A short reflection on pain

Please indulge me for a moment while I unload…

I am currently in pain. In fact, I have been in almost constant pain probably for over a year now. If I wasn’t sure what ‘chronic pain’ meant… I am now!

I have had on/off lower back pain for quite a few years, including a period of quite intense spasm which left me walking with a stick for a month or so back in 2018. My wonderful physio helped me out of that, and I have some ‘go to’ exercises and routines to ease that pain when it occurs. Since then, I have also had short bouts of sciatic pain, more lower lumbar pain, and more recently constant pain in my right hip.

Sleeping is a nightmare. Lying on my side is painful, yet I can’t sleep on my back. If I move whilst asleep, the pain often wakes me up. When I get out of bed in the morning, rather than feel refreshed I feel stiff and it takes me a few minutes to stop hobbling. The same is true when I get up after sitting (which my job requires quite a lot, being desk based). I am aware that my gait has gone from being balanced to ‘wobbly’. When I look back at how much and how far I walked during the Covid lockdowns, it makes me sad because I can’t walk for more than about half an hour at a time these days. I’m reluctant to take painkillers; when the pain gets to levels that affect my ability to get on with the day the strength of painkiller that knocks it out almost knocks me out too… so I face the choice of pain or wooziness.

I have had X-rays, physiotherapy and holistic therapy. I have worn support belts, tried ice and heat therapies. I have read around the subject of chronic pain and how to manage it. The NHS website has advice on exercise (I am still walking the dog twice daily, have tried aqua aerobics and am doing a regular yoga class), pain relief, and meditation (this sometimes helps me to get to sleep if not stay asleep!) amongst other things.

I was struck by a sentence on the NHS website about the social effects of chronic pain. It reads: ‘Do not let pain mean you lose contact with people’. Further reading on this described how the psychological effects of pain often involved becoming less confident, withdrawing from socialising, not wanting to see friends or family. And it struck me that exactly this has begun to creep into my life… That where I used to see several different friends during a typical week, and make the effort to see my parents each weekend… I am not. Where I would instigate and enjoy regular long walks with friends, the fact that I can’t manage such walks at the moment has caused something of a breakdown in those ‘walking relationships’. Just as described on the website, I can see that I am frustrated and I am low due to the pain and due to my inability to do the things I used to do / want to do.

If you’ve been wondering if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth… now you know that I haven’t. I’m right here, trying to manage my pain. #learntobebrave

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