My “Dark Passenger” – A Life With Chronic Pain!

For the past 8 years I have lived with Chronic Pain. It was only 5 years ago that I was finally diagnosed with a Chronic Inflammatory Arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Over the last 2 years I have been on a very successful treatment for it and my pain has been less severe and “flare ups” occur less often.

The pain I have is Sacral Iliac Joint and Low Back Pain that sometimes feels similar to Sciatica and there are times when I find getting out of bed a challenge. I am better when I am out of bed, but in that lying position my ligaments and tendons pull the joints and there are times it fills me with so much dread at the mere thought of going to bed!

Thankfully I was offered a treatment called Anti-TNF Therapy for the condition, which is basically a drug that prevents your immune system “attacking” your own cells. This treatment basically suppresses your immune system, which can leave you vulnerable to other ailments. I have been lucky so far!

This treatment involves me giving myself an injection in the leg once a week. I hate this day each week, because it hurts like crazy and my leg swells up like a balloon, making me look bloated and water-logged for a few days after. But, I have to keep remembering what will happen if I stop; back to a life of worse pain! Looking like a bloater 3 days a week is much better than being in agony, right? … unless you plan to wear a skirt or shorts, or want to have nice definition … Well, I TRY and see the bigger picture, it’s just hard to sometimes.

This post is not about “poor me” or any sort of pity party (except for the evil injection part – I’ll accept all sympathy cards for that one ūüėČ ), but this is a chance for me to tell you a little more about the obstacles that I face in my everyday life (including my training) that others may relate to. Even if you don’t have chronic pain, you are bound to know someone who does live with Persistent/Chronic Pain or indeed someone who lives with a chronic physical or psychological condition that poses them with a challenge they feel they cannot face let alone overcome. ¬†Reading this might give someone hope that their life doesn’t have to stop, just because they are in pain. ¬†In fact, for me, I am often in worse pain when I don’t move – and not just physical pain!

The risk with this sort of post is that I come off as trying to suggest that I have a bigger challenge to other people when it comes to training. This is not what I want to convey at all. I want people to know that everyone has THEIR OWN struggles and we each need to be aware that just because something cannot be seen, doesn’t mean someone is not trying to overcome a hurdle or two. ¬†The worst thing about my “condition” is the fact that people assume I am fine because I train. ¬†Most of the time I am fine, but there are times when I am not. ¬†These are the times I get looks of doubt and disbelief from the people closest to me. ¬†Just because you cannot see the pain, doesn’t mean it’s not there. ¬†***FYI, if I wanted to use it as an excuse not to do anything with my life and live off the government, do you really think I’d be running a FITNESS BLOG?? REALLY?! *** (sorry, slight rant there).

Everyone’s problems are relative, and they are very visible to them!

While my condition can literally be a real pain in my arse, I am starting to view it as a blessing in disguise (sort of).

If I had never been diagnosed, I would never have gone to the gym in the first place. If I had never gone to the gym, I would never have got into strength training and began this amazing journey. Plus, the fact that I do get pain from time to time and maybe can’t train the way I want to, means I make the most of the days I can lift heavier and the days I am pain-free! ¬†And, because of my training, I move better even when I am in pain!

Oh those sweet days when I know there is something different, a weight off my shoulders … a day without pain! Makes me feel lucky when I have days without pain, when there are people out there who suffer everyday like I used to.

I guess the point of me writing this is to ask you:

How do you make the most of what you are dealt? ¬†Do you make excuses and use it as a reason not to work, train … ¬†or live?? Or do you turn it around and make damn sure it doesn’t beat you and see the value in what you can do, in spite of it!

There are many times I have sat in anger and bitterness about being in pain and not feeling up to a session of squats or deadlifts, and there are even times when I have had to take time off work – but that doesn’t mean this is who I am or that I am a failure. ¬†My pain may dictate the odd day of unplanned rest, but it will not stop me reach my goals. ¬†I have watched other people excel at their goals and make great progress as mine seems slow in comparison. ¬†But, as I have said before, the battles we face are more often battles within ourselves. ¬†Do not let your Dark Passenger control your goals, for they are YOURS for the taking!

Here are 5 things to think about when it comes to living beyond the pain barrier:

  1. Instead of assuming because you get pain on movement that it will only get worse with exercise, do some research into how exercise might actually help your condition.
  2. Sometimes pain is a danger sign and sometimes it is a false alarm! Check out these links to further understand Chronic Pain – I found Part 2 of Dr. Neil Pearson’s presentations (Part 1 doesn’t seem to work) VERY helpful.
  3. Don’t look too far down the road. Take each day or week at a time and make the most of those pain-free days by training to get stronger!
  4. Try to reduce stress in your life. This will make you feel more energetic and less likely to feel heightened to your pain.
  5. Finally, give yourself permission to take things easier if you need it. For me, this means I don’t always train to my 1 Rep Max – but I work at getting stronger at moving well!

Realising that even the smallest steps towards your goal can mark progress, is the key to kicking your Dark Passenger in the balls!

As always, feel free to share your own stories …



  • January 3, 2012

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