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Ruth Tickner

Ruth Tick­n­er describes how pain ‘crept up on her’ over the course of sev­er­al years and the blind alleys and frus­tra­tions she had to face before begin­ning to rebuild con­fi­dence in her body and faith in her future

Pain crept up on me. I have a sig­nif­i­cant mobil­i­ty impair­ment and a curved spine, but I had only expe­ri­enced the ran­dom aches and pains of walk­ing with an abnor­mal gait. How­ev­er, about 5 years ago I had the office win­ter cough and cold and while I was ill began to notice that my thumb joints had start­ed to hurt. I assumed this would stop once I got bet­ter but it did­n’t and in fact got worse.

 After many months I fol­lowed this up with the GP and a phys­io­ther­a­pist and had acupunc­ture reg­u­lar­ly to relieve the symp­toms. Look­ing back it seemed to be from that time onward I began to ‘chase’ short lived inflam­ma­tion sites around my body. Even­tu­al­ly it set­tled into stiff­ness in the low­er back which pro­gressed slow­ly but sure­ly over the next two years into a per­sis­tent and increas­ing pain in my left hip.

I tried phys­io­ther­a­py and took anti-inflam­ma­to­ry tablets for longer and longer peri­ods of time, which made lit­tle dif­fer­ence to the pain, but had trou­bling side effects. I found it par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult in the morn­ing as it hurt more then and I start­ed to go to bed lat­er and get up ear­li­er to try to keep on top of the dis­com­fort. I felt ever more fran­tic about my abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue nor­mal day to day activ­i­ties at work and at home. I became over-tired, very grumpy and lost weight.

 Each med­ical appoint­ment and refer­ral process with the GP and hos­pi­tal took weeks and result­ed in hard­ly any use­ful infor­ma­tion and no pos­i­tive improve­ment in my con­di­tion. Final­ly, through con­tact with an orthopaedic sur­geon – a friend of a friend – I was referred to a mus­cu­loskele­tal spe­cial­ist. He explained Myofas­cial Pain Syn­drome to me and some­how man­aged to con­vince me that I could some­day be well again.

It cer­tain­ly has not been a smooth ride over the last 18 months. I decid­ed that relent­less­ly keep­ing going had­n’t helped me in any way and I took extend­ed sick leave from my job – some­thing I had hoped nev­er to have to do. Slow­ly, over the months, the pain and my absolute ter­ror has sub­sided and I have regained some con­fi­dence in my body and faith in my future.

 Thank­ful­ly I have man­aged this with min­i­mal med­ical pro­ce­dures and my mus­cu­loskele­tal doc­tor has set me a chal­lenge for 2014 – I am to learn to breathe using my diaphragm and not my chest mus­cles. Shal­low breath­ing, he says, will have con­tributed to my thumbs hurt­ing in the first place!

My GP has always been sup­port­ive but in gen­er­al I have found inter­act­ing with the NHS frus­trat­ing. In fair­ness, I don’t think I was ever suf­fi­cient­ly clear about either the effect of the pain on me or what I would like to see done about it. I am sure I would approach the same sit­u­a­tion very dif­fer­ent­ly next time. I under­stand pain to be a com­plex con­di­tion but I am cer­tain that my expe­ri­ence would have been less dis­tress­ing and prob­a­bly resolved more sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly if there were spe­cial­ist pain con­sul­tants avail­able to offer sup­port from an ear­ly stage.


Shirley Godwin

Ruth, I found your arti­cle very inter­est­ing. I have hd sim­i­lar prob­lems and whill this week be vis­it­ing a pri­vate con­sul­tant, in the hope he can help me with pain man­age­ment of my arthritis.

I par­tic­u­lar­ly agree with the notion that there should be more sup­port for pain man­age­ment from an ear­ly stage in these type of conditions.

I wish you well for the future.

Kind regards Shirley

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