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Doctor in the House: How I’m changing my chronic pain management

  [ 4 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ]
By Sarah Borien • • August 20, 2017

Doctor in the House: How I’m changing my chronic pain management
Reprinted with the kind permission of Sarah Borien and A Life Less Physical
Have you ever seen Doctor in the House? It’s a UK BBC 1 programme where a doctor moves in with a family to try and solve their chronic health conditions. The programme follows Dr Rangan Chatterjee, who believes it’s impossible for a GP to effectively treat complex health conditions in five minute consultations (no shit Sherlock), as he spends a week with the patient to understand their lifestyle and try to ‘solve the mystery.’
I watched it for the first time last week when the focus was on a woman, Gemma, who suffers from cluster headaches – or ‘suicide headaches’ as they’re often known. She was having up to 16 attacks a day which were absolutely agonising; they only lasted ten minutes or so but for those ten minutes she was screaming in pain and it was horrifying to watch.
I cried throughout the entire episode. I don’t get cluster headaches but for the last two years I’ve been having a similar pain every four to six weeks which lasts for about 24 hours. The headaches are far worse than my usual migraines (which I’ve had since the age of nine) and this – on top of my fibromyalgia – has made me realise that something really needs to change.
The journey to diagnosing and then managing chronic pain is never an easy one. Since I became ill in 2009 I’ve seen five GPs, two physiotherapists, one rheumatologist, one pain specialist and one acupuncturist. I’ve also tried four types of alternative therapy and three sets of cognitive behavioural therapy, had one MRI scan and one set of blood tests. During that time, no one and nothing has helped. The MRI scan and blood tests took place within the first month of my symptoms occurring but, since the label of ‘fibromyalgia’, no one has done any further investigation on any of the symptoms I’ve presented with – new or otherwise.
I know this is a very familiar story for chronic pain patients, and if you’ve been suffering from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue for decades then I know your numbers are far higher than mine.
During the episode of Doctor in the House, these were the five health/lifestyle areas that Dr. Chatterjee focused on in an attempt to reduce the cluster headaches. Tests for neurological conditions came back negative and medication wasn’t working, so he changed Gemma’s diet, referred her to a chiropractor, provided supplements and introduced relaxation and self-care activities. By the end of the three-month review period, she had gone from 16 attacks per day to 5 per week. So, after wiping my tears (tears of empathy, jealousy, exhaustion, and frustration) I decided it was probably about time I started from the beginning and re-analysed my chronic pain.

Neurological Condition
Diet and Nutrition
Musculo-skeletal Issue

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia eight years ago, I was convinced there was something else wrong, something they were missing, but as time went by I made my peace with it and accepted that the diagnosis was most likely correct. The challenge then wasn’t the diagnosis, but the misunderstanding of fibromyalgia in society and the stigma attached to invisible illnesses. Last year there was some progress when research was published that suggested the pain was down to abnormal sensory activity in the way our brains process pain; it seemed like a bit of a breakthrough and the Arthritis UK Pain Centre is now funding a study to develop a blood test to diagnose fibromyalgia.
So now I feel like maybe it’s time to take some advice from Dr. Chatterjee. My potential neurological conditions were explored in 2009 so I’m assuming I can rule that out; that leaves me with four other areas to investigate. I’ve addressed them all individually at various times (swimming was actually pretty good, the gluten free diet was not because – pizza) but a lot of people say the best way to manage chronic pain is with a multi-treatment approach and that’s something I haven’t looked in to. In fact, I’ve always been adamant it’s not the right approach; if I change ten things at once, how will I know what’s helping? Plus, doing lots of things in one go costs money, takes energy, and requires focus. The options are endless; which classes do I join? which alternative therapist should I see? which supplements should I take? and how am I paying for all of this?

Neurological Condition
Diet and Nutrition
Musculo-skeletal Issue
You know what I want? I want a GP who can give me a list, give me some recommendations, and tell me where to start. Sadly, that’s not a thing, so apparently I’ve now reached a new phase and I’m following the advice of a TV doctor. Is this what they call a new low? Perhaps. But let’s go with it…
Tonight I’ve made a list of all the things I need to do, appointments I need to make, classes I need to change, food I need to eat… the list goes on. The multiple treatment approach is happening.
As always, I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to do a series on each of the four areas so that you can follow my journey and see what’s working. In the meantime, help me out… What’s made the biggest difference to your pain management?

Sarah Borien lives in a country cottage in Oxfordshire with her husband and their two cats. She has had fibromyalgia since 2009 and is passionate about finding and sharing new coping strategies. Sarah authors her blog, A Life Less Physical, and has written for New Life Outlook (Fibromyalgia).

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Article Comments Post a Comment

My Fibro pain has almost disappered!
Posted by: mscat013058
Aug 26, 2017
I love the information you are sharing. I was diagnosed with FIBRO about 20 years ago. I was hit by a bus at ten years old, while my father was serving in the Air force as a fireman. This was in 1969 and as I was crossing the street in front of the school bus, I was hit by a doubledecker transport going from the base, to the family housing area that was on Belgium soil. The man that was helping the kids cross the street (we were all used to the US rules, that rules that vehicles has to stop for school buses.) Two boys were fighting in the back of the bus and the crossing guard was trying to break it up. Needless to say the driver of the bus didn't feel it was his duty to help kids across the street! Luckily, I was sent to Walter-Reed hospital (where the Vietnam soldiers were sent) and had combat surgeons that saved my right leg. It was called a desleeving, but there is significant loss of skin, muscle and tissues, but I can walk on it. Both legs were broken, but as I aged, I started having serious chronic pain, depression, high blood pressure because of the pain and many other symptoms too numerous to name.I was unable to walk and my chronic pain doc, Dr. Moree has at times given me injections and was able to get me walking again! I am 59, and have been on disability for eleven years. I was having trouble with my blood pressure increasing dramatically and having difficulty bringing it down. My doctor noticed that my heart rate was consistently 100 beats per minute. She advised me ways to bring it down so I wouldn't have to keep visiting the emergency room. She prescribed a Beta Blocker ( even though I wasn't a heart patient to help keep my blood pressure more "normal".) I already take blood pressure medication as well. It has been one month since I started taking TOPROL XL (25MG) 1x a day at night before bedtime. It not only relaxed me and improved my sleep, I immediately had improved pain relief ( I MEAN THE OVERALL PAIN JUST STOPPED!) I do have lower back pain occasionally and normal old age pains here and there from over exertion, but it has been a MIRACLE!!! I don't know your health conditions, but talking to your doc about it wouldn't hurt. I take Ultram 50 MG as needed ( I can take up to 8 a day if needed, but the most I have taken is four a day) I rarely have to take any! Now, I was hit with severe itching from the inside out, hands, feet, head, all over. It usually gets unbearable at night and creams and topical creams do not work...but strangely enough, pain relieving pain does help! My doctor suggested I take Zyrtec (over the counter and that has really stopped it. I always research things even if I find out what works and discovered the pain receptors and itching receptors are one in the same. Did the itching take over when the pain left? I don't know and will continue to see if it was the fibro that is causing the itching. It is not a common symptom, but it can be! You are definitely doing your home work, and I know you will find out what works for you. But, keep listening to your body, it will continue to give you clues! Praying for your continued healing......Carolyn Threatte
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