CQ mother's silent pain forces child to grow up fast
BEEANKHA Belcher knows very well the pain of living with an "invisible” illness.
From a young age, the Zilzie resident regularly suffered through migraines and back pain, unaware so many like her were dealing with the same daily struggle.
Eight in 10 Queenslanders are living with pain, according to an Amcal Pharmacy survey which highlights the struggles of ongoing pain, and the fight sufferers endure to make their voices heard amidst new codeine regulation changes.
After falling out of a car on a main highway aged three, Ms Belcher, 24, has dealt with constant pain.
"I've had back pain ever since I could remember,” she said.
"I could never eat my food quick because I would get back pain, and sitting or standing for too long; I'd get back pain.”
After giving birth to her daughter Emily in 2015, she found her back would give out on her "out of the blue”.
Ms Belcher said she dealt with migraines throughout her teenage years as a result of her depression.
"All the doctors did for me was give me a piece of paper all about migraines and headaches and I have had an X-ray done on my back and a head scan,” she said.
"Nothing came back bad, and I don't know how many times I've been to see different doctors about the same things. The doctors just left it at that.”
Back pain, muscular pain and migraine sufferers claim their conditions still aren't taken seriously, however they make up more than three quarters of Queensland's "invisible illness” population.
Ms Belcher experienced the same stigma and cynicism towards her condition when she found that no matter where she turned, she was met with the same resistance to treating her illness.
"I tried different store-bought medication and if that didn't work, I just had to tough it out,” she said.
"There was not much else I could do.”
Ms Belcher said people "underestimate” the extent of invisible injuries, and said her unreliable back meant she couldn't apply for jobs that required heavy lifting.
"My daughter had to learn how to climb into her car seat, high chair and bed as soon as she got too heavy for me to pick her up because I didn't trust my back,” she said.
The Amcal Pharmacy survey revealed that unlike physical injuries like broken bones, which are plain for everyone to see and empathise with, these "invisible” illnesses are often met with scepticism and doubt from loved ones, colleagues and medical professionals.
The survey also said as a result, many sufferers are turning to self-diagnosis and pain management.
Laws introduced on February 1 require a prescription for codeine-based medications which the report suggests may cause silent sufferers' more difficulty in their pain management.
Amcal spokesperson and senior pharmacist James Nevile suggested sufferers seek support from a GP or pharmacist to understand their pain relief options.
"More than a quarter of sufferers believe that codeine-based painkillers are the only effective solution because that's what they have read online or heard from friends,” he said.
"As a result, forthcoming changes to pain medication laws could cause anxiety among those who have become accustomed to using codeine-based painkillers to manage their symptoms.
"Fortunately, there are a number of pharmacy-only medicines that don't require a prescription and are just as effective in helping to manage pain.
- One quarter would not inform their colleagues of any pain.
- 30% said they would conceal their pain from close friends.
- More than one in 10 could keep their pain hidden from a spouse.
- A third of sufferers feel judged at work if they take a sick day.
- More than half choose to deal with the pain instead of taking leave.
- A quarter of people survey said they would not inform their colleagues of any pain.
- One in five Queenslanders know someone who suffers from pain.
- If you are concerned the changes to codeine prescription regulations could affect your pain management and are searching for new strategies to deal with pain, visit your nearest Amcal Pharmacy for a free, personalised pain management plan.