If you’ve met me before, I was probably in pain that day. They say around 90% of mechanical back pain self-resolves in less than 6 months. For my low back pain, it’s coming up on 36 months and I’ve given up hope of being completely pain-free. It has dashed my lofty hopes of being a sportsman, or being a surgeon. The link between chronic pain and depression is well-established, but this year I felt it myself. Faced with a 7-week flare, culminating in 3 weeks of constant 8/10 pain I was desperate for help. I went to a GP on the Coast where I was on placement, not my regular one. I know as a med student that chronic pain is near impossible to fix – it’s a “management dilemma”. What I really wanted that day was some validation that my pain was real – what I got was an offer for strong opioids, something that I refuse.
Future doctors, understand this: you can never know the pain that the people around you endure. Do not disregard pain because it’s hard to fix, and don’t ignore the alternative medicine route when it comes to patients finding comfort. I can last days or weeks with a smile on my face, in 6/10 pain sometimes. Pain goes hand in hand with suffering, and sometimes all a patient really needs is for you to acknowledge that you care.