Having experienced chronic pain for the last 20 years I was concerned to see new research which suggested that people in Britain are suffering in silence and needlessly missing out on healthcare services.
The research commissioned by Lloydspharmacy* to find out how people manage their pain and the impact it has on their life found that despite over three quarters (77%) of people saying they have suffered from chronic pain for 'years', almost half (47%) said that they aren't accessing regular support from their GP and over two thirds have never used a pain clinic or a support group for help.
As one of around 10 million chronic pain sufferers in the UK, I have first-hand experience of the impact pain can have both physically and emotionally. Also many members of my charity regularly tell me that chronic pain is dominating their life, affecting not only their social life and family time, but even their ability to hold down a job.
Despite this it appears that many of Britain's chronic pain sufferers remain reluctant to seek support that is available to them and that they are putting up with their condition. The statistics seem to support this fact. Just under a fifth (18%) of respondents who had not sought support for their chronic pain cited 'not wanting to bother healthcare professionals' as the reason; while over half (59%) appear to have given up, saying they 'didn't feel anything could be done' so it was 'better to just put up with it'.
For me, changing my mindset and realising that I was going to suffer with chronic pain for the rest of my life was the first step towards proactively managing my pain and realising that there was help available.
At the time I didn't realise that pain was something that could be managed and that there were places I could go for help. It was only when I changed my GP that I realised this was the case. One of his first questions was "have you been to a pain clinic?" "A what?" I said. I had no idea what he was talking about only to find that in the very hospital I had spent nearly six months in was one of the best pain clinics in the NHS! Frustrated and angry I went to my first appointment 'all guns blazing' and met a very pleasant consultant who calmed me down and then casually said "you do realise that your pain will be with you for the rest of your life?" I didn't and it was probably the most frightening moment of my life and I had worked in several dangerous situations.
From this point forward I realised that I needed to be proactive about my pain so I sought help, started to use pain management techniques and made lifestyle changes to minimise the impact. I still get 'flare ups' which are annoying and frustrating and I often curse my limitations, yet I am alive and enjoy life.
I have also turned these experiences into a positive by setting up the charity Action on Pain. My intention was to help others who would no doubt follow with similar symptoms. What started as a humble idea mushroomed into a vibrant national organisation that provides help and support for people affected by chronic pain.
I actively encourage people to seek out help - you may feel that there is little hope but it shouldn't have to be like that. By asking for support and advice you will be making a positive step towards improving your life.
*All research carried out by Opinion Matters between 22 and 29 October of over 1000 adults with chronic pain. Chronic pain suffers have been defined as: people who suffer from continuous long term pain that lasts for three months or more and/or pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing e.g. after an operation.