A nurse’s struggle: The medical community and the public need education about chronic pain

Contributed by: Gail
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, December 2011

[Gail is 43, married, and lives in Tennessee.]

I injured my lower back while working as a RN at 31 yrs old. I’ve been in constant severe pain now for 12 yrs in my lower back and down both legs. Never in my worst nightmare did I dream that  I would be told that I would be spending the rest of my life in pain, that I couldn’t have children because of the stress and strain on my back plus all the meds would affect the baby.

The 1st Dr. worker’s comp. sent me to was an orthopedic surgeon who after 2-3 visits said when I requested a MRI,” I was too young to have seriously hurt my back.” He was blowing me off and I immediately went to human resources and requested to go to my own pick of Dr. to get a second opinion which they allowed.

Conservative measures were tried – everything from physical therapy, braces, steroid shots, facet injections, IDET, multiple other procedures and multiple medications. Surgery was never an option according to multiple opinions, and I was told that I was going to be in pain the rest of my life and I needed to change the way I did things to prevent more pain (no lifting, pushing or pulling over 10 lbs). I was sent to a pain specialist who I went to for several yrs and then he closed his practice. I was sent to another pain specialist who I don’t like as much and I wish I could have stayed with the 1st pain Dr. or find another Dr. that I feel more comfortable with but worker’s comp. refuses to let me change Drs. which is incredibly frustrating for me.

Every day has been a struggle. I can’t work and have applied for disability over a yr. ago and am in the appeal process. I’ve lost everything I had – money, career, friends, self-esteem. I’ve been stressed, anxious, worried and depressed. My strength is gone, I now have fibromyalgia, I’ve gained a huge amount of weight and nothing seems to go my way.

I have to take each day as it comes; hour by hour. My faith in God and my loving husband are the only things that are seeing me through this. My husband has to do most of the household chores and shopping. I hate that he has to work and then come home and do most all the household tasks and errands. It makes me feel so bad that he has to do so much. There are times I just break down and cry. Every day, multiple times a day I ask God for strength to handle the pain and for Him to take away the pain. I don’t have any miracles or happy ending – just a struggle to keep my head above water.

You would think by 2012 that we would have more research and knowledge about pain and how to relieve it and have better meds with less side-effects. It’s amazing how little education there is for the medical community about chronic pain. They need education as does the public – put it out there like fibromyalgia so people everywhere can read in newspapers , magazines, etc about chronic pain and how it affects people.

We as chronic pain sufferers need to educate ourselves about our own conditions so we can educate our families and friends about chronic pain. There are several other websites devoted to chronic pain which include education about pain, different tools and resources you can use. The American Pain Foundation is one of those and it helps to educate the public and law makers. It helps to pass legislation that with our support influences those in power to help change laws that will help us. Only when we join together and speak out will things change.


[painACTION editorial note: There are national organizations that provide support for people living with chronic pain, through their websites, telephone links, and groups that meet in many communities. Check out The American Chronic Pain Association (www.theacpa.org) The American Pain Foundation (www.painfoundation.org) and the U.S. Pain Foundation (www.uspainfoundation.org).


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