I’m tall and I chose to be a physiotherapist, so with the strain on my neck it’s not surprising that I developed a prolapsed disc in my neck.
It happened 10 years ago. The disc was pinching a nerve, and causing excruciating pain in my neck and down my left arm.
Having overcome arthritis in childhood, the new condition was a double whammy.
My first operation to release the nerve was unsuccessful, because the surgeon removed the wrong part of the disc. By the time my doctor figured that out, and I had my second operation, my nervous system had already become hypersensitive, and the pain persisted.
I was working full-time, I’d just bought a house, and didn’t want to jeopardise that by ceasing work.
But then a respected physiotherapist convinced me to take time out. My bank put my mortgage on hold for six months, and I spent time learning how to manage my pain.
I learnt the value of a holistic approach to pain management, and it’s something I live by.
I walk daily and do mindful meditation. I even have a meditation CD in the car. Keeping my stress under control is a really important part of my pain management.
I pace myself through each day and plan activities to incorporate stretching. Sitting is particularly bad for me, so if I drive somewhere, I need to allow time for stopping and stretching every 20 minutes.
I take medication for severe episodes, and I now have a spinal cord stimulator (inserted in 2009), which helps me work and function until about 3pm.
Despite my efforts, my quality of life is still affected. I don’t sleep well and I must choose between activities that will result in flare ups of pain, so I’m always leaving parties early if I’ve had a busy work week.
Still, I chose to live life. I’m working part-time and am completing my final year of a Master of Science in Medicine (Pain Management). I volunteer with Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA, to teach others what I’ve learnt, and I practice what I preach.
Melanie has co-pioneered Making Sense of Pain, a two-day interdisciplinary workshop for health professionals and has also co-led workshops The Rural Roadshow, Reaching Out to Women in Pain and Pain Explained.