Stigma makes pain worse

Migraine sufferer Melissa O'Shea finds exercise helps her to live with pain. Picture: Marcus Whisson d404689
Migraine sufferer Melissa O'Shea finds exercise helps her to live with pain. Picture: Marcus Whisson d404689

Suffering from frequent migraines and headaches, she is among one in five Western Australians living with chronic pain.

National Pain Week (July 22-28) is to help people understand that chronic pain is a diagnosable and treatable problem while reducing the stigma associated with the condition.

Ms O’Shea said a lot of people suffered in silence because of a fear that being honest about their pain would have a negative impact on their work life or because a lack of community understanding about the condition and how it could affect someone’s life.

‘Unless we talk about our experience of pain, other people really have no way of knowing what we go through,’ she said.

The yoga instructor’s migraines and headaches started after giving birth to her second son around 14 years ago.

‘At first I had a three-day migraine per month, but this increased over time to daily migraines,’ she said.

‘I’m in a good space at the moment with only three headaches in the last month, but often I’ll have two to four headache days per week.’

Ms O’Shea has learnt to live with chronic pain, preventing headaches by exercising, meditating daily, watching her diet and trying to get enough sleep, along with taking a migraine preventative drug.

‘At times I still feel depressed or overwhelmed but I’ve learned to be kind to myself when I’m in pain, and I’ve also learned that I can be fairly functional even with a headache, for example I can still teach a class or go out to dinner,’ she said.

‘Each pain-free day feels like a bonus and when compared to daily pain, the little challenges of life seem less important or dramatic.

‘I think having supportive family/friends/health professionals is really important, as is maintaining a sense of hope for a pain-less future.’

– For National Pain Week events go to nationalpain|week.org.au