A-Z

Interview 07- Chronic pain

Age at interview: 56
Brief Outline: Back pain since 1981. Failed back surgery syndrome. Diagnosed with Arachnoiditis, 2001. Surgery' laminectomy, correction of laminectomy and spinal fusion. Pain management' Learnt through support group and books. Current medication' distalgesic, co-proxamol, maprotoline, oxycodone (Oxycontin) during recent flare-up.
Background: Retired careers officer; married; 2 children.

More about me...

 For more clips from this interview click here.

 

She feels that back surgery was the worst decision for her and advises others to educate...

She feels that back surgery was the worst decision for her and advises others to educate...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
That decision which I made back in 1981 was the worst possible decision I could have made, I was referred by my GP to an orthopaedic surgeon and because he told me that he thought there was very high success rate for a laminectomy I didn't question him sufficiently. 
 
I didn't have either the confidence or really the medical knowledge to and I relied on my GP to have sent me to what he thought to be the most appropriate specialist. I now know that to have a good chance of having back surgery you must go to a specialist spinal surgeon and preferably in the specialist spinal unit but those are in very, very short supply.
 
I blame myself terribly that I didn't make those enquiries, I suppose I shouldn't blame myself but if I could change one thing in my life, if I could go back and rewind the tape, that is what I would do and anyone who has ever asked me about whether they should consider having spinal surgery I have always said to them “Please, please educate yourself as to the chances of success, the success rate with the surgeon who will be operating on you, ask the awkward questions and if possible try and avoid spinal surgery”. 
 
Because I think when I had it done there was a much gun-ho sort of attitude, it's now I think being appreciated that actually the success is much more like 50% and that's on a good day with a good surgeon and that if it can be avoided it should be. I mean obviously there are some conditions, some circumstances where people have bowel or bladder involvement, they have to have surgery but if I could go back and change that decision I would work, have worked far longer with specialist physiotherapists to try and strengthen my back, to try and avoid the surgery if I possibly could. 
 
I mean I had had physiotherapy, I had had some advice and nothing that had been done had actually helped me to be fair but if I could change things, I would very much have wished that I could have done that and had that sort of input and perhaps even been sent to a specialist rehabilitation unit where there was specialist knowledge, which is quite difficult to access on an outpatient basis but I'm sure it must exist somewhere. I hope, but I regret that decision terribly and so does my husband. You can't go back.
 
 

She felt that the doctors saw her as a ‘heart-sink’ patient but got involved with a support group...

She felt that the doctors saw her as a ‘heart-sink’ patient but got involved with a support group...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

 So basically we were thrown back onto our own resources without any real medical support and by this time I had a frighteningly thick medical file and I could see the doctors sought of quailing as I approached.

 
I was sort of the classic heart sink patient unfortunately, and this went on for a number of years but the only good thing that happened was I began to try to find out for myself what had gone so horribly wrong and why I was still in pain. Now this was well before the internet and it was quite difficult to get access to medical journals and the sort of information I wanted.
 
But I was very fortunate because a local self help group for people in chronic pain was set up locally by a nurse who had actually also damaged her back very badly lifting a corpse while she was on duty and she had not been able to get any help either and had ended up going to the [name of hospital] which at that stage, had I think, had the one and only chronic pain management programme in the country. It was sort of imported from America and she had found it so helpful that when she came home her home near me, she decided to set up a self help group to try and pass on the sort of strategies that she had been taught.
 
So I got involved with that and it was such a huge relief to find other people with chronic pain problems, we all had different stories and we all had different conditions, although the majority were back or neck related problems but other people with facial pain, or phantom limb pain or arthritis pain from MS, all those sort of things and we formed a very supportive group which I found enormously helpful because at last I could talk to people who understood where I was coming from.
 
 

She regrets having an operation on her back and not asking enough questions at the time.

She regrets having an operation on her back and not asking enough questions at the time.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

 That decision which I made back in 1981 was the worst possible decision I could have made, I was referred by my GP to an orthopaedic surgeon and because he told me that he thought there was very high success rate for a laminectomy I didn't question him sufficiently. 

 
I didn't have either the confidence or really the medical knowledge to and I relied on my GP to have sent me to what he thought to be the most appropriate specialist. I now know that to have a good chance of having back surgery you must go to a specialist spinal surgeon and preferably in the specialist spinal unit but those are in very, very short supply.
 
I blame myself terribly that I didn't make those enquiries, I suppose I shouldn't blame myself but if I could change one thing in my life, if I could go back and rewind the tape, that is what I would do and anyone who has ever asked me about whether they should consider having spinal surgery I have always said to them “Please, please educate yourself as to the chances of success, the success rate with the surgeon who will be operating on you, ask the awkward questions and if possible try and avoid spinal surgery”. 
 
Because I think when I had it done there was a much gun-ho sort of attitude, it's now I think being appreciated that actually the success is much more like 50% and that's on a good day with a good surgeon and that if it can be avoided it should be. I mean obviously there are some conditions, some circumstances where people have bowel or bladder involvement, they have to have surgery but if I could go back and change that decision I would work, have worked far longer with specialist physiotherapists to try and strengthen my back, to try and avoid the surgery if I possibly could. 
 
I mean I had had physiotherapy, I had had some advice and nothing that had been done had actually helped me to be fair but if I could change things, I would very much have wished that I could have done that and had that sort of input and perhaps even been sent to a specialist rehabilitation unit where there was specialist knowledge, which is quite difficult to access on an outpatient basis but I'm sure it must exist somewhere. I hope, but I regret that decision terribly and so does my husband. You can't go back.
 
Previous Page
Next Page