September is International Pain Awareness Month. Now, I know that sounds like a bit of an unnecessary one. We all know pain is real, we know it exists, why does it need a month? Well, as someone living with chronic pain, there’s a lot that people DON’T KNOW, or assume instead of actually finding out. So, the hope of this International Pain Awareness Month is to inform, to educate and to hopefully bring a greater understanding to the larger population lucky enough to not directly experience chronic pain as to what we’re going through.
As a chronic pain patient, I spend my days willing the pain to feck off and find a new hobby. I’ve got discs bulging in my neck, lower back joints that decide when they want to play ball and unexplained pain in various other places. I’ve tried tonnes of therapies, medications, procedures and am still here, battling away and waiting for a day where I’ll wake up and magically be pain-free. I’ve realized that is unlikely to happen. When I said that to a doctor a year ago, when I was discussing my plans for returning to work, I was told it was an awfully negative outlook to have “for someone so young”. They saw my realism as a thing to count as a negative attitude instead of just deciding that it’s something I’ll have to figure out how to live with instead of in spite of. In contrast to that, it seems that the new wave of thought for pain management doctors is “pain acceptance”, where the patient is being told that instead of pursuing medical cures to their pain, that accepting it and finding holistic methods to deal with it and live with it are better options. This is being met with some opposition, in particular in the USA, where there is lots of talk about the growing opioid issue at the moment.