If you read the words Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and you have no idea how to pronounce them or what they mean chances are you are in the majority. These words are only a couple of chronic illnesses leaving those suffering in persistent pain. What is chronic pain? Chronic pain is defined as “pain without apparent biological value that has persisted beyond normal tissue healing time” or in some cases, pain that has not healed or subsided within 3-6 months. Those with chronic pain can also have no evidence of tissue damage or biological reason. This is one of the factors that doctors find these diseases so difficult to diagnose. It could also be to do with the fact that doctors spend under 20 hours across all their years of medical training studying pain, unless it’s an area they are interested in and choose to educate themselves further.
It’s hard for most of us to imagine how it would be to live with persistent or intermittent chronic pain. The closest we have probably come to being able to relate is a broken bone. This really doesn’t compare at all, but it’s a starting point. When you break a bone, the pain is only a part of the problem. Then secondary effects that come alongside the pain can be even harder to come to terms with. The limitations of what you are now able to do; from simply your new range of movement to the impact at work and if you are even still able to do your job. The social activities you are no longer able to be a part of; swimming with friends, travelling on a new adventure. Chronic pain often brings with it a list of frustrations accompanied by loneliness and other valid feelings.
"Pain is unique to each individual"
When you break a bone, you most likely have a cast, crutches or some way of those around you identifying that you might be struggling. Those with chronic pain often don’t have the luxury of people knowing they maybe struggling, or even believing them. In the last few years, celebrities have spoken out about their battles with these diseases; Lady Gaga, Jack Osbourne, Selma Blair, and Lena Dunham are amongst them. And whilst this has been crucial to raising awareness there is still a very long way to go both within the general public and also within the medical community. Pain is unique to each individual and misunderstood. This requires quality individualised treatment for the body and mind. Unfortunately, we are still trying to get the masses to recognise chronic pain as a condition.
The majority of those advocating for more research and trying to raise awareness are those trying to manage their chronic pain. Whilst this is admirable, it often leads to more flare ups and slips in mental and physical health. This is something that could affect anyone of us at any time, it’s up to us to educate ourselves and those around us and to not doubt those who battle symptoms on a daily basis but who do it with a smile for our benefit.
Pain Support Jersey is a local charity who aims to help those on island suffering from chronic pain manage their symptoms so they can improve their quality of life. The organisation arranges gentle indoor and outdoor exercise sessions lead by qualified physiotherapists as well as mindfulness sessions, social events and walks, talks and hydrotherapy.