To Better Days Story: Julie
For as long as she can remember, Julie has suffered from shoulder and neck pain. As a single mum of two sons who also runs her own business, she carries a lot on her shoulders.
On New Year’s Eve 2018 (going into the year 2019), Julie had a bad fall, which caused her intense chronic neck pain. Despite her best efforts of stretching and self-massaging, she is in pain every evening due to pent-up stress and tension.
When Julie tried To Better Days patches, she was very sceptical – she couldn’t see how these small patches would work. But once they started to kick in, the effects were amazing. “When I was wearing them, the tension just went.”
Julie’s Chronic Pain Story
Hi, my name is Julie. I grew up in Markham as the oldest of two siblings, whom I’m still very close with. Throughout my life, I’ve mostly stuck around Markham – I’ve lived in this current house for 23 years now. Three years ago I got divorced from my children’s father, and ever since, it’s been me, Kai and Caleb. My oldest, Kai, is 17 and Caleb is eight. I love them both to bits and we are thick as thieves.
For as long as I can remember I’ve lived with shoulder and neck pain – it’s a mixture of poor posture and a family curse, I think. I used to work at a special needs school – mostly with severely autistic children. The work was mentally stressful and also physically demanding – it involved a lot of pushing wheelchairs, changing nappies, heavy lifting, etc.
My Back and Neck Injury from a Car Accident
When I was 19, the kids’ dad and I were in a car accident – we were hit by a wagon on the motorway and the car was turned over. We both went into hospital with neck and back injuries, and we needed a lot of physio to help us recover. I couldn’t go back to work with my neck and back problems, as the nature of my work was too physically intensive and the school was far from where I lived. I was off work for six months and then got pensioned off.
“Needless to say, the car accident gave me PTSD – I haven’t driven on the motorway since.”
For a while, I was seeing a renowned chiropractor for £50 an hour to help with my neck and shoulder pain – it helped me greatly, but I can’t afford that kind of treatment anymore.
Once my neck and back got better, I decided to go back to work, but this time with little kids. I have to admit it wasn’t great for my posture, as you’re constantly bent over holding their hands.
Becoming a (Foster) Parent
Eventually, the kids’ dad and I ended up fostering for five years – we were the foster parents of a girl who came to us at age nine. She was a very challenging child, one with quite extreme behaviours. She attacked me when I was seven months’ pregnant with my first child, Kai. Unfortunately, that was the end of it: she had to move out. We still have a good bond, however – it was difficult raising her at times due to behaviours caused by past traumas, but I love her regardless.
I had my first biological child when I was 29 – I had to do two rounds of IVF to get there. The pregnancy resulted in a period of severe back pain, but it was all worth it: when Kai was born, I was delighted.
“The day the IVF clinic finally called to tell me the good news was the same day that 9/11 happened – it was a bizarre time.”
I had one more son 10 years later: my youngest, Caleb. When he was born I stopped working for a bit so I could spend time with my children. Eventually, I started my own cleaning business – it gives me a bit more control over my time, and more flexibility. I’m lucky to have lovely, regular clients – I enjoy spending time with them and some of them have continued to support me financially during the coronavirus lockdown.
Chronic Shoulder Pain
The intense shoulder pain I live with day and night started four years ago. I couldn’t tell you exactly how or why it started.
On New Year’s Eve 2018 (going into the year 2019), however, I had a really bad fall that made my pain much worse. I couldn’t get out of bed for months. I’m pretty sure I dislocated my shoulder – I did get an X-ray, but the doctors said it was just damaged. My mum and Kai helped me out while I was bed-bound.
“My shoulder pain is nowhere near as bad as it was when I fell, but I am in pain all the time.”
Now, during the daytime when I’m up and active, the pain is not too bad – it’s at the end of the day, when I’m just sitting down, that it really flares up as a result of the tension that I’ve been holding. I think my spine is out of alignment, which causes my body to be imbalanced and puts extra strain on my muscles. It also doesn’t help that I worry a lot – being a single mum, I know that I need to keep going and keep working for my and my kids’ survival. If something happens to me… well, I just can’t let that happen.
The Shoulder and Neck Pain Treatments I’ve Tried
I’ve received various treatments for the muscle pain in my neck and shoulders – the best treatment I ever received was from a chiropractor, who really clicked me back into place. In terms of medication, I was on naproxen for a long time, but I think I got addicted to it so the doctors got me off it. All the regular medicines I’ve tried have had quite severe side effects – naproxen gave me bad indigestion, so I got prescribed omeprazole. Omeprazole gave me iron deficiency, which caused me hair loss – the list goes on.
“I kept having to take more medication to counter the side effects – it wasn’t sustainable, so I started looking at alternative pain relief treatments.”
Acupuncture therapy was amazing in terms of alternative treatments – I tried it for three months despite my fear of needles. I’d be lying on my front while the therapist was putting needles into me, and I could feel the energy radiating from the acupressure points – it was the strangest feeling. Afterwards, I’d feel a bit woozy and sometimes have a bit of a headache, but overall, it did help my shoulder and neck pain.
I also tried To Better Days patches – I got invited to participate in a trial through a research agency I’m subscribed to and decided to apply. When the package came through and I saw the size of the patches, I was so dubious about them – I said to my partner, “I don’t see how these are going to work.” I started wearing them, and they didn’t kick in for a bit, but when they did, the effects were amazing! When I was wearing them, the tension just went. Dissolved into thin air.
“I couldn’t understand how such a small pain patch was going to work, but once they kicked in, the effects were amazing.”
Chronic Pain Management, Day to Day
Every evening, the pent-up tension I hold in my body hits me, and I dread those moments when I’m just in serious pain. I use memory foam back cushions, neck pillows and knee cushions to make my pain more manageable, and on top of that I stretch in the evening – side stretches, shoulder stretches, etc.
“I usually spend an hour in the evening doing my exercises and self-massaging just so I can get to sleep.”
I used Tiger Balm for self-massaging, but it can take me an hour to release all the knots. I also have a Shiatsu chair massager – it’s intense, as it kneads you so deeply, but it also leaves you feeling bruised for quite a while after.
On top of all this, I’m very excited to have the help of To Better Days patches again. They really effectively relieved my tension when I used them before, and everytime I receive a pack, it’s just such a treat to myself. Sometimes I feel a bit self-indulgent for choosing the patches over putting the money towards my kids, but I also think that it’s worth it, and I think I deserve the relief every now and then.
Thank you, To Better Days, for helping me get some relief!