More about Karen
Karen was very healthy and active until four years ago when her back suddenly started hurting, due to structural problems in her spine. Since then she has continued having major problems with her back. Spinal fusion surgery two years ago improved things a little, but she still experiences significant back pain and is much less active than she used to be. She has had to reduce her hours at work and cannot maintain the same level of physical activity that she used to do.
For the first 12 months her pain was less severe and well managed with milder painkillers. About a year later, the pain got worse and up until she had surgery she needed regular doses of strong painkillers. Her pain is now reasonably well managed with regular Panadol and Tramal, plus Endone when needed for breakthrough pain or flare-ups. As the Endone makes her feel a little dopey she tries not to take it if she has to drive or if she is at work, so even though she is in pain, she often delays taking the Endone until she is at home. The main side effect she has experienced from her painkillers is constipation, which she mostly manages with a high-fibre diet.
At first Karen was reluctant to use stronger painkillers, partly because of the stigma associated with strong pain medicines, but eventually began taking them as the pain was affecting her so much. In the past few years she has gradually accepted that she will never go back to how she was before her back problems started and that she will need to take painkillers for the rest of her life.
Before finding her current GP almost three years ago, Karen experienced problems getting painkiller prescriptions from a number of GPs. Karen trusts her regular GP who is easy to talk to and discuss things with, and is interested in pain management.
Her dosage regimen changes often, depending on her level of pain, and Karen finds her medication levels are a good way of tracking how things are going. She has a medicines list that she carries with her, packs her tablets into a medicine dosing box each week, and uses the Medilog app on her phone to record her medicines and remind her when to take them. The app also allows her to record extra doses of medicines, which she finds useful to check how her pain has been over long periods.
Although she would prefer to take fewer tablets, Karen tries not to focus on what she is taking, but what effect the medicines have on her pain and if they enable her to do the things that are important to her. While it took a long time for Karen to accept that her back pain is a chronic condition and she will need medicine for the rest of her life, she realises that her medicines and other therapies allow her to get the most out of her life.