Learning To Manage Chronic Pain

I’ve suffered with chronic pain in my back for the last two years, since an incident during my pregnancy with E. It has had a large effect on my life and has made me look at how I do things in a different way. Having read “Pain Free Living” a few months back, I was introduced to the existence of Chronic Pain Ireland, a charity which helps people like me, who are living with chronic pain, providing supports.


I saw that a course was being held in Cork, in St Dominic’s Retreat Centre, Montenotte on the 14th of May – the second part of a two part course. Having missed the first one, I questioned as to whether or not I would benefit from such a course – a three hour seminar – and was advised that while it would be a good idea to start the course with part one, that attending the second one first would do no harm. So I signed up, thrilled to see something like this in my area, and free to boot. What harm could it possibly do?

Off I went to the course, having left my voice behind somewhere in my sleep overnight. Mortified at my squeaking, I hoped it wasn’t a majorly discussion based group, and was thrilled to see it consisted mostly of presentations which were interesting and educational. Led by John Lindsay, Chairperson of Chronic Pain Ireland, today’s session covered the very important topic of Pacing, as well as alternative therapies and management mechanisms.

During the coffee break, I (squeakily) introduced myself to a couple of the girls I was sitting near, and was heartened to feel like, as one of them said, “one of the gang” – here my pain didn’t differentiate me from others, that was what we had in common. It was great being able to talk and listen to others talking about their experience. Chronic pain can be extremely isolating – even when you’re surrounded by people, no matter how understanding and supportive they can be, it can be difficult to feel like they actually understand especially when they’ve not (thankfully) experienced it themselves. It made a big difference to not feel like it was just me, like it was all in my head – and we shared stories of how different healthcare professionals may have made us feel like we were making it up, that it was all a psychological thing. It’s a big problem with chronic pain – it’s treated as a symptom instead of a problem in it’s own right, and therefore when the cause doesn’t appear immediately it’s assumed that it’s an exaggerated condition. Unfortunately as with other invisible illnesses, it’s not easy to prove. In my experience, I’ve found that my need to tell MYSELF that it will all be fine, it will be grand, it’s not so bad to cope negatively impacts my interactions with healthcare professionals who are assuming that it’s the truth. Just because someone is putting a brave face on to save their own sanity, doesn’t mean that they’re not hiding their pain under that mask. It was wonderful to speak to others who knew exactly where I was coming from.

In the session, the concept of support groups for chronic pain was touted. However, experience has shown them that with chronic pain, it can be difficult to keep up momentum as participants who are being mindful of their limitations may drop away after a few weeks. This can cause the group to fizzle out, regardless of the motivation of the people in it – unfortunately some things just have to be let go in order to maintain good health.

I found the session really, really rewarding and have joined Chronic Pain Ireland as a member as to be kept informed of their future events – including guest speakers who are lined up for future visits which should be very interesting. I’m already looking forward to the next session later in the year. In the mean time, I’m really liking the new campaign they’re running on their website, My Pain Feels Like – a massive help when it comes to defining what kind of pain and what intensity it is for doctors. If I’d had this at the start of my journey through pain doctors, it would have saved a lot of hassle! Definitely worth a look if you, or someone you love, suffers from Chronic Pain.

If nothing else, today introduced me to this fantastic quote from Hippocrates, yes him of the medical oath wisdom.

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This is not a sponsored post, I was not asked by Chronic Pain Ireland to write anything about their Self Management courses, I was merely SO impressed by the one I attended that I feel that anyone else in my shoes really should get to try it for themselves.

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