A First Hand Account of Chronic Pain

  1. Please describe the nature of your chronic pain (how did it come to be, what type of pain it is, how long you have had it).

“The first experience of my chronic pain was when I was 20. I gradually began feeling tightness and sharp pain behind my knees while walking or standing. Shortly afterwards, I started getting a sharp stabbing pain in my upper back when doing anything repetitive. Over time, despite my best efforts to resolve these issues, they only became worse in severity. I also developed many additional symptoms including pain, tightness, or other discomforts in my neck, face, hands, mid-back, and shoulders. Now, nine years later, the only positions or activities that aren’t likely to aggravate my pain are lying down, sleeping, or sitting in a reclined position. Although I initially wasn’t sure what the root cause of my pain was and explored many possibilities, I am now confident that it first began due to biomechanical adaptations due to the type of work I was doing at the time.”


  1. How does your chronic pain affect your personal life (daily abilities, emotions, and thought processes)?

“My chronic pain has been a constant presence for nine years. I’m not sure if there has been a single day in this span that I haven’t thought about it. I have only been able to work part-time for most of this time, and due to the nature of my symptoms getting worse over time, my pain has for a long time felt as if it is “life-threatening” – that if something doesn’t drastically change or improve, I will eventually be unable to work or support myself at all. Even simple things like carrying groceries or having to wait in line anywhere are enough to aggravate my pain and potentially shift my mood. I think that having this on my mind constantly affects my ability to focus and remember things. I have noticed that I have better recollection of events that happened ten years ago than I do of those that occurred more recently, after being in pain for years. I have a passion for health, fitness and challenging physical activity, so being hindered in pursuing those has been very frustrating. I have settled for more sedentary activities many times and while I have been satisfied and enjoyed myself sometimes, I have rarely experienced the passionate energy that I had when I was pushing myself physically.”


  1. How does your chronic pain affect your social life including friends and family?

“Throughout my experience with chronic pain I have felt unsupported by doctors and family and had become resentful of them. Although I generally got along well with my siblings, I saw them building their families, going on vacations, and advancing in life – while I was struggling in pain every day at work and lacking money to seek treatment I thought might help. I felt that they didn’t take my situation seriously. I wanted to be positive and happy despite my pain, but I thought if I did this around my family they would think my situation was even less of an issue. I didn’t want this, so I ended up slowly hanging out with my family less and less. I have taken steps to rebuild our relationship and it is better, but we are still far from close. For the first seven years of having pain, I was so focused on trying to “fix it” before doing anything else, and  I didn’t try to make new friends or date. I didn’t think I could date anyone because they wouldn’t know the “real me” until I was doing all the things I was passionate about. In the past two years I have let go of these self-imposed restrictions. I have made plenty of new friends and been on dates, but I still have a hard time imagining myself in a relationship when I continue to work less and am under increasing financial stress.”


  1. Has your chronic pain led to any mental health co-morbidities such as depression, anxiety or insomnia? If so, how have you managed to alleviate these mental health afflictions?

“There have been times when I have felt anxious and unable to sleep due to stress, but it is usually brief and I would not call it insomnia. I have experienced symptoms of depression at times but they seem almost completely dependent on my financial situation and outlook for the future. I’m usually in a good mood as long as I have something to look forward to – like unexpected money from a tax refund that I can use for treatment or the possibility of being able to go back to school for a better job. The worst I have felt emotionally has been at a time when my employment insurance ran out, I was in too much pain to work more than one day per week, and I had used up all sources of credit available to me.”


  1. How do you try to manage to maintain a healthy lifestyle with your pain (including eating, exercise, hobbies/interests, work, sleep)?

“I have never felt like I have had much stability in my life in the past nine years. There has been periods of time where I had an exercise schedule that I adhered to and a healthy, consistent diet, but it never lasts too long before I experience a bad day at work, a new or worsening symptom of pain, or some financial crisis that interrupts the things that were going well in my life. Writing lists of what I wanted to achieve in a day has had some success, but it also can be a source of stress if followed too strictly.”


  1. What have you tried to help alleviate your chronic pain (eg physio, acupuncture, medications, etc) and how successful have these treatments been?

“I have tried the following:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Personal Training with a Kinesiologist
  • Chiropractic
  • Active Release Technique
  • Naturopathic Consultation
  • Massage Therapy
  • Prolotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Intramuscular Stimulation
  • Trigger Point Injections
  • Rolfing/Structural Integration
  • Self-myofascial release
  • TENS machine
  • Topical creams/ointments
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Meditation
  • Counselling
  • Marijuana
  • OTC Medication (Naproxen, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen)
  • Antidepressants (Cipralex, Cymbalta)
  • A large variety of supplements
  • An anti-inflammatory diet (“paleo”)

For me, nothing has alleviated my pain in a way that would allow me to work full-time and participate in activities as I did before. Regular exercise tends to have me feeling slightly better physically and a lot better emotionally, but it is extremely difficult to maintain any kind of consistency with that when work causes me so much pain. Sometimes I get home from work and lie down to rest, but I still feel the consequences of pushing through a particularly hard day at work days, weeks, or even months later. I don’t use painkillers at work because when I have in the past, I ended up doing more than I would have otherwise and felt worse when I stopped taking them. NSAIDs do very little for my pain right now. Smoking marijuana provides almost instant relief of a lot of my pain but I dislike how little I am able to do afterwards. I usually only use it at night before bed. I felt better overall and had more energy on an anti-inflammatory diet, but it didn’t seem to affect my pain. Anti-depressants didn’t seem to affect my pain much and had undesirable side-effects, but I only used them for a short time. Physical treatments like chiropractic and massage often leave me feeling better that day and maybe a couple days afterwards, but have provided no long-term relief for me. I meditated daily for a couple months and see a lot of potential in doing that regularly, but have not been able to be consistent with it.”


  1. What advice can you give to someone suffering from chronic pain, who may also have co-existing mental health afflictions?

“I’ve had chronic pain for nine years, and for the first seven I focused only on trying to heal myself physically. When I started doing activities just for fun that had no link to trying to improve my pain situation, I experienced more relief from my pain that from any of the expensive treatments I had received over the years. Sometimes I felt less or no pain when I otherwise would have expected to, and other times the pain was as bad as ever physically but the enjoyment I was getting out of life made it more bearable. The importance of fun and quality of life in pain management became very apparent to me. I would advise someone suffering from chronic pain and other afflictions to, if possible, do things that bring them joy on a regular basis because it makes the time in between much more purposeful. It is easier said than done sometimes. I have found myself in ruts where I was skipping out on doing things I knew had made me feel better in the past, because of the pain I was in currently, but when I did go out and do these things I rarely regretted it. Another thing I would advise is to educate one’s self as much as possible on what they are dealing with. I’ve been to see many, many different health professionals and the ones that have made the biggest changes in my lifestyle are the ones that communicate with me as an equal and are willing to answer any questions I have (and ask their own). I need to do research and exploration on my own to have these questions, however.”

Written By Sandy Baptie

Spam prevention powered by Akismet