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    Janis ‘sang’ her way through an invisible illness, chronic pain
 One in five Australians live with some form of chronic pain. While there are several definitions, chronic pain can be described as persistent pain which lasts more than three months. For Redlands mother Janis, back pain was a constant, yet most unwelcome companion for over 20 years.
“You might look alright and look healthy enough to people who meet you casually - but beneath the surface, you’re in constant pain and you’re always engaged with negative self-talk about your handicap and assessing whether any activity is worth the risk because it might trigger a flare- up,” says Janis.
“I fell when I was ice skating in my 20’s and damaged my coccyx (tailbone) which later caused a degenerative back condition. The chronic pain started a few years after the accident when I had my first child, now aged 27, and it got even worse when I had twins, now aged 23.
Janis was referred to the Brisbane Centre for Pain Management at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Brisbane. Here we offer one of Australia’s most comprehensive range of pain management services and specialties in one location. The hospital has been running the Pain Management Program (a group program with some one-to-one sessions) since 2012 helping thousands of patients with a multi-disciplinary approach.
Dr Michelle O’Brien is a specialist pain medicine physician and anaesthetist also working at St Vincent’s with particular interests, including the importance of multidisciplinary team management for chronic pain. “It’s important that people who suffer from chronic pain know that there are medical experts who just specialise in managing pain. There are pain services with trained people who can help specifically in pain and there are numerous management options. Patients just need a referral to a pain specialist who can then assess the patient and then come to an agreement about the best approaches.” said Dr O’Brien.
The four-week, two-days-a-week program at our Brisbane Hospital includes a variety of sessions which cover physiotherapy, occupational therapy, movement, education sessions,
psychological support and development of a personalised pain management plan to implement on completion. It can include follow-up sessions and ongoing support if required.
For Janis, that has meant a return to part time work and a far more constructive and positive approach to living her life. “The course was enjoyable, challenging, quite difficult at times and other times it was just plain confronting. They teach you how to manage pain or at least manage your pain better through body awareness, relaxation techniques and meditation.”
But for Janis, the greatest achievement was that it gave her the coping skills, knowledge and courage to try new things – most notably ticking off a big ‘bucket list’ goal of joining a choir – the Redland Rhapsody Chorus. She describes it as a ‘ladies’ version of Barbershop singing”, featuring 4-part harmony “acapella” - and Janis happily confesses she’d never been a singer until now!
The group had its finest achievement in May, when the performed at the prestigious Sweet Adelines International competition held in Brisbane where they won three medals, placed third in Australia, and were voted the Most Improved Chorus (the group’s best result in almost three decades).
“It brings me the greatest joy and there’s so much fun and friendship among the group of ladies from rehearsing and performing together,” says Janis. “Aside from having my twin boys, singing with the Chorus and being acknowledged with awards at the Sweet Adelines International event this year, is my greatest life achievement.”
We are so proud that this type of program has been running and it has helped so many people. Your ongoing support of our work helps people like Janis resume and enjoy their life moving forward, thank you.
Main photo: Redland Rhapsody Chorus Right: Janis and her family at home
 Caring & Sharing - Issue 2 | 2023

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