Chronic Pain in The 23rd Century

Well, Sunday was a lovely day again. What’s that, two or three in a row? I think so but my short term memory seems fried with 40 years of chronic pain.

So then, one of the best days of early summer – and how did I spend it? Well, for 3 hours I battled with the Royal Mail’s page to use a spreadsheet to save time (apparently) entering in details of a mailshot to give our new brochure to (hopefully) interested parties.

Those 3 hours were from 7:30am to 10:30am. I’m not joking.


I was clearly overcompensating for weeks of not being able to promote Affa Sair – my brainchild.  The idea of setting it up was not only to help other ‘chronics’ but to also help me, by giving me something else to think about other than the unrelenting pain. Perhaps I took it too far on so nice a day but overcompensating is something we ‘chronics’ surpass at.  No matter what we haven’t been able to do lately, we end up doing it to the nth degree because learning to pace yourself is one of the hardest things a chronic has to accomplish.

It sounds easy,  “Just don’t overdo it.” says your Doctor, Physio, or Partner (if you’re lucky to have one still part of your life).  Trouble is, how do you know when you’ve done just short of overdoing it?   “Oh that’s easy,” say the un-pained.  “Experience will tell you how much you can safely do.”

Well, no it won’t.

Chronic Pain is so unquantifiable.  The effects of it vary, not only from person to person but day to day if not hour to hour.   Every type of environmental circumstance affects the central nervous system.  You see the problem.  It’s difficult if you’ve never had to actually cope with it.  This is why the relationship between the sufferer and helper is so delicate.  Usually the hubris of the professionally trained doesn’t let them believe the untrained has anything worth teaching them.  I particularly like the old Chinese proverb:

“If you are not a fish, how can you tell if the fish are happy?”

The delicate relationship between helper and sufferer often gets blown apart when the frustration of the chronic meets the hubris of the trained.  However, I don’t think there is ever an excuse for rudeness; on either side.  Respect is the key to less upset and something younger generations have forgotten or have never been taught.  Hmm, maybe there is something in training after all.  Gawd, being human is difficult.  I wonder, is it best to be single-minded or able to see both sides of an argument?

For me, the good thing about all this hyper-compensation is that it acts as a distraction.  I swear, the usual daily pain was lessened for the whole three hours because my mind was so occupied.  There was no room in my senses for the pain to be felt.  So clearly the benefits outweighed the losses.

  1. The Group will get more recognition.

  2. The pain was reduced.

  3. Rosie escaped from the moans and groans.

  4. I didn’t feel like snacking.

  5. I continued my life-long learning.


  1. I didn’t make Rosie’s coffee.

  2. I didn’t relax in the sun.

So, a morning spent doing something useful while I was in less pain.  What could go wrong?  Well, the rest of the day for a start.

Royal Mail app defeated and postage labels printed, I sat down to coffee and toast when “Brace yourself Effie!” my CRPS slams into high gear.

First of all there was a massive screeching spasm from my left shoulder to my spine. “Oh golly gosh that was ever so painful” emanated from my mouth (or words to that effect with more effs in them) followed by another two, equally violent, thrusting explosions causing me to double up in torture.  Then the left knee breaks into an immediate gripping spike of searing agony, closely followed by a paroxysm of bone-snapping intensity encompassing the shin and ankle when, damn me, the right ankle, shin and knee erupt in harmony.

That little lot stun me into an insular silence slowly becoming aware of the growing vice-like torment overtaking my teeth and gums.  Eventually, I forced myself back to reality to reach for the lidocaine plasters and xylocaine, designed to relieve the body and mouth respectively.

Like most chronics, I need far more than the ‘recommended dose’ of medication to even scratch the surface of the misery engulfing me.  I was so frustrated then, the plans for the day suddenly disappearing.  I no longer fear the reaction of my wife as she has long ago accepted the inevitability of uncertainty for our plans.

Sometimes her acceptance of this brings out feelings of being ignored in me.  In all fairness, what else can she do to survive life with me.  I don’t envy her existence with me at all and am grateful every day for her being there.  So many chronics have lost or never found that comfort.

Slowly the pain recedes enough that I could take the long and interesting telephone call from a journalist pain campaigner.  Initially buoyed up, I remembered in time, that I am no longer capable of getting involved in more causes, especially ones that would mean alienating the very people I need to agree to help chronics.

The only escape, since the day was wrenched away, was the two hours exhausted sleep I got in the late afternoon followed by an evening of more distraction in a streaming episode of an Australian drama and then three old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation currently playing on the Sci Fi channel.

Oh how we both loved this series.  Even now, some 35 years or so later, we can repeat lines of script to one another.  Series Two was playing.  The one where the role of the ship’s doctor is taken by Diana Muldaur who starred in the original Star Trek.  Her character of Katherine Pulaski was far better shaped than the ever hairstyle-changing Beverly Crusher.  It’s a pity she was only in one series and not in the later storyline inspiring 5 series.   Even so, the first of the episodes was about the human genome and gene splicing which was only being talked about in the late 1980s.

Gawd how I laughed (to Rosie’s annoyance) at the plasticky tricorders, phasers and desktop computers, now digitally remastered in all their gimmicky-looking glory.  Then I marvelled at how so much of the future technology has become reality except for the force fields and transporters.  I believe though that there have been experiments with force field technology but who knows what exists in secret now.

What links this escapism with the rest of the day, is that one of the storylines showed the 23rd century’s inability to cure arthritic pain when the characters are rapidly ageing.

A tale of things to come?  I hope not. We’ve got to progress further than that.

Hopefully,  Affa Sair will change the present timeline in a pain-defeating causality loop!