How I overcame chronic pain... And hope you can do the same

I have been living with osteoarthritis for years, and pain has almost become my constant companion. I’ve had to battle with doctors, family and myself – to achieve a happier life with less discomfort.

After being diagnosed with osteopenia during my 40s, I made a big effort to care for my health. Osteopenia is a form of low bone density, that is normally considered the first step towards osteoarthritis.

As a younger woman, I exercised three times each week and kept my calcium levels up. Low-fat yoghurt, milk and cheese were all parts of my regular diet.

Even so, genetics worked against me. By the time I was 64, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and was in constant pain. The joints in my hips were so brittle that even bending down was an achievement!

I tried regular physiotherapy and daily stretching. My GP prescribed me a hefty dose of corticosteroid, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug.

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I used heat packs, cold packs and stayed positive. Despite this, by the age of 68, I needed a total hip replacement. If I thought I knew pain before, it was nothing compared to my rehabilitation!

After a hip replacement, there’s lots of exercises you need to complete. Everything from ankle rotations, to knee bends (ouch!), leg raises and stair climbing.

I was beginning to grow weary from the constant pain though. It seemed like no matter how many drugs, exercises or surgeries I did – nothing could help relieve my discomfort.

Living with pain can be an exhausting and isolating experience too. After a while, your friends and even your family will grow tired of hearing you complain about “the hips”.

Doctors will get sick of you asking for follow-up appointments, and you might find yourself researching different health conditions online, for hours on end.

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One day, I saw an article about “alternative health therapies” for arthritis sufferers. Cupping and reiki were two ideas I’d never heard of.

“Cupping” involves placing heated cups on areas of pain. It’s the opposite of massage, which presses into the body. Instead, cupping aims to pull “knots” and muscular tension to the surface of your body.

Reiki involves an even more open mind. It’s based on the idea that people can channel healing energies into each other, to encourage natural healing processes. Reiki is also supposed to be meditative, in a way.

Desperate and in pain, I decided to give these unusual ideas a try. I visited a young mother in her 30’s, who had studied cupping at an Australian health college.

She read the five reiki principles to me: “Just for today, I will not anger. Just for today, I will not worry. Just for today, I will be grateful. Just for today, I will work honestly. Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing”.

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For so long, I had been angry about my osteoarthritis. I had been frustrated with doctors who promised “things would get better”, only for my pain levels to increase each year. I had been disappointed by my family, who hadn’t always been supportive enough.

Hearing the five reiki principles helped me let go of some of these worries, stresses and resentments I had been holding onto. What other choice did I have? Living with physical pain and emotional stress is just too much, for one person anyway.

I won’t say that cupping or reiki “healed” my hips, but using these alternative therapies in conjunction with regular medication and exercise has helped changed my attitude towards pain.

Personally, I believe that overcoming pain involves a level of acceptance. You need to be kind to yourself, give your body time to change and grow, and don’t get frustrated if your health doesn’t improve immediately.

Alternative therapies have helped me “overcome” my pain by simply understanding it. I can’t say this will work for everyone, but take some extra time for yourself, and you might just find that relaxing a little could help… Good luck.

Do you live with chronic pain? How do you manage everyday life? What advice do you have for others living with pain?