I never thought that chronic pain would be my new normal. I hurt almost all the time. And when I don’t hurt it always surprises me and catches me off-guard. Drugs can control my inflammation and swelling but the constant aching and hurt never really go away.
Like so many diseases, chronic pain is just part of the package. Pain is almost always included in the deal.
That’s why when Canada AM did an interviewed with Lynn Cooper and Dr. Angela Furlan this week, I was so grateful. Grateful that people are starting to talk about the kind of pain that exists 24-7. The kind of pain that Tylenol or Advil laugh at, the kind that make getting through each day challenging.
Check out the Canada AM interview here: Chronic pain: With a plan, it is possible to live well
Ms. Cooper is the president of the Canadian Pain Coalition and because of an accident she has been living with chronic pain for 25+ years. She now suffers from fibromyalgia and migraines. Wow! That’s a whole lot of hurting for a long, long time. And yet she is well spoken, calm and appears comfortable. Can she really have chronic pain?
She said so many things that really hit home. She talks about being a really good patient always doing everything the doctors told her to do. Sometimes you think, if I do as I’m told, take the drugs I’m prescribed, then it was all magically go away. Years of being a guinea pig myself, I can say that isn’t the case when it comes to my pain.
Only after she realized and accepted that the pain was going to be part of her life, was she able to learn how to best manage it.
Dr. Furlan, helps explain the different kinds of pain. There is good and bad pain. Pain can be very useful when it's acting to alarm the system, when it's there to alert someone that something is wrong with the body, when it's telling you it may be time to seek medical attention.
But with bad pain, the alarm system is broken. She used the analogy of the alarm system in your home. Imagine someone is breaking into your house, and your home alarm realizes this and alerts you that danger is possible. The sirens go off, the police are notified. The impending break and enter has been averted. The alarm system did its job!
But what if, the alarm keeps going off and each time you check and double check but there is no reason for the alarm to go off. Something is wrong with the wiring or the sensors but there is no imminent danger. It’s just a big nuisance that keeps you up at night. This alarm (or pain) serves no purpose. It’s a “malfunction”. The repair people (health care professionals) look and look for a cause of the alarm but they never identify the problem. At least with your home you could get a new alarm system, or switch to a new provider or simply disconnect the system. But you can’t get a new body to stop the pain alarm from going off. Right?
Chronic pain is a broken pain system. The parts needed to repair it appear to be permanently "out of stock".
Ms. Cooper talks about the need to develop pain management plans, coping strategies, having a support system of family, friends and health care professionals and learning to prioritize and pace yourself so you can still do the things you love. She stresses that you must “do something that gives you joy, each day”.
Hmm... could she be counting her spoons?
She ends the interview by saying something so important. “You would look at me right now and not know that I am in pain but I am. Yes I am, very much in pain.” Remember how I said how calm, collected and poised she appeared? Looks can sure be very deceiving.
You can't see pain, but I can assure you it’s very real.