This Week is National Pain Week in Australia
"One in five Australian adults suffers from chronic pain. As well as posing large costs for the healthcare system, the human cost on individuals and families is also significant." Dr Christine Bennett, Chair, Medical Advisory Panel, Bupa Australia
More women suffer from chronic pain than men (though men make more fuss). Joking aside, trying to live with pain is debilitating both on oneself and on those around. As a yoga instructor of 30 years, it was a little embarrassing to have required a double hip replacement seven years ago. Before the op, pain had reduced me to life in a wheelchair.
The pain was not just in my hips and back - it was spread over every aspect of my life. My relationships with my family suffered tremendously due to my inability to focus on anyone except myself and my pain. Sleep was fitful and I awoke tired every day. The only positive thing to come out of the experience was realising the depth of my wife's compassion as she had to put up with me.
Pain changes us. It makes us self-absorbed. It turns us into unwilling victims. We suffer doubly, both physically and mentally. Triply, with embarrassment at having to be looked after. Pain turns us into unwilling Buddhists contemplating Life as Suffering.
Although the awareness of pain has multiplied over the last fifty years, the medical treatment (see previous post) has hardly changed at all. With nearly 50000 people dying from opioid and heroin pain relievers in 2014 in the USA while in Australia 80% of overdose deaths involve prescription pharmaceuticals. This is more than double the road toll. Of further concern is the fact that there are virtually no studies on the effects of long-term use.
I am not going to use this platform to trumpet the potentials of transdermal magnesium as an alternative to prescription drugs for chronic pain (not today anyway). My post-op routine involved Oxycontin and Endone for two weeks and I was grateful for it. The side-effects were bad enough that I stopped taking it as quickly as I could bear.
What is clear is that SOMETHING needs to happen in the prescribing of opioid drugs for pain. Already, this is causing a 'civil war' amongst the medical community.
So seven years later I am walking and running around and have no more pain in my body. My hip replacements were a Godsend both to myself and my family. I never forget the chronic pain I was suffering and I feel a deep sense of gratitude each time I walk up a flight of stairs or get out of a car. May you too, and all your loved ones be freed from suffering.
It is perhaps an interesting synchronicity that today I took a phone call from a Gypsy Barrett. Her story was heartbreaking and related to her being sole carer of her 26 year old daughter Mollie, who has been suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) for several years. The medical response has been to find something to stop her screaming with the pain. Very little appears to have any effect. Our call was for over 30 minutes but I will put up an edited version (with permission) soon. Gypsy is trying to raise funds to get her daughter to Dr Teo, a neurosurgeon in Sydney.
Our Facebook page this week will be mainly articles around pain-relief. Do let us know if you have had some positive experiences.