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Home // Latest News // Diagnosed with persistent pain at 50, this figure skater is thriving thanks to Peninsula Health

Diagnosed with persistent pain at 50, this figure skater is thriving thanks to Peninsula Health

Frankston North resident Jan Dance spends more time on the water with the help of Peninsula Health’s Persistent Pain Management Service. 

Over the years, Jan Dance found her happy place skiing on water or skating on ice – but her failing body put both of her life’s passions on hold.  

When the 62-year-old started developing chronic lower back pain during 2004-05, a bout of surgery would ensue a couple of years later, however, the problem persisted and suddenly the surgeries were continuing, time and again.

After each surgery, Jan would try going back to doing what she loved.

“At first, it didn’t stop me from doing anything because I am stubborn and not prepared to give in to pain,” she says.

“When it got to a stage where I couldn’t stand the pain anymore, I had to seek medical help. I was put onto high doses of pain relief.”

Jan doing one of her favourite pastimes – water-skiing.

Jan took rounds of Endone, Tramal, Lyrica and Oxycontin to help her cope with the pain, but found it made her feel like a “zombie”.

“I hated it.”

“I then found that I had to give up the sports that I loved being ice-skating and water skiing which was pretty depressing.”

Working with Peninsula Health’s Persistent Pain Management Service, was the turning point for Jan to regain control of the pain which had taken hold of her life.

“It was hard to stay positive. I would look at people walking with the aid of frames and would shudder at the thought that I might end up like that,” she says.

“I have always been an active person so those thoughts were extremely scary. There were times when the pain was so extreme that I had to fight back the tears.”

“I never complained to my husband because I know that would only make him worry and I wanted to spare him from that. But at times he could see that I was in pain as it was too hard to hide.”

Despite the emotional struggles at times, Jan found a way through with the help of Peninsula Health staff making her understand triggers to her pain, to ease her suffering physically and emotionally.

“I had no idea that past trauma was one of these triggers,” she says.

“Once I was made aware of this I worked through the emotional scarring, and I am extremely happy to say that it no longer has any emotional effect on me.”

Since completing the sessions at Peninsula Health, Jan has been able to water ski without any pain and has also spent a lot of time on her paddle board.

“I have not as yet returned to the ice.”

“This may not ever happen as I know if I put on my skates I would not be happy to just skate, I know before long I would be jumping or spinning again, which probably wouldn’t be good for my back.”

Tessa Heine is the Coordinator of the Persistent Pain Management Service and a Senior Occupational Therapist. She believes figure skating is something Jan can gradually return to doing.

“One of the key components of the work done by the Persistent Pain Management Service, is to teach people about how they can impact the state of their nervous system, which will influence their experience of pain,” says Tessa.

“Many of these techniques are aimed at calming the nervous system, moving out of a ‘flight or flight’ response.”

“Calming techniques, as well as developing strategies to improve unhelpful thinking patterns can provide the nervous system with more evidence of safety, so that it does not feel that it needs to protect the person with the experience of pain.”

One in five Australians over the age of 45 live with chronic pain, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It’s characterised as persistent pain, lasting more than three months.

Behind the statistics are the debilitating costs to people’s lives. Many lose work and livelihoods, contributing to poorer mental health and regular doses of painkillers. Chronic pain is highly complex and individualised.

This year’s National Pain Week theme (July 27 – August 2) is ‘Faces of Pain’ giving people like Jan a chance to share their own personal insights and challenges.

If you are living with persistent pain, it’s important to remember you are not alone and there is help available to control and manage it.

Peninsula Health’s Persistent Pain Management Service operates out of The Mornington Centre specialising in a range of allied health techniques rather than medications. To learn more about how you can access the service please call 1300 665 781.

For more information go to www.nationalpainweek.org.au