How do you explain pain to other people in your life ( including doctors). I am 65 year old man who was very active ( playing squash, badminton and running) up until I was about 55, since then it has been a downhill spiral, up until now where I can't even stand or walk for any period of time without sufering etreme pain. My visits to the doctors, whilst they have been really sympathetic, have left me in a quandry. They have me using codiene, which helps, but the ammount they prescribe is not enough, I am left for some weeks using solphodine, which does not have the same pain killing qualities. Where should I go now, i deed what should I do, I feel as if I have any quality of life, and will be left stuck indoors, sedentary and unable to improve.

26 Replies

  • Hi Jim, you don't say what the pain is or where?

  • I broke my femur in a car accident when I was 26, I recovered well and proceded to enjoy lots of sports as I mentioned. However, now I have lots of pain at the site of the break, and also suffer in my joints if I stand too long, perhaps due to the sport.

  • You say you have pain in the joints and you have been to the doctors. Have they not carried out any tests to find the cause of the pain?

  • Oh, I was being general but it is my lower back, I had a spìnal fusion 6 months after a microdiscectomy did not work, be that I had left knee surgery, torn meniscus, so 3 surgeries and 6 spinal injections in a year, I didn't want to make it so much about my suffering lol. I was being humble, does that help. Let me know,

  • Hi Jim.

    It sounds like your having a he'll of a time. I'm sorry to hear that. Their are a number of things in your post. The first, how to explain pain. When it comes to family and friends there is the spoon theory (google it). It has helped me more then I can say. With doctors you might want to ask to be referred to a pain clinic/specialist. They now a lot more then GP's when it come to treating long term pain. They will also be able to help with your painkillers and try all sorts until they get the right balance, where as GP's tend to put you on the first thing that comes to their mind instead of thinking how the meds work and interact with your body.

    I don't know where you live but I know in most city's and large towns there are groups for chronic pain sufferers. (Chronic pain is just pain that lasts longer then it should or just lasts more then you would expect). Your doc should be able to point you in the right direction.

    I wish you all the luck.


  • My best suggestion on describing pain is to think about the pain for starters: how does it effect what you do? Does it cause anything different in you? For example, I tend to get dizzy and sometimes even faint if I have a lot of pain. As you said, it makes it difficult for you to move around. Figure where that puts you on the pain scale since doctors usually go off of that. If you're giving examples for someone to compare it to, try using more gender-neutral examples--food poisoning or muscle strain could happen to either sex/gender, but only women can have periods and the pains and cramps that come with it just as men can only have their own problems with their genitalia. Use examples that wouldn't be limited to a sex/gender, if that makes sense, because those experiences happen more often and are thus more relatable.

    When it comes to having doctors give you the right pain meds, or the right meds at all, you may have to be firm in top of trying to describe it the right way. Doctors didn't understand any of my "the pain causes problems for me" statements until I explained the detail that i would faint as a result and that it was a concern because I could always have this happen in a serious situation like crossing the street or something. Sometimes, doctors need to actually see how the pain limits you. It's not so much that they wouldn't believe you, but often times, one learns way more from seeing it no matter how much they hear about it.

    I hope this helps.

  • Hi Jim,

    Like you I suffer from long term chronic pain due to a accident I had whilst in the army many years ago but over the last 10-15 years it has slowly built up to the point where most days I think myself lucky if I can get myself out of bed, I was having trouble trying to explain how my pain was affecting me my doctor told me to try keeping a pain diary and just jotting down short notes on what the pain felt like and how bad it was on a scale which I made up my scale was from 1 to 10 with 1 being like you pricked yourself with a needle and 10 being you have just been hit in the back with a sledge hammer and all you want to do is die to get rid of the pain, I did this for 2 years and when I put it all into a spread sheet it showed me that I get around 1 day a month that I am only at the lowest level but I am at the highest level for close to 30% of the time in the end I put the scale down to 1 to 4 with :-

    1, being as before up to i was in pain but I can manage it.

    2, being I can get myself up and dressed but little else.

    3, being I can get out of bed with help but could not cope with getting dressed. and

    4, being I could not get from where ever I was at the time if I was in bed I would not be able to get up even with help if I was on the floor then I would have to stay there until the pain wore off.

    Over the years since I have been this way I found out that when I am bad it can last from a couple of hours to 3 months which I had to put up with once due to the pain clinic changing my medication which I did not put the sudden extra pain down to.

    When I am bad just trying to take a deep breath is difficult to go to the toilet is extremely painful and even if someone came to see me if they managed to make me laugh (which is hard when in pain) it use to make me scream due to the pain.

    Keeping a pain diary will let you realise how often you are in pain and how long it lasts this gives you some hard evidence about how your pain affects you.

    Regards Poppy Ann.

  • Thank you all for your comments

  • Definitely a trip back to the doctor with a request for referrel to your local Pain Management clinic. We expect our poor GPs to be experts in every aspect of our bodies and what can go wrong with them which they can't possibly achieve.

    If you have been very fit and active it is even more noticeable when things start to go wrong. Sounds like the previous injury is rearing its ugly head with the ageing process helping along. And of course you need to rule out the possibility that something else is going on .

    So book you GP appointment now. Well when the surgery opens !

  • I think returning to the doctor would be the best idea. That and the pain clinic might help.

  • Don't put up and shut up. Keep going and going until you find out whats going on.

    And if you find out that you now have crhonic pain. Arm youself with information to make sense of a senless trick of the body.

    Good luck chuck,

  • Hi Jim

    I am the same as you, was always so active in my life until about twelve years ago. I have lower back pain, shoulder, neck, knees, hands,hips, you name it I have pain. I had physio who said they could do no more just rely on tablets and when I have a flare up maybe morphine based, he wrote to my doctor to say that. I have been taking codeine/paracetamol tablets (the strongest) for a long time. They help but not during the night and early mornng when th pain is worse. My son saw me struggling one day and took me to an osteopath that he uses occaionally.He has been wonderful. He is keeping me mobile thank goodness as like you I can not stand or walk for any length of time. The doctor is now wanting me to have blood tests so I will see what that brings, but it is so difficult as you say to explain to your doctor just what pain you have, where abouts and when it is at its worst. The osteopath advised me to get an electric heat pad. I have one for my back and a cape one for my shouldrs and neck, they help at times, he also advised Arnica gel to rub on the joints too which I am sure helps. I use it when I get up and before I go to sleep. I do hope yu can manage to get some more help and relief from your doctor.

  • Thank you for your post. I have decided to go back to the doctor, and If any of the other posts are anything to go by I will have to keep going back until I get some success.

  • That's good, let us know how you get on please

  • Wishing you all the best, please let us know how you get on. xx

  • Hey Jim. What a tale of woe you have, you do not say if anyone has actually diagnosed your problem? It sure would be helpful to know what you are facing in the long term ( I will make you smile now) You are way to young to be consigned to the scrap heap ! You need to go back to the Dr. and ask him if he knows what is going on with you, or is he just treating symptoms? Which is what they generally do, have you been going back? Regularly? You need to, make an appointment every two weeks and ask your Dr to review your situation, if you feel well that's a bonus, if not you need to be doing something else. There are many good pain relievers out there , but it takes time and detective work to pick the one that suits your needs/condition, without any diagnosis how can that happen? If you do not get any help or relief from your G.P Ask for a referral to the pain clinic, but I fear that is someway off, as he has to do some of the leg work before they will accept a referral from him. As for family, what can I say they are all different and have different levels of understanding, I have read reactions on this forum that really shock me, and some that are just so supportive they make you want to cry. Start at the beginning, keep it short and to the point, let them know "you" are still in there, don't let this take over your life, I do anything to stay active and happy, and I don't dwell when people ask how are you, I simply say "bumping along the bottom" with a smile on my face then ask them the same question, until you can say I have ? or it's ? that gives me so much pain. People/family understand when you say I have have a condition called ...... but do not really understand chronic debilitating long term pain.

  • Thank you for your post, and indeed the idea that I am still young. However, I don't always feel young when I struggle to walk and attempt anything physically challenging. Nevertheless, you are correct, I need to pester the doctor and I will do.

  • Hi Jim having had back problems for over 50 years, I know from experience that, refered pain from a back injury, can result in pain being felt at the final destination

    Of the nerves involved, and can be far removed from the real problem that could be in your back,

    I have problems in the Lumba area, and get pain almost anywhere below the injury,

    They are phantom pains that are as bad as the real thing, try telling that to your GP

    It will almost certainly fall on deaf ears,

    I was recently called in for a health check, routine tests that I did not need,they all turned out ok, but completely ignored my real problems, which are quite few,

    So continue to soldier on, I stopped taking pain killers years ago, as they tend to add to your problems, and don't seem to do much good, any way, it seems that those who

    Shout loudest get treatment,


  • You do nto say where the pain is coming from. Is it localised or all over the body. i have neuropathic pain and like you was very active until I was about 55. then aseries of musculo-skeletal problem sput paid to an activelifestyle. I have gained nearly 1.5 stones in weight and must take daily medication( amytriptiline and pregabalin) to conytrol the neurpathic pain. on occasion I take codiene, but the drug has little effect on neuropathic pain. As your GP torefer you to a pain management clinic.

  • The pain is mainly in my legs and varies from leg to leg on different days. I have, however, decided to chase up my doctor and not keep putting off help for something that is not goig to go away.

  • Hi Jim

    I use a from 1 to 10 score when talking to my Doctor,, or Consultant I do not know what type of pain you have , all I know is that nerve ending pain is hard to treat, but not impossible.

    Try Pain Management class, or the course Mindfulness, or try another Doctor for a second opinion , I have managed just two weeks ago to find a tablet that has helped me and I have been suffering from nerve ending pain for over four years, sorry I cant be of more help to you .

    Let me know how you are and if you find any extra help.


  • As you did not stated where the actually pain is? but from your statement, I analyzed that the pain is in your bones just because of the age factor, that is the reason you are unable to move without pain. I personally recommend you to visit you physician or the orthopedic surgeon for the treatment of your pain. orthopedicsurgerysandiego.com/

  • I intend to visit my GP and move on from there. Thank you for your post

  • Hi. Sorry to hear about your situation. I understand. However, don't give up, make calls , try to find another doctor or maybe pain management. This is just my opinion. I'm recovering from spine surgery so I can relate to the pain factor. Keep trying and good luck.

  • If you have chronic pain you should think about a spinal cord simulator and/or a pain pump. You will need to see a doctor who specializes in pain management. Chronic pain is awful to endure. I read something somewhere that said to explain to someone what it feels like give them a clothes pin, the kind with a spring, and let them attach it on themselves anywhere they like. And then they must not touch it for a week. Many of us find family do not understand and do not have symphony. Friends disappear over time. All of mine are gone and I had a lot 10 years ago. I've made new ones on the internet.

  • Than you for your post. As you say I need to visit a doctor and push my case, i intend to that and hopefully get someone to take my pain seriously.

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