Torofy Blog

Depression and Heart Disease

How Can You Live Well with Chronic Pain?


Hi I’m Bronnie Lennox Thompson and my pain story is quite long-standing. Back when I was about 21, patient and I did
a tango in a doorway and he was bigger than me, and I landed underneath him and
that’s when my back pain started. It was about two or three years later when I had a lot of different treatments but I was still working, that I was sent
to the chronic pain service in Auckland New Zealand and there I was advised
those fateful words “I’m sorry there’s nothing more we can do for you” and my
heart just broke a little, which I can laugh about now. Then he said this, is Dr
Mike Butler who’s a Rheumatologist in Auckland (he’s now retired) and he said
to me “read this book” and he showed me Melzack and Wall’s “The Challenge of Pain” which was just amazing. What it showed me was that my pain
wasn’t about damage, but what it didn’t show me was how to live well with the pain so I had to do that myself. So that’s how I’ve sort of worked it out over the years with my occupational therapy background and because I knew that this wasn’t harming
me that I could just get on and live. You know, if this is as good as it’s
going to get then I’m gonna get as much as I can get, and just learn how to live
well. So that’s kind of my story, it’s not why I got into working in pain
management, I did vocational rehabilitation and many of the people I
was seeing had chronic pain as their primary problem and so I got intrigued
with what this thing is that we call pain and how it affects people. So I think Dr Google is
probably the first place that people look for information but they if they’re looking for other information then most people will absorb what their family does, what the
opinions of their health professionals are and then they acquire information from
magazines and just the general culture around them. That gives them a
certain background understanding about pain and then with their own pain
(particularly as time goes on) there’s a process that I discovered in my PhD that
people do things, and from that begin to this develop this predictive approach to their pain where they say “well, if I do this, then that’s what my pain will do, if my pains like
this and I do that, I can expect that to happen” and that seems to be a an
internal working out process and I don’t think many clinicians actually walk
people through that process. I think it’s about developing your own
personal picture or model of your pain so that might mean things like when I’m
feeling this way (feeling sad or stressed or happy) that helps me know how much my pain is going to bother me and I can look at certain activities and
movements and mood states that might influence my pain. I’d want to know
what kinds of activities that I do are going to set my pain off so
there are some things that I’m reluctant to do because I know the effect is going
to be long-standing and then there are other things that more “I can’t put my
finger on what’s set my pain off” and I think those are the ones, the
unpredictable nature of pain that makes it difficult and trip people up. I don’t
know that there’s any shortcut, its just noticing what happened, and not just
at the moment and not just thinking of your physical movements which is
often the thing that people think about like “I moved wrong and that’s why I’m sore” but thinking about those other things like “I’m tired” or “I’m really bored” or “I
actually don’t like doing the vacuum cleaning” “Why would I want to do that, oh
and THAT’s why my pain is really playing up”. So it’s a collection of all those
experiences, as well as the formal knowledge that people tell me that
helped make up a picture of “this is my pain” and this is how it affects me and it’s
so unique to each person’s experience context, and the things that set their
pain off are so unique and we as health professionals need to recognize
that.

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