Here at Mangar Health, we’re passionate about finding solutions to enable independence for people of all ages.
We’ve been talking to Hayley about her chronic illness and how a young person feels when pain prevents her living life to the full…
Chronic illness and chronic pain are expressions that I had seen used frequently online, but I didn’t really think that they applied to me. I’m 27 years old, I’m relatively fit and healthy, I don’t really get any sickness bugs or viruses and I only get a couple of colds a year. Despite all of the above, I have now been living with chronic pain for over 7 years.
I was 20 years old and in my first year of university when my back started hurting. One morning I woke up and was in complete agony, it hurt to move, it hurt to sit and it hurt to walk – it was completely debilitating. I booked a doctor’s appointment after putting up with the pain for a couple of days as it was showing no sign of getting any better.
I explained to the first doctor that I had fallen over two years previously and landed on my bum and as a result had had a sore back for a few days. I hadn’t experienced pain for years, but as it was in the same place I was a little concerned. The doctor had a look at my back and told me that I have scoliosis and that one of my vertebrae was pressing against the sciatic nerve which is what was causing the pain.
I was given a prescription for Diclofenac and Co-Codamol (8/500mg) in hopes it would help ease the pain. When the pain didn’t get any better, I returned to the doctors and was given a prescription for Naproxen and my Co-Codamol was increased to a higher dose (30/500mg).
At that stage, I was also referred to physiotherapy which took place in the hospital gym. There was a group of around 8 of us and I was the only one under the age of 50. The physiotherapy lasted for 6 weeks, which helped, but it didn’t stop the pain completely so I asked about having an X-Ray to see if there was an underlying issue that had not be found yet. I was told that as I was young and female, an X-Ray would be a really bad idea because it can be damaging for the reproductive organs.
Further down the line, I went to see a chiropractor who told me that I had the’ flattest feet she had ever seen’ and she advised that I be referred to a podiatrist to get orthotics to help my back in the long run. Apart from the referral to the podiatrist, the chiropractor didn’t help any more help with my back.
Since then I have been back to my doctor because I was in so much pain and my painkillers just weren’t strong enough. Once, I even ended up going to Minor Injuries at my local hospital because I had pain in my buttock and couldn’t walk or sit down. I’d never felt pain like it and was in absolute agony – at the hospital, I was told it was sciatica and advised to keep taking my painkillers. I also used a lot of heat patches over the next week or so which helped to ease the pain.
Towards the end of last year, I decided that I’d had enough of taking painkillers all the time and it was time I got some answers. I booked an appointment at my usual medical centre, but instead, I went to a different doctor – one that I had seen before about a different issue and I remember her being really helpful.
As soon as I explained everything, this new doctor was surprised that I had been taking such a strong dose of painkillers for so long, so she immediately referred me for an MRI scan to see what the problem is. I had my MRI scan in December and then I was referred to a surgeon who I saw in mid-March. It turns out the problem is not, in fact, my curved spine, but a prolapsed disc.
The surgeon couldn’t tell me exactly when the injury had occurred but he said that it sounded like it had been around seven years ago when I first started experiencing the pain. If it had been diagnosed at the time, I may have been able to have a simple surgery to fix it, but the disc has healed itself but in a way that is still causing me pain and there isn’t a lot that can be done for it now.
I’ve now been referred to a pain clinic at Derby Hospital so that they can assess my condition and find a new drug that won’t be as damaging to my organs as the Co-Codamol. I will also be going to regular physiotherapy sessions, but that’s not going to get rid of the pain completely.
My advice is – if there’s something wrong with you, trust your instinct. Doctors treat thousands of patients a day, so if your GP doesn’t refer you for further tests, don’t give up.
If you’re unsure on the advice you have been given it’s always worth asking for a second opinion.
Chronic pain and chronic illnesses are a nightmare, but there are options out there to help you. Luckily, I’m now getting the help I need since I asked for a scan and have seen the surgeon. My appointment for the pain clinic has now come through and I’m excited to get this sorted.
If you are living with a chronic illness, make sure you get advice from the appropriate healthcare professional and get access to assistive technology which might support you to live a full and happy life.
Hayley Warren is a 27-year-old Lifestyle Blogger from Birmingham. She is an Archaeology graduate from the University of Winchester, currently working as a full-time blogger and freelancer. She has been living with chronic pain for around 7 years.