Chronic pain isn’t something that I mention very often on my blog. In fact, I didn’t realise that what I had was actually classed as chronic pain until last year. You see, I’ve been suffering with a ‘bad back’ since my first year of university in 2010 and was told it was sciatica. Sciatica is a symptom though and not a cause of the problem – I was told that my sciatica was caused by a slight scoliosis or curvature of the spine. It wasn’t until after I’d pushed for an MRI scan in December 2016 and got a diagnosis of a prolapsed disc, that I realised that this was going to be something that I would have to deal with forever.
I was inspired by Identities to share my story.
2010 – 2012
Although I had many visits to the doctors when my back first started hurting, nobody really did anymore than lift my tshirt up and prod my spine a little bit. A doctor told me that as a female, I was ‘too young’ for an x-ray at the age of 20. I was given a repeat prescription for NSAIDs and painkillers (Naproxen and Cocodamol) and just got on with it. In 2012, I visited a chiropractor who told me I had flat feet and that orthotics would help. A podiatrist gave me orthotics to put inside my shoes, which should have helped. I wore the orthotics in my shoes everyday until one got stolen out of my locker at work (yes, really!) and I couldn’t afford to get a new pair. This didn’t really make much difference and I still found that once a year or so, the pain would be awful.
In 2013, I was getting the train home from Birmingham when my back went. I’d just pulled into Lichfield and I stood up to get off the train when it happened. Luckily, the train was terminating at that station so I took my time getting off. I had to call my dad who was waiting in the car park and ask him to come up and carry my bag. This meant that I spent the next couple of days in bed unable to move any further than the toilet. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sympathy from the people I was working with at the time. I’d just started seeing a new guy and they thought I’d called in sick to spend time with him.
In August 2015, I was staying in Winchester and woke up in the morning to find that I had a horrible pain in my left buttock. I really struggled to walk that day and I had to travel back home on the train via London. The pain got worse over the next few days and it made sitting down difficult. I ended up going to the hospital to get checked out and the doctor told me it was just my sciatica and to carry on with my meds. I spent a couple of days dosed up in bed with a hot water bottle on my back. The people I worked with, again, didn’t believe me. This time around, I was working in an office with a HR department but they didn’t care at all. They told me I couldn’t go home (despite not being able to sit down) until I’d worked through my inbox. I felt like nobody really believed me. On the outside I looked like your average fit and healthy 25 year old.
In 2016, my back went again in March. I was working at an estate agents and my colleagues had all been told that we had to go out canvassing, so I’d spent an afternoon sticking leaflets through letterboxes. I’m not sure if all of the bending over and carrying leaflets caused the pain, but it certainly didn’t help. I woke up the morning after in agony again, unable to move. When I called my boss to say I couldn’t make it into work (which was the first time I’d called in sick there), he suspiciously asked where I was and then was really funny about the fact that I was at my (ex) boyfriend’s flat. When I went back into work the next day, my colleagues all told me how they knew I was just spending time with my (ex) boyfriend. In reality he’d been at work all day and I was in his flat on my own. I spent the day standing up because I couldn’t sit down. All I wanted to do was go home but I couldn’t bring myself to get on a bus and then a train.
Towards the end of 2016, I realised I’d had enough of living in pain everyday and I booked a doctors appointment. This time, I booked it with a different GP who I’d never seen before. The new GP was really shocked and horrified to find out that I’d been in pain for so long. I’d been on strong painkillers for almost 7 years at this point. She organised an MRI scan for me which I had towards the end of December.
I got the results of my MRI scan in January 2017. I went back to the same GP who had referred me and she explained that I should see a surgeon. This absolutely terrified me as I didn’t want surgery. The GP told me that I had a prolapsed disc and referred me to a surgeon at Burton Hospital. The surgeon could see me in March and when I got there, I was told that surgery wasn’t an option. As the prolapsed disc had been undiagnosed for so long, it had healed itself (in the wrong position) and surgery wouldn’t help. The surgeon referred me to a pain clinic and suggested physiotherapy in Derby.
I got my appointment through for the pain clinic in Derby and it just so happened that the day of my appointment, my back was really bad again. The specialist that I saw at Derby Hospital was so unhelpful, he told me that they “couldn’t wave a magic wand” and “everyone suffers with back pain”. He advised me to keep taking my meds and carry on with my life. I left feeling deflated and upset. When I went into that appointment, I thought that there would be something they could do for me. I thought that I’d get to do some physiotherapy at least. It felt like the consultant patronised me and turned me away. That was when I realised that I would be dealing with this chronic pain for the rest of my life.
So, that’s where I am today. I have a diagnosis now, I know why I’m in pain everyday. Unfortunately, I also know that there’s no way around it. Although I don’t let it affect my life, I am always in pain and it can be debilitating at times. I don’t like telling people about it, or moaning when it hurts too much. As I don’t look disabled, don’t walk with a limp, have a wheelchair or walking aids I find people don’t believe me. When I sit down on public transport instead of standing, I worry that people are judging me. I won’t let this define me though, I am more than just chronic pain.
(Photo credit: Haydy)