Sean Jennings from Cornwall has been sharing his experience living with chronic pain. In a film from NHS England, he explains how the pain management programme at the Plymouth Pain Management Centre turned his life around.
Sean had a hernia operation 25 years ago and due to an infection, ended up suffering chronic pain. For many years, Sean was taking large doses of opioids which presented numerous side effects and yet he still suffered from continued chronic pain. Unfortunately, there was no surgical solution so he continued to take more and more painkillers.
The film tells the story of Sean’s journey from becoming increasingly reclusive and inactive, to returning to the life he enjoyed and looking forward to the future.
“My social life broke down to non-existent, I didn’t see many people,” said Sean. “I’d go to the shops with my partner, Celia, and she’d end up going shopping and I’d be sitting in the car. I just couldn’t do anything.
“After the co-codamol stopped working and it was causing me an awful lot of problems I was put onto tramadol and eventually onto morphine.”
The opioids weren’t providing relief from Sean’s pain and as it continued to worsen he returned to his GP.
“I realised that I wasn’t functioning properly and sought further help from my GP as I just couldn’t cope. He put me on the pain management programme and that changed my life.”
Through alternative therapies such as mindfulness and meditation, Sean has been able to deal with his pain without the reliance on opioids.
“To start with I thought, mindfulness? I didn’t understand that. But as a sceptic, it works,” said Sean. “I’m 39 weeks now with taking no opioids, no gabapentin, nothing for the pain whatsoever.
“The pain hasn’t gone away, it’s still bad. The way I deal with is now is actually through mindfulness. The brain knows what you’ve got pain, but I’m not taking any notice of it. My life has totally changed. It’s fantastic, a new life.”
Richard Walters, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in pain management, said: “The pain management programme is designed for people with long-term pain. It’s a combined physiotherapy and psychology programme working at helping people get moving again, improving their activity, understanding medications, managing their mood and emotions better and engaging in values-based activities.”
Dr Jim Huddy, who leads on chronic pain at Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “What we’re hoping for is that Sean’s story can implant what you might call a lightbulb moment for people who are in a similar situation with chronic pain, on high doses of opioids and who haven’t considered that there could be another way to manage their pain and lead their lives.
Sean’s Story was played in the House of Lords on Tuesday 25 June before an all-party parliamentary group on chronic pain. The group aims to raise awareness of chronic pain and to provide a forum for discussion and debate on issues relating to prevention, treatment and management of chronic pain.
NHS England South West Medical Director, Dr Michael Marsh, said: “This film aims to highlight to prescribers, such as GPs, and to also make patients aware that there are alternatives to opioids to help deal with chronic pain. By integrating psychological therapy with physical health services, the NHS can provide a more efficient support to this group of people with chronic pain and achieve better outcomes.”
To view the film, click here