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Carole has been living with chronic pain for over 35 years. At 18 years old she was involved in a car accident which left her with whiplash. As a young adult, Carole did lots of sports and was a nurse when it involved a lot of heavy lifting, resulting in chronic back and knee pain.

She has tried pretty much everything – aromatherapy massage, acupuncture, Bowen treatment – with varying results, but To Better Days’ patches have helped her relieve her pain unlike anything else.

Carole’s Chronic Pain Story

Back in the 70s and 80s, I worked in lots of different wards as a student nurse, then qualified as a nurse and midwife. My work in the NHS involved a lot of heavy lifting of patients, and back in the day we weren’t as well trained in health and safety. Outside of work, I played a lot of sports: volleyball, netball, everything. I loved being active, but it’s safe to say I didn’t listen to my body. The physical strain that I was putting on myself resulted in lower back, neck and shoulder problems which climaxed when I was 30.

I went to my GP, who identified arthritis in my neck and lower spine – the former had been there since I had whiplash at 18 due to a car accident which saw our car roll over three times. Miraculously, all three of the other passengers were unharmed at the time – the only damage done was to my neck, back and shoulder muscles.

My GP prescribed a combination of anti-inflammatories, painkillers and muscle relaxants to ease the pain – however, being a nurse and seeing the side effects of Western medicine every day, I preferred to stick with natural remedies. Up to this day, I only take two paracetamol a day in the morning. Other regular medicine makes me feel dopey, high and not able to function properly.

Giving Up Sport and Heavy Lifting

As a result of my chronic and acute pain, everything changed. I had to move jobs from being a physical nurse to being a practice nurse, and give up all sports. I didn’t mind leaving my job as a physical nurse, as it was clear that I simply could not go on.

In retrospect, however, it’s safe to say that I became deeply depressed for having to give up sport. Antidepressants weren’t as accessible back then, but to be honest, I didn’t even think of going to my GP. I just had to put up with it.

Becoming a Single Mum with Chronic Pain

When I had my first daughter at 32, my chronic pain affected what I was and wasn’t able to do as a mother. I became a single mum very early – my first daughter was only 12 weeks old when her father left. The buggy that I used for her had to be very lightweight, and I had to stop pushing her pretty early on as she got older and heavier. This meant that at a very young age she had to start walking. The other parents would look at me funny, but being a single mum with chronic pain, I didn’t have a choice.

Adapting Life Around my Back

I’ve adapted my life around my back: how I sit on a chair, how I get in and out of my car, how long I walk the dog for. I can’t bear to stand for a long time and never carry a shoulder bag, as it will give me unbearable pain.

At this stage, I’m not even conscious anymore of how I adapt around my pain. I do know, though, that trying to relieve my back puts strain on other joints and muscle groups. I’m pretty sure that the pain in my right knee, for example, affects my back and other knee.

Essential Oils for Self-Soothing

I’ve always felt a huge connection to the earth and have witnessed the side effects of Western medicine, where patients sometimes take as many meds for their meds’ side effects as they do for their actual problems. I’ve always preferred natural remedies and make my own aromatherapy products with essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, chamomile, rosemary, clove, nutmeg and ginger.

I use different oils for different purposes: chamomile, for example, will help me go to sleep while ginger and lavender will help energise me. I use my oils for lots of things, like when I have a cold, for example. Eucalyptus is good for that.

Endless Chronic Pain Treatments

I have tried an endless list of chronic pain treatments and remedies throughout the years. Although most therapists expected I should be able to see improvements within six months, they all had to admit eventually that all they could do was maintenance.

I saw a homeopathic GP in my thirties, who understood how my work as a nurse had caused my pain and helped me through pregnancy. I saw an emotional therapist and aromatherapist who I stayed with for many years but whom I left after my divorce, when I’d moved too far away.

I have had physio for my right shoulder and lower back. I’ve had two chiropractors who both had to discontinue treatment because my muscles were too bad and I had too many muscle spasms. I had six months of weekly acupuncture and very expensive Chinese medicine with a practitioner who I felt mislead by and who charged me for medicines that were initially promised for free.

For a while I tried pilates, which helped strengthen my back. Although I didn’t want to I had to give up on it because of problems with my right knee. This was when I had two operations in nine months to have knee cartilage removed.

Aromatherapy and Bowen Treatment: My Success Combination

I have been having monthly sessions with an aromatherapist for years – I’m definitely still having problems, but it helps for maintenance. The treatment that has helped me most is called Bowen therapy – I would describe it as a sort of reflexology for the body. It does more for me than all the others put together. Instead of focusing on my back and knee, where I assumed the problems lie, the Bowen therapist said we had to work on my jaw first, and then the neck – now I can suddenly move!

Although the various treatments that I’ve had have mostly solved my acute pain, so far, the chronic pain remains. It comes in waves and, from experience, it gets worse around emotional events. I’ve never been in so much pain as when my dog died, or when my daughters’ fathers left, for example. My chronic pain started with an accident and physical exhaustion, and now it responds to emotions. However, despite all this, I still feel hopeful that one day I will find lasting relief.

My To Better Days Patch Trial

In March 2020, I tried To Better Days’ patches to help with my knee pain. The large patches weren’t a very good shape for my knee – they kept rubbing when I moved, no matter at which angle I applied them – but two small ones on either side of the knee worked much better.

Despite my initial struggles, I have been really impressed with To Better Days’ patches. I still have pain in the joint, but the pain when I’m moving has improved amazingly. Since wearing the patches daily, I’ve rarely had a really bad pain that forced me to come back in from a walk. They’ve helped relieve pain in the tissue for the full 24 hours. Normally, I’m in as much pain when I’m sat down in the evening as when I’m walking during the day. Now, however, I haven’t been rubbing my knee when I’m sat down as I’m in much less pain.

Thank you, To Better Days!

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