The pain that binds us

SITTING home alone and concentrating on a focal point in the body where pain subsists is not an option for a group of Latrobe Valley residents.

They are of different ages, lead different lives and perhaps wouldn’t meet in another life.

But it’s their shared experience of chronic pain that brings them together each month.

The Latrobe Valley Pain Support Group was set up as an ongoing support network for patients of Latrobe Regional Hospital’s pain management clinic.

Member Neil Hodgins has lived with a neurological condition for 14 years, travelling worldwide before he was eventually diagnosed.

“We’re not trying to find cures or anything, we’re just a group of people who have been through pain management at the hospital,” Mr Hodgins said.

“We all have problems and we use the meetings to pool resources of what we might have learnt in the last month.

“But we also like to have a bit of fun.”

That fun involves a monthly theme, from discussing songs that have a personal meaning to items they’d like to tick off their bucket lists.

It’s an escape according to Karen Brick, who has experienced chronic pain for more than 20 years and was diagnosed just six years ago.

“(It helps) more than you could possibly describe,” Ms Brick said.

“Pain can be very isolating, I know I isolated myself for a couple of years.

“And I found with this group, it’s just the opportunity to be able to speak to people who have gone through something similar.”

Instead of focusing on each individual’s pain, which often travels down the same path and sends sensory messages to one area, the group has a “happy two hours”.

“We used to spend too much time at our meetings discussing finances,” Mr Hodgins said.

“Now we don’t.”

They share advice from rehabilitation and occupational therapy sessions about how to manage pain.

They also find inspiration from one another’s experiences.

Christine Lia hit a dead cow along the Princes Freeway travelling at 110 kilometres per hour.

At 27 years old, she was told she would never be able to carry a child due to her spinal, neck and lower back injuries.

She is now the mother of a four year-old son, born prematurely at 34.6 weeks, after struggling through a difficult pregnancy while undergoing hydrotherapy and pain medication.

“If we weren’t here at this meeting, to be all honest, we would be sitting at home and not doing anything because we don’t know anything different,” Ms Lia said.

“And that’s exactly what it’s down to.

“I come here, I might go off and do hydrotherapy or something for pain management, and I’ll come here and tell everyone else (about it).

“It’s contributing so we all can move together so you’re not alone, because it is a very lonely journey.”

As Chronic Pain Australia aims to raise awareness about chronic pain among health professionals and the wider community, the group also hopes for greater social acceptance.

For more information about Latrobe Valley Pain Support Group, phone Jane Caffrey on 5174 1635 or email

Patients must be referred by LRH’s pain management clinic, phone 5173 8822.