Chris J Powell

Exploration of Pain

Having been in excruciating pain for 29 of the last 30 days I figured I would look a little deeper into what this discomfort that I have been suffering through could be…and I was truly surprised by what I found when I went out looking.  I do know that each person has different pain tolerances and while my own tolerance is high, I would never be foolish enough to compare the pain that I have been having to something like childbirth (but then again that is over and done with relatively quickly in comparison to 30 days of constant pain).

At Wikipedia a nice concise definition presents itself and starts to put things into perspective:

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

I am a person who likes to compare and look at the data that is in front of me so beyond Wikipedia I looked to two other sources for some facts about pain.  The Canadian Pain Society and the International Association for the Study of Pain.  What I found was actually shocking, here are some outtakes from there respective fact sheets about pain:

  • Pain is the most common reason for seeking health care and as the presenting complaint accounts for up to 78% of visits to emergency rooms (Todd, Ducharme et al. 2007)
  • One in five Canadian adults suffer from chronic pain (Moulin, Clark et al, 2002, Schopflocher, Jovey et al. 2011)
  • 50% of people waiting for care at Canadian pain clinics have moderate to severe levels of depression and 34.6% report thinking about suicide and 72.9% report the pain interferes with their normal work (Choiniere, Dione et al. 2010)
  • Veterinarians receive 5 times more training in pain management than people doctors (Watt-Watson, McGillion et al. 2009)
  • 2014-2015 is the Global Year Against Neuropathic Pain

In looking at these few bits of information, I can understand the apathy of the medical professionals that I have seen in the past 30 days.  I would have presented myself as nothing more than another drug seeking patient or worse a working junkie looking for a prescription to ease my perceived suffering, the reality is for me…I didn’t want the pain to go away necessarily although it would make my life easier, I wanted answers to the cause of the pain and a long term relief.

But that unfortunately does not appear to be what the medical system is set up to do.

We go into the ER, and after waiting 3-4 hours we see a doctor for a few minutes and we are sent out with a prescription to mask the pain.

Luckily for me, I had other severe symptoms that forced the doctors to look deeper.  MRI, EEG and a neurologist will be looking into what the underlying cause of my suffering is…but for that, I will likely have to be in pain for more than 3 months before I even come close to finding out why I hurt, ALL the time.

I know that I am not alone when I say I am in pain…but I battle through the discomfort and the reality is, I rarely take any medication for pain because.  My reasoning behind this is that I may develop a tolerance for the medication leading me to need more and more of it to “not feel”.  That to me is not a good strategy for long term health.

Know this doctors and nurses, when I come to you…I want answers not a prescription (although this last battle with an abscessed tooth I was very greatful for the assistance).

The time that I have had to look back at my own suffering though, I have not been very lucky when it comes to pain in general and I thought I would document some of the injuries and illnesses that have caused me pain:

  • Multiple Concussions (as a youth I was a Headbutt champion, denting lockers at school, breaking boards etc), now in my 40s I realize this was not a good idea
  • Appendix Surgery – I remember all too well being in OAC Chemistry and having to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery
  • Multiple Knee Surgeries – after a misstep at 17 during my first Military Exercise I now am a walking barometer as fluid in my knee lets me predict the weather with surprising accuracy
  • Broken Back – While at work in 2003 I fell from about 6 feet in the air and suffered a compression fracture to my C-7 Vertabrae…I went back to work the next day
  • Psoriasis – This is my constant reminder of pain, my skin is in near constant flux producing painful itching and scales that cover about 60% of my body when a full flare up is in action.  I get it on the soles of my feet, palms of my hands, in the nail beds of my fingers and toes but by far the worst, is when it strikes in my genital region…walking becomes a challenge, let alone anything else (wink, wink)
  • Abdominal Pain – this is the one that gets  me the most.  A random pain in my middle abdomen that shoots from my back to under my sternum after I eat.  This pain is completely random and I have yet to identify the food or quantity that seems to set it off but when it comes, my only relief is laying on the floor and elevating my feet for hours
  • Headaches – I have always had my fair share of headaches, from migraines brought on by florescent lighting, to the caffeine headache of sleeping in, but recently the latest round of pain has been beyond anything that I have experienced…it is constant, continuous and immune to most pain medication

You see, I am not a stranger to pain, it is part of who I am and while it has made me stronger over the years…I know that as I age…I just don’t have the desire to fight the pain and it sometimes feels like it would be okay to just crawl up and stay in bed…permanently.  But then again that would be quitting on my life and a statistic is now how I want to be remembered!

Well, that is a bit about me and my journey of pain.

Keep on, keeping on!


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