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LIVING WITH CHRONIC PAIN

I have been a client and friend of Ana’s for some years. I am particularly proud of my

muscles (the work-outs have worked) and friends are impressed. I enjoy yoga and

meditation too. People believe I am younger than my age and I do of course give Ana

the credit! I love my friends, walking, going out to exhibitions and restaurants, and wine bars and entertaining and church-going. Holidays are good too. Words that are

commonly associated with me are Chanel No 5 and champagne!


But I am 75 and live with chronic pain. Osteo-arthritis, pretty much everywhere in my

body, walks with me. I also have a condition which affects my mobility and balance,

and osteoporosis, not to mention tendon and ligament damage in one knee. But my

main problem is poor balance, which makes public transport difficult (and did I mention the travel sickness). Our lives are all different, but what approaches can we take to ensure that we own our condition, and it doesn’t own us. Here are some ideas; if you have got some more – let us know!


Balance

There are all sorts of ways to interpret this. First of all, this isn’t medical advice, which I am not qualified to give. However we manage our condition, we need to balance

medical diagnosis and support where appropriate with other approaches. I went to visit my GP with a sudden unexplained headache, knowing already that the only available medication was unsuitable for asthmatics. There was no sinister reason for the headache so we agreed that pain management was needed. The first suggestion was talking therapy. This can be anything from psycho-therapy to a chat and a laugh with a friend (never, by the way, underestimate the power of friendship). Physical exercise, again of all kinds, is vital: even if it’s only a small amount, we need to get moving.

Some people find that acupuncture helps. Balance matters.


Project

At the beginning of the year, I was looking forward to visiting Manchester and a town not far from Paris. Both times I couldn’t go: I realised I couldn’t go to an unfamiliar location with a suitcase on my own because I couldn’t handle them on the transport network. Not visit my sister? Not visit an old friend I’d only just reconnected with? I don’t think so. So let’s treat this like a work project: what’s the problem and how might I get around it. If I can’t handle a case, would a strong lightweight holdall be easier to balance?

Only one way to find out. And a fine Sunday afternoon found me, with a bag full of fairly heavy random items travelling on the Underground, different lines, pausing for a walk in Green Park and an ice-cream. And yes, it worked. The issues you face will be different, but you may find it helpful to try the technique: think laterally. And it gives you a bit of control.


Enjoyment

There are some activities which have been shown to help people’s mood. Pick one

from here. One, as we all know, is exercise. Another is being out in nature, or even

having flowers in your home (I rather hope that artificial flowers work too as they are the only sort that survive in my house!) But it’s lovely to be out in a park or visiting a

garden. And when you’re out you might stop to chat to someone, which is one of the

biggest mood-boosters of all. Smile a someone; people don’t do it enough. And helping

others is a huge benefit to both parties; it can be organized volunteering or less

structured.


But let’s end on an indulgent note. Don’t feel guilty if you need chocolate or frivolous

TV. Do the dishes have to be washed now, or the garden watered? No, thought not.

And bear in mind:


‘There comes a time in in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of

champagne’. (Bette Davis)

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