km walk and had a good result.  Meaning I didn’t have to stop and sit and wait for muscle spasms to subside and I was pain free afterward (except for the normal muscle stiffness from exercise).  Today, I walked 10km! Needless to say, I was nervous about it beforehand and I was trying to find an excuse to get out of it, but I went anyway and it was absolutely amazing! All I do know right now is that I am going to be sore tomorrow – but in the ‘normal’ way, not in agonising pain because I went out and did something active – WIN!! 

If you would like more info, please feel free to DM me at https://www.facebook.com/jeanine.mcdermott.9/

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