On 7th April, the announcement came from that The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), would now offer a new range of treatments for sufferers of chronic primary pain and called upon healthcare professionals to recognise a person’s pain as valid and unique to the individual.
This news actually brought a tear to my eye! Well a proper sob if I’m honest… because it got me thinking back to just how dependant and addicted I once was to heavy medications for chronic pain and just how hopeless I felt at that point in my life.
The announcement goes on to say that treatment will now be expanded to a whole range of exercise programmes and the Psychological Therapies, CBT and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and includes Acupuncture as a recommended treatment.
Furthermore, it is recommended that people with chronic pain should not be started on common drugs including paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, benzodiazepines or opioids. There is simply little or no evidence that these drugs improve people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress, but they can in fact cause long term harm and addiction.
If I can take you back to before I had children, I was in such a desperate place. I was working only a handful of hours every week at a desk job and dreaded the suggestion of any training or travel which would require me to sit ‘still’ for any length of time.
I couldn’t go to the cinema unless I adjusted my prescribed medication to allow me to sit in one spot for an hour and a half. I would dread driving even into town, as getting into and out of the car was just excruciating.
I felt that life was passing me by. My friends and family were getting on with their lives and I was being left behind and I couldn’t see how it was ever going to get any better.
I desperately wanted to start a family, but I couldn’t even entertain the thought while still dependant on daily heavy medication. This pattern over a decade left me feeling hopeless.
Although I hated that I was reliant on the medication, at the same time I felt grateful for it. Despite the side effects, the dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and agitation, I still believed that I couldn’t function without it and my body would start to tremble and unravel when it wasn’t topped up in my system.
I hope that gives you a little insight into the soul destroying physical and emotional pain, that was my life at that time. When I went to the GP in absolute desperation, it was only then that I was introduced to the Pain Management Clinic Programme.
For the first time, I was entered into a pain management programme that considered both the physical and emotional sides of pain and from this I was offered my first acupuncture treatment.
From the very first session I noticed an immediate difference. It’s hard to explain, but I felt lighter. Emotional relief followed and then as the treatments continued the physical pain itself started to lessen. I was startled at the incredible improvement, as by this point I genuinely and wholeheartedly believed there was no light at the end of this tunnel.
When my sessions finished, I could see such a positive improvement that I paid for a private course of treatments and never looked back – in fact, years later as you all know, I trained in Acupuncture myself!
I had hope again and with continued acupuncture sessions I managed to seek out a physiotherapist who specialised in Pilates. She later joked about how scared she felt seeing me hobble up her driveway. To the point she was unsure if she could treat me given my vulnerable state. But thank God she took pity on me and took me on. We started with tiny exercises and movements and eventually after much work and improvement I was able to join her mainstream Pilate’s class
Now I practice my own yoga and Pilates stretches daily at home and I can go for walks again. Something I could never have imagined possible back then, in fact I wouldn’t even have dared hope.
But for me, the crucial factor here is that I became drug free! Acupuncture freed my body from pain, flooding it with fresh, oxygenated, nourishing blood and releasing the muscles and tendons that once held me so tight with fear. Beforehand I was numbed by medication, the natural pain relieving, feel good hormones and chemicals released in my brain allowed me to bit by bit, reduce the meds until eventually I was off them completely.
I then accessed talking therapy, CBT and sessions with a psychologist as I had terrible Post Traumatic Stress and after years of severe pain. I had a lot of fear and vulnerability to work through.
The reason I’m sharing the ins and outs of my story with you?
Take a moment and imagine how different it would be if at the very start of my pain journey, I was offered the acupuncture, talking therapy and exercise programme INSTEAD of or even ALONGSIDE the medication. I genuinely believe I would never have had to sink to the depths of despair that I did. If I had been given these alternatives rather than just years and years of heavy medications, how different my story could have been?
That hazy, drugged up decade of my life could have been so much brighter and I would have been spared an incredible amount of heartache. But, I also believe very strongly that our paths are laid out before us and that there was a reason for me to go through and experience all that I did. For one, I have no doubt that it makes me a better acupuncturist, as I truly understand what my client’s go through. I truly appreciate and embrace the ‘sparkly bits’ in life that I see so many other people turn a blind eye to. So for that I am incredibly grateful. Some days I just look at my 3 kiddies and could almost burst with gratitude and joy!
I sincerely hope this announcement from NICE will pave a new path for those suffering with chronic pain. It gives me so much renewed hope and belief in our system.
Please know that if you are currently suffering with chronic pain that there is hope out there. Our bodies are amazing and they are designed to heal. It can feel absolutely hopeless and miserable at times, I get that… but please hold on. Find a therapy and a therapist that you feel comfortable with, talk to your GP, head over to my website www.hopehealthhealing.co.uk and check out the Chronic Pain Page there and let me send you my top tips for shifting pain.
Just don’t give up, reach out and trust that there’s a better way out there x