Life With Chronic Pain

Life With Chronic Pain

Marlene’s Chronic Pain Experiences

I first injured my lower back and neck by falling off a neighbour’s porch one winter about 20 years ago. At the time, I was still relatively young. Sitting around “nursing my wounds” was really not an option as my two boys were 9 and 13. As a mom I still needed to help chaperone class trips. My “taxi” was still required to go to orthodontist’s appointments, baseball practices and friends’ homes.

At first, the pain wasn’t too bad. I was able to cope without too much trouble. Monthly trips to the chiropractor, applying heat and taking the occasional OTC pain medication seemed to do the trick. As long as I was careful and used proper body mechanics when lifting and bending, I was able to do things like vacuuming and carrying heavy grocery bags.

As the years went by, the wear and tear of normal aging began to take its toll. As often happens, osteoarthritis settled into my back and neck in the areas of my original injuries. Additional treatments became necessary in the form of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, acupuncture and massage therapy.

Twice I’ve been referred to a pain specialist. The first time (ten years ago), the doctor administered cortisone injections into my cervical spine. More recently, she gave me lumbar epidural cortisone shots. Both times, I experienced major improvements in my pain levels but unfortunately nothing lasts forever. Gradually, the pain returned. Not as severe as before the injections but it’s still there.


I refuse to think of myself as an invalid who’s in chronic pain! That’s not my style. How do I deal with everyday life? Quite simply, I take it one day at a time. There really isn’t any other way.

  1. Helping my children:

    It seems no matter how old your kids get, they still need your help. Sometimes, it’s financial. Other times, it’s physical labor. In my case, the latter isn’t quite as easy as getting out the check book!

    Both of our boys chose to go away to university. Neither city is very far away. So, over a period of seven years, almost every Fall and Spring, we’d get those pleading phone calls that went something like this, “Mom, Dad! Could you guys please help me move?” We would dutifully reply, “Of course dear, we’d be happy to!”

    However, there were things I flatly refused to do. Under no circumstances would I move heavy boxes or furniture. I’d do things like pack/unpack boxes of dishes, clean bathrooms or cupboards and make runs for coffee.

  2. Exercise:

    Pacing myself is very important when exercising. I can walk for about one half hour before needing to sit and rest. When doing Pilates, I can’t do as many repetitions as others, but I still benefit greatly from what I can do.

  3. Housework/Computer Work:

    When it comes to housework, I ask for help! While my husband pushes a mean vacuum and floor mop, I dust, clean bathrooms and do laundry. When we’re done, we have coffee and admire our accomplishments. I also need frequent breaks to stretch when doing work at my computer.

  4. Gardening/Painting:

    I love to garden but I have to make sure I have rest periods. Once again, I am very lucky that my husband is willing to weed and carry heavy bags of dirt.

    When the cottage needs painting, it’s not me who does it! Our kids have “inherited” that job just like they’ll inherit the cottage one day!

  5. Travelling:

    We love to travel. On car trips, we have to stop fairly often so I can get out and bend/stretch. I also use a lumbar support. When flying, I walk around as much as possible, do stretching exercises and use travel pillows for my back and neck.

Life is what you make of it. Despite often being in pain, I want mine to be as full and satisfying as possible!

Marlene WallaceMarlene Wallace

Marlene is a seasoned RN and health writer. When not writing, Marlene enjoys gardening, traveling and volunteering at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics in Toronto.

Jun 10, 2014
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