April 13, 2021

Meet Richard: Taking Control of his Chronic Pain

By Manage My Pain User, Richard
Richard with chronic pain mountain biking
Richard has found ways to adapt and continue to the activities he loves most, despite his chronic pain
Richard is a long-time user of Manage My Pain from New Zealand. He has had quite the journey with chronic pain, but that hasn't stopped him from doing the things he loves. By making small but necessary adjustments to his life and properly tracking his chronic pain with the Manage My Pain app, Richard has taken control of his chronic pain.

We interviewed Richard below.

Tell us about yourself
I come from New Zealand and am continually active in my outdoor pursuits. I enjoy camping, tramping, mountain biking, and road cycling. I have often led multi-day tramps where I have helped others gain confidence to grow their own skills and abilities.

I have also volunteered as a Rural Fire Fighter, Urban Search and Rescue Team member, a safety marshal on multi-sport events, and currently am a flag marshal at two racetracks.

I live with Bipolar and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Exercise and getting outdoors is a huge part of my wellness toolkit.

When did you first start experiencing pain?
I started experiencing pain in my mid to late teens after spraining my knee or twisting my ankle a couple of times during tramps. I did not have much treatment, other than the usual treatment involving Rest Ice Compression Elevate (RICE). However, I did start wearing knee and ankle supports.

How did your pain evolve?
Over time, the damage done by the strains and sprains added up. A major point in how my pain evolved followed two incidents in close succession.

The first incident occurred during a casual bike ride where I did not spot a pothole. It threw me over the handlebars of my bike. As I went over, the resulting accident displaced my kneecap. I treated this with RICE.

The second incident occurred when I was due to marshal a multi-sport race. After being cleared to participate with my knee strapped, I acted as team leader for three days on the Mountain Run section of the event. However, on the hike, I rolled my foot on a rock during a river crossing which further damaged my knee and ankle. I sought treatment immediately once I was home and learned I had torn the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) of my knee.

I had a separate major accident in 2020 while working on a demolition derby car. I was tidying up the electrical wiring and it accidentally started. My leg was run over, and I was dragged about 5 meters (16 feet). Luckily, nothing was broken, but there was a lot of bruising and swelling, as well as a sizeable open wound on my ankle. As a result of this accident, I initially had nerve damage around my ankle. As the swelling went down, it became apparent that the nerve damage was in the whole lower leg. I was recently diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) because of this accident.

What challenges have you experienced getting the care you needed?

We are incredibly lucky in New Zealand, where we have a great primary health care system and accident insurance (Accident Compensation Corporation, ACC) but accessing secondary health care like pain clinics is difficult as there often a long waitlist for these secondary services.

Another challenge is the criteria for a knee replacement. Despite the advice to undergo this operation, I do not qualify as I am too young.
Part of the challenge has been trying to be strong and stoic. This comes from work in Emergency Response so I tend to downplay things.
Chronic pain and kayaking
Part of the challenge has been trying to be strong and stoic. This comes from work in Emergency Response so I tend to downplay things.
How did you find Manage My Pain and has it helped?
I found MMP through trial and error. I use an app to track my mental health and thought that there must be something for tracking pain. I tried two or three before coming across MMP and have not looked back.

The app has helped me understand aggravating factors as I lead a busy life between work, study, and volunteering. This can creep up on me causing muscle tension or tension headaches. MMP also helps me keep an eye on my pain for my CRPS, knee, and ankle pain. MMP lets me know if I am overdoing things, as I am still regularly active. The app has also helped me identify what non-medical interventions work best in different areas of pain.

I have shown the app to my General Practitioner while discussing my worsening CRPS, and they found it was especially helpful in identifying interventions that were not working. I also printed off a report for a support worker and he loved it! It gave him a lot of insight, including what I was doing, and he took the report away to see what he could put in place to complement my current pain management.

What have you tried to manage your pain?
Early on, I used strapping to manage my pain. I still use strapping but have now also included K-Tape or sports bands. I am on different medications, including ones for nerve pain. I have regular physio exercises that I do as well.

In terms of non-medical interventions, I still use RICE. I also have a knee pillow and was introduced to a TENS Machine by a friend which I have found to be amazing in terms of muscle tension/pain in my back and shoulders

Any inspirational tips to help others who might be looking for help as well?
Do not let your pain rule or control you. You are in charge of your own pain. Listen to your pain and you will learn to work within its limitations.

I was told about 6 years to give up tramping, mountain biking, etc; These activities are not important to me but help me manage my mental health. You often don’t have to give up what you love or enjoy doing, you can find ways of adapting.

For example, I might go for a walk instead of a mountain bike trail. I also carry trekking poles when hiking for support. I have learned to listen to my body more and respond to the pain in an appropriate manner.