As I write this, I’m taking a day off work and am half asleep having dosed myself up on co-codamol. Welcome to the extremely un-glamorous world of chronic back pain, feat. hot water bottles and all of the baths.
Now, you might be thinking, “she’s 23, why is she talking about something only old fogeys should have?” In fact, I’m asking myself exactly the same question. Why, at 23, should I have to be taking a sick day because of something that happened over 4 years ago – especially when that ‘something’ is incredibly stupid!
Confession time: I didn’t hurt my back in some sporting injury (ha, fat chance!), or, thankfully, in a horrible accident. No, I’m just that unfit that I overstretched a muscle reaching behind my bedside cabinet for my phone charger. Try telling that to the 14-odd different doctors and therapists I’ve seen and not go red in the face!
Anyway, no matter how stupid and trivial the injury, the pain is still very much real, 4 years on. So, how do I go about dealing with a flare up when it happens?
First and foremost, I live by the rule of:
Self-care is so important in the case of chronic pain. If it makes it worse – stop doing it. At least for a while. In my case, this means taking a day away from my desk job, as I know a lot of solid computer work will aggravate it further and delay my recovery after a flare up. Several weeks is long enough, thank you very much, and anything I can do to speed it along is a godsend!
Leaving 2 jobs which involved a moderate amount of lifting and unsympathetic employers is the best thing I’ve ever done for my health. Granted, a desk job still isn’t the most ideal for my back, but it’s a damn lot better than being told I ‘had to do the same as everyone else’ – yep, those were the actual words that came out of my employer’s mouth, right before I got sent home early in agony. Being in a helpful and understanding environment is so helpful, and it’s much less daunting when you can ask for the help and support you need.
Secondly, and just as important – make sure that, as well as managing the pain, you’re also working toward a solution to make it begone for good. For so long, I gave up on going to the doctors because I could see no other options they could give me. I was being sent away with ‘painkillers and bed rest’ every time, even when I went in in agony in floods of tears. I kept going to the deep tissue therapist I’d been recommended, which does still help massively in the short term. However, I can’t afford to go regularly enough for it to make a real difference, and of course neither this or osteopathy are available on the NHS because ‘it’s a holistic therapy’. (Bollocks to that – these people are medically trained professionals and should be treated the same way as physiotherapists, in my humble opinion.) I digress.
Finding a doctor who actually listens instead of trying to find a quick-fix solution and get on with their jam-packed schedule (fair enough), and quickly comes up with a plan of action and suggestions for your treatment is essential. Additionally, I feel it’s important that they explain what you need to do and why. I have a serious phobia of blood tests and have avoided them like the plague because I couldn’t see how they would help me. Today, my doctor actually explained that this would help determine which specialist I need to see – that’s what we need to hear!
After 4 years of putting up with pain on an almost daily basis, I’ve learnt that you don’t have to simply put on a brave face and soldier on, as so many of us do. The only thing this will do is make it worse, and you need to think about what’s best for you and your health. If you feel you need help or time out, take it. It can save you a (literal) world of pain, and get you back to doing you!
If suffer from long-term pain and want someone to talk to, or have any tips of your own, please get in touch or leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!