Hurt Blogger asked a question of her Facebook readers today regarding helping doctors to improve their understanding of patients experiencing chronic pain and why patients take opioid relief for chronic pain.
It did cross my mind that only someone who’s never really needed pain relief could ask the question why!
However (and despite not being in America where things are very different) it is a very relevant question, how to explain it to those who simply don’t have the same reference points?
I have chronic pain from RA. Because of this and what I’ve learnt over the past few months from fellow sufferers in the US I thank heaven I live in a country where I’m not treated as an addict for legitimately requiring effective pain relief to help me function. I will state here very clearly I feel that not having access to pain medication seems to be a common reality in the US and one that to me seems totally barbaric.
Until you’ve lived with chronic pain week in week out you can have no concept of how physically and psychologically wearing it is. Just how damn tired it makes you. How much you begin to resent your own body, the one thing you can’t run away from.
Pain that would send a ‘normal’ person to the ER becomes your daily baseline. Your definition of pain changes into something at once more tangible yet harder to explain. Pain becomes your constant companion, your nemesis and your whole reality. It just is.
Contrary to what most believe you become more careful about taking pain relief, not less, because of the constant concern that regular use means your body will build up a tolerance and at some point the meds you so desperately need will cease to function.
You wait until your pain becomes ‘really painful’ before reaching for your medication. You ration your own tablets so only on really bad days you actually take the maximum dose. You set yourself mini targets to get through before taking your meds, such as “I’ll just finish the shopping before I take the tablets” in spite of the fact that you’re in bloody agony.
I have run this past my GP, and she tells me to be kinder to myself, take the tablets, it’s what they’re there for! And part of me knows she’s right, yet still that fear of tolerance lingers, so I wait.
I am in the wonderful position though, thanks to our NHS, that I can simply ask my GP for a prescription for Tramadol and it’s written. I suppose if was I using too quickly or something there would be questions, but my GP knows me and knows that I need them. And for that I am indescribably grateful.