By Jory Pradjinski, Guest Columnist
My chronic pain journey began when I injured my back in 1987, while I was managing an auto repair shop.
I was trying to remove a large pallet from a delivery truck and the pallet was placed sideways in the truck. Another guy and I had to use a large crowbar to leverage the pallet 90 degrees so it could be removed. We had done this many times before. However, when I was ready to turn the pallet I felt something pop in my low back and I ended up in the emergency room. I had herniated my L5-S1 disc.
The doctors tried different types of treatments, but nothing worked. So in 1989, I had to go through back surgery with a fusion. That first fusion didn’t work and I ended up having a second and third, which also failed. Finally, the fourth and fifth fusions were successful.
There were a grand total of five fusions, plus two follow-up procedures, over the course of 7 years before my L5-S1 level was fused. But I continued to have pain that just kept getting worse.
I lost support early on after my second failed fusion, which left me feeling isolated. I knew my family and friends couldn’t understand. With no support system, I retreated into myself and experienced depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative amnesia and a year of suicidal thoughts. I had a hard time keeping a job due to failing concentration levels and extreme pain. I went on disability.
The Transition to Alternative Treatments
In 2006, while I was still having treatments on my back, I was rear ended at a stop light by an inattentive driver of a pickup truck going 50 mph. The accident affected my C5-C6 and C6-C7 discs, gave me a severe concussion, traumatic brain injury and a bruised skull (which I will have the rest of my life). I tried traditional medicine, but it failed to relieve the pain in my arms and hands. My doctor referred me to chiropractic and massage care, which relieved the pain somewhat.
In 2013, I fell face first at home after tripping on a cord. This dislodged my L4 vertebra. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who said they don’t do surgeries for that anymore. That was a welcoming statement to hear. After several months of rest and pain management, the vertebra went back into place. The surgeon then referred me to a chiropractor and several months later I changed to my current chiropractor, which was the best thing I ever did.
She helped me believe in what might be possible. If it hadn’t been for that fall, I don’t believe I would be where I am today because she gave me the hope and treatment that I needed. There truly was a silver lining in this situation.
I worked on reducing my weight, realizing the extra weight was adding to my pain levels, and ended up losing 57 pound. I did not use any special diet or exercise, just changed what I ate. Then, I had to get off the pain medications. I was up to 60mg OxyContin twice a day, plus oxycodone for breakthrough pain. I went through 5 months of withdrawal from the OxyContin.
The changes in my body from the chiropractic adjustments helped me get off the pain medications. The weight loss and getting the medications of out my system also had big impacts on my body. Along the way, I started getting massage therapy, dry needling, supplements, a natural muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory, and an herb for pain relief. It was a tough journey during this transition..
Founding ‘Hope Instilled’
I kept having the repeated thought in my head that this is not the way my life should be. I started to think, “I’m here for a reason. I must have experienced all these things for a reason.”
That's when I came up with the idea of Hope Instilled, a non-profit that provides resources and support to people living with chronic pain and illness. Having survived with no support network during my own journey, I wanted to help others with peer-to-peer support groups, which are often a missing link in pain management programs.
We are now building support forums on our website which allow anonymity for members. This also allows us to create different forum topics. We are looking to connect with local pain treatment centers and clinics. Our Facebook group has grown to include members from around the world. All the growth we've experienced came through word of mouth.
I have a positive and optimistic attitude towards life now. There are experiences I’ve endured which have made me enjoy rainy days as much as sunny days. Because I’m alive each day is a blessing.
When we find out we’re not alone there is some healing which begins deep inside. Throughout my journey, no one reached out to me and pulled me up. No one encouraged me to keep going. I was totally alone and survived alone. I look to do my best to help others not face a similar path.
Jory Pradjinski is a chronic pain survivor and the founder of Hope Instilled. Jory is a strong advocate for speaking up and speaking out about chronic pain, chronic illness and mental health conditions.
Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to: editor@PainNewsNetwork.org.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.