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Interview 15 - Chronic pain

Age at interview: 42
Brief Outline: Pins and needle, numbness and neck pain since 1996. Surgery' Neck surgery for cervical mylenopathy. Treatment' Physiotherapy before and after surgery. Pain Clinic given oral steroids. Pain management' NHS outpatient pain management programme. Current medication' gabapentin, amitriptyline.
Background: Scientist; single; 1 child.

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She had been resistant to a GP who suggested she should take an anti- depressant. But another GP...

She had been resistant to a GP who suggested she should take an anti- depressant. But another GP...

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 But by the time it came to I would say, oh a year after surgery it just, things were getting worse. The pain was worse. The sensation was worse. I was depressed, but I went quite a far way down the line before I would admit. 

 
But when I went to my GP, because he would like to see me about my medication when it changed etc., and he was quite abrupt with me, you know, it was almost as if, “But you have got depression. Do you admit you've got depression?” And I was trying to say well you know “I've got a reason for that so it's not as if it's, it's”, I was trying to say “Well okay if maybe I'm a bit down but you're not listening to me I've got pain. I'm in pain. How can I best cope with this pain?” 
 
All he wanted to do was to give me Prozac and I was like “Well I just don't want Prozac. I want, I want to get to the bottom of this. I want to get the appropriate medication that helps me cope. You take away my pain, you will take away my depression. You will help me, you know, don't cure the symptom, cure the cause.” 
 
I was completely low, really low, and at that point I realised that I was off work and I thought no, this is not good. You know, I could do myself an injury. I really feel that bad. I was bouncing off the walls and just by pure chance I actually got an appointment with a new female doctor at our practice and I went to see her and we sat down and she talked to me. 
 
And it was the first person that seemed to understand what I was juggling, my career, my home, my child, in isolation but with this chronic pain and symptoms that never got any better, they just got worse. 
 
And she understood that all the other symptoms I was experiencing they were acute on chronic pain and then we agreed a strategy that would address the acute issues and then move on to the chronic issues. And she actually gave me my medication. We talked about Prozac and we, I agreed because I realised by that time, you know, I was very low, but she was so kind and she understood me and you know, the relief that someone understood, that all I was trying to do was to have a normal life.
 
 

When she was deciding whether to have surgery for her chronic back pain she used the internet and...

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When she was deciding whether to have surgery for her chronic back pain she used the internet and...

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 There are things like I think Back Pain Association and now, with the age of the internet, there's so many things that you can find. So find out as much as you can about your pain and why it's there and, through understanding, might come acceptance that whilst it's there but you understand why and, therefore, you may be in a better position to deal with it.

 
Is the internet something that you've used yourself?
 
Oh yes, but then I have access to it very easily. I use the internet a lot. I've got a computer at work. I actually found my operation on the internet. I got more information from the internet than I did from my GP, from my surgeon. 
 
I mean I knew exactly the procedure I was going in for, I knew why they were doing what they were doing and, when I didn't have the expected result after surgery, I was in fact able to go onto the internet and find out why that might be the case. And then, when I went to the doctors, went back to the hospital, I was able to ask quite probing questions.
 
But sadly I think the more you ask the more you realise that there isn't always an answer and that can be quite difficult because you think, in this day and age of technology, that there will be an answer, there must be an answer, but there isn't always and that's difficult. 
 
So yeah, I find the internet incredibly, incredibly helpful. I think for people who perhaps don't have background in biology or, you know, they don't understand, they've not been trained in these areas, there's a lot of help on the internet in very plain language that people would understand and it is an eye opener. 
 
And I think when you're informed and you go to speak, especially for example if you're trying to determine whether you should go for surgery or not, the more informed you are, the more you can ask of your surgeon and the more, I think perhaps you will feel easier with any decision that you make because it's an informed choice.
 
So I find the internet very helpful and I think anyone can go on the internet and find it helpful and that might even be something that, I know for example when I asked my GP he gave me a disc, a CD away with me and basically that was a list of all they, you know, support groups that were available. 
 
So yeah, I think it would be good to have access. I think you'll probably get a lot more information from that than you will from a five minute chat with your GP and even a 20 minute consultation with your surgeon or your consultant and I think you can ask more questions and get more answers if you do.
 
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