Chronic pain (that is pain that last for six months or more) is largely misunderstood and worse still when it comes to women and pain. Which is astounding considering that 70% of chronic pain patients are women but 80% of pain studies are carried out on men or male mice. That’s just not ok! We are given drugs that once finally tested on women tend to just be a load of side effects and little to no benefit which is not surprising when you consider that our immune systems are actually quite different to mens. It’s one of the reasons why scientists think we live longer but it could also be a massive factor in why we are more prone to issues that stem from the immune system.
There is a pervasive idea that healthy people have which is that if we are taking medication we must be better.
Interestingly when researching information and resources for this post I came across a site that actually should contain some good information, that is until I started looking a little deeper. They had a video about working with your GP to handle your pain. They brought up the same point that I did, that pills don’t make you better. Great I thought, that is until they started saying that patients need to learn that they are over taking pain medication because they are wedded to this idea that it will make them better and what they really need to do is realise that the only management is through lifestyle and better choices.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that lifestyle changes can’t help. But the idea that just because you have ‘x’ diagnosis means that you should stop searching for answers and become ‘passive patients’ (their words not mine!) is ridiculous. If I had done that I wouldn’t have recently found out I have actually have something that is very wrong and also very treatable. That’s not to say my fibro is gone but managing our health is better seen as parts of a puzzle that you have to fit together. Knowing I have this issue means I can take meaningful action. The moral of this story being, if something feels wrong to you, keep pushing for answers!
Right now I feel like my pain management is a literal shit heap. 10 mins with a doctor once every few months is not enough. Let’s not forget those stats we had in medical week which showed us that to provide adequate care for the top 10 chronic diseases you needed to see a doctor for 3.5 hours daily.
As part of a consultation the other day the doctor asked me who was overseeing and orchestrating my care. I didn’t have an answer. My GP knows very little about my condition and the last time I saw my specialist was nearly 2 years ago. When I thought about it the true answer to that question was me. The thing is with so little resources and the fact that GP’s are not equipped to deal with complex long term health problems I am virtually on my own and this is the case for so many people. We fall through the gaps because no one knows what to do with us.
More than ever I feel that educating ourselves is the only way that we can make sure that our care isn’t mismanaged and one resource I do really want to highlight is Pain and Prejudice by Gabrielle Jackson. It’s newly released but she draws on so many studies and makes an amazing argument about the biases in the medical profession. If you find reading medical papers too much this is a more simplified version to get stuck into.