Age at interview: 27
Brief Outline: Back injury/pain following car accident, 1993. Fusion stabilisation surgery 1993, Repair to broken pin, 1994, Removal of stabilisation rods and pins 2001. Pain management: Learnt through physiotherapy and Back Care charity. Current medication: Herbal anti-inflammatory.
Background: Fund-raising manager; married.
More about me...
Worked on increasing her fitness so she could achieve her goal of going on a camping safari holiday.
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We only did three days and we camped, so I had a little blow up mattress that they provided, but it was quite thin, and I was walking two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening tracking animals, something I didn't think I would be able to do for a lot longer, that was my goal at the stage, and my next goal was then the skiing and riding a bicycle things that I didn't think I could do again, but...
So for three days I managed to sleep in a tent on the floor in a sleeping bag. And I won't say I didn't have any pain that would be a complete lie, but it was, I was able to manage my pain on the trip and I managed to track animals on foot, which was quite an experience. So its just moving on from goals, goal to goal.
How did you work up to that goal?
Just exercising and practising the exercises that my physiotherapist had given me, I have fitness balls which I do some things, and it was also mentally preparing myself, learning to manage my pain.
Learning to recognise when my pain, instead of feeling the pain when it was excruciating, learning to recognise the slight signal that was going to say you're going to be in pain in an hour or twos time, so slow down and that will decrease the pain.
I was, and that is something, and when we were on the walking tour, it was just the two of us with one guide, so I wasn't having to keep up with other people, which was very important to me, because I always feel if I'm in a group I need to keep up with people, and I don't want to tell them my whole story and say, you know please just understand.
Suggests that people should use whatever complementary therapy works for them but cautions people...
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Yes, I wouldn't, as far as osteopaths and Pilates teachers, chiropractors if, they need to be registered with the correct body because anyone can go on a brief course and then call themselves an osteopath. But unless their registered with the General Osteopathic Council or British Chiropractors Association, the same with physiotherapists.
Someone could have done a massage course and then tell people that they do sports massage and remedial therapy which is more, which is a more advanced course and then you go to them and they don't have any qualifications, well they don't have, they are not registered with a body. If the therapist is registered with a body then they are monitored, they have guidelines to stick to and you know you are getting proper treatment.
The same with Pilates if... a lot of gyms offer Pilates classes, then you go to them they are not really, they have got a bit of the Pilates principles in them but it is a mass group and the instructor's not looking at you and your back and your situation, she is just teaching you all a bunch of movements. Whereas with my Pilates I learnt from a physiotherapist and then got in touch with someone from the Body Control Pilates Association which is the biggest association training association for Pilates in this country.
So basically, as long as they have got the right accreditations then you should be fine. Some therapists don't have monitoring bodies, you know homeopaths do herbal, medical herbalists do, some massage you can, there is a British massage school that you have to, because if, you can learn your course on massage in a weekend but a true massage therapist would have done a longer course and known anatomy and I think with your back the fact that somebody's learnt their anatomy and physiology is very important. I wouldn't let someone who didn't know anatomy touch my back.
Realised that all the quality time she spent with her husband she was moaning about pain and now...
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And I have got to a point now when I say 'Yes, I am. The pain is making me grumpy' whereas before I go 'Don't call me grumpy and I'm not grumpy' and try to make excuses whereas having gone through counselling, it's sort of very easy for me to say 'Yes, I'm sorry I'm grumpy. I shouldn't have snapped at you. I am grumpy'.
And my husband said something to me the other day, I was in quite a lot of pain from my whiplash and he took me out and on our way out. It was actually on the way to work we went on the train and we spent the time together on the train and he looked at me, he didn't say anything to me for quite a while because I had been really grumpy that morning and then when we got to the station where we part ways.
He said 'Goodness but you've', he said that he must be Snow White because I had been every one of the Seven Dwarfs that morning because I had been happy, I had said something funny, then I had said something sensible and the next minute I was snapping, and then I was tired and saying just...
And that kind of put everything into perspective that pain is like I was being all the Seven Dwarfs at one time. It is just something that you have to learn control. And the tendency to express all of those things to the person that you live with and rely on and talk to and trust is, they are there, they want to support you.
So... but then I feel that I'm, that's the only person whose there for me to talk to. So whenever I do see him, and he works long hours, then I want to tell him about all the pain issues I had that day and what was horrible and. And then I sort of look back and think well the only quality time we had together I was telling him about the bad part of my week, or the bad part of my day and the pain I am in, because you don't just go up to any acquaintance and friend and say 'I am in so much pain and this and that'.
So the counselling again comes in because I go once a week and it's another place for me just to go and rant and rave about being in pain and the frustration and everything which makes my quality time with my husband a lot more sort of positive. Not just positive, just worthwhile because then I can try and focus on other things because I have had my chance to let off steam, because letting off steam is very important.
But when you think about it if you are letting off steam with the same person day in and day out, they are going to get tired of it. I think I would get tired of it. So it's trying to strike a balance is also very difficult. Sometimes I have to just shut my mouth when I am in pain. I wake up and I just want to groan as I roll over and I think 'Ooh he doesn't want me to hear me groan again' and I have to just keep quiet.
Talks about things that make her working life easier including pacing, equipment and making sure...
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Okay, I have an ice pack at the office and I have an ice pack at home, I have a heat pack at the office and a heat pack at home. I have painkillers, herbal painkillers everywhere you know in my handbag, at the office, everywhere. And people are understanding. I have an earpiece for my telephone I don't use the telephone without a headset.
And when I have pain sometimes I have to get on with something and I try and really push through which I shouldn't do. I should pace myself but I do get up a lot. I have a very high desk because I'm tall. I have got an adjustable desk. I have a back pillow which supports me in the chair. I've got a peddle rest to encourage me to sit properly without crossing my legs too much and I can move my legs and then get up and I make sure that every single day I go for a walk at lunch time.
It is very tempting when someone says 'Oh I'm going out to the sandwich shop, would you like something' and you say 'Yes, yes. Here's '2 will you get me something' But I have to make myself no matter what I'm doing. I know that at lunchtime I'm going to go out for a walk and go and get a sandwich and usually I just do a half hour walk and then come back and that helps.
And sometimes I'm just honest with my managers and say 'I can't cope anymore. I need to go home. I need to rest'. And they understand that if I don't go home and rest then the next day is going to be worse and when I come to work I'm going to be in more pain and less productive. So when I try, again it is listening to my body and I try to identify when the pain is getting too bad so I don't leave when it's at a peak, I leave before that.
And I'm very lucky I have a very understanding employers but, I, there is a lot of people out there who don't so.... I have got the right office furniture and I get up and move around. If I have got something to read and it's on the computer, I generally print it off and walk around the office or the store room or whatever and read it so that I'm moving and I'm standing up and I'm not stuck in front of my screen. It's just little things that I have to learn.
Some days I don't cope very well with it and I just ' Some days I let it go too far and I've got quite a long commute on the train and when I get on the train I just think I can't, I should be at home in bed right now I need to be sort of transported like in the sci-fi movie, or Harry Potter's dust, just transported home completely without having to make an effort.
So it's not always easy to cope with but I do cope with it most days. And sometimes I just have to take a day off, last week I did and I just said, I just said to them on the Wednesday 'I can't cope anymore and I think if I work any longer I am just going to do myself in completely' and I took the Thursday off and last minute leave is not always an issue whereas I think some companies it is.
But I just sort of said to them 'I need to take tomorrow off' and the next day I slept a lot and I walked, took the dog for a walk and by, you know by Friday I was feeling much better. So sometimes it's just about really listening to your body, if ever you want to take time out, you need to take time out.
Advises people to get up and get dressed every day and to introduce exercise in to their routine.
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So many things to say, the main thing with a back problem is not to let the back problem, back pain get the better of you but you to control the back pain. I've been in a situation where the back pain has controlled me and now I'm in a situation where I am trying to control the back pain. I still have my down days where the back pain gets, wins but most of the time it is me being in control and me taking the responsibility to move.
Like I mentioned earlier if I wake up and I'm in so much pain I just want to stay in bed I just want to curl up and die in bed or some days I just have to, my mind just has to take control and say 'You will, you will only feel worse by staying in bed, you will feel better if you get up'.
Even if it is just a matter of getting up and getting into the shower and then maybe lying down flat on my back on the floor rather than on the bed for a while. But I mean a shower helps or just getting up and going downstairs to get a cup of tea and sitting in a different position, getting some fresh air. So, and exercise, any form of exercise.
And exercise again doesn't mean you have to join an aerobics class exercise, could be anything that requires you to stretch the muscles just a little bit more than they used to. At the moment when I'm commuting instead of standing on the right hand side of the escalator and waiting to get to the top I walk up the left hand side and yes there are people who run up there etc...
But just the fact that I am moving I am not relying on, on the escalator.
When I am sore I will just stand there but most of the time it is just trying to do that little bit more, you know stop, get off your bus two stops early and just walk the extra two stops it doesn't have to be any thing major. And then you move on from there, I mean you can't stop at that, but eventually when things get better, move on to what ever it is you have to do.
And exercise is different for different people, you know for some people if just gardening is exercise and as long as you garden in the correct way and there's information every where about how to garden properly, how to lift properly.
If you learn how to lift properly, learn how to carry things properly, learn the anatomy of the spine, why your spine is the way it is, it helps you understand a lot.