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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    In constant pain, sad, can't sleep - How do I feel better?

    I am a 49 year old male, self-employed, overweight with numerous problems such as severe spondylolisthesis I have suffered with for over 30 years and a MRSA-like infection of my leg from a spider bite a few years ago.

    I am in constant pain, I can't sleep, I always feel sad, tired and can't seem to focus on one task .Even though I spend up to 14 hours a day at work I can't function - my business is suffering because of this so this keeps me constantly stressed. I feel useless and a failure to my wife, friends and employees. I drink more these days and it has gone from beer to nearly straight vodka.

    I am also consuming about 70 pain tablets a week.
    I have not had a holiday of any sort for over 20 years.
    I can't keep going, this is pathetic, I am a man. I should not be feeling like this.I want the pain and sorrow to end.

    Help me please. My best mate took his life 2 years ago and I wonder now if maybe he is the lucky one.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 3


    Neil Synnott

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    I am qualified as a PHYSIOTHERAPIST and ACCREDITED EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST.I primarily use the McKENZIE METHOD for assessment and management of musculoskeletal pain disorders. The McKENZIE … View Profile


    Thank you for sharing your situation with us. The fact that you have shared with us is important.

    You acknowledge that your situation needs some attention. I suggest speaking to your GP or finding a good GP who can help set you up with the assistance you need - nurse/ GP for the infection, physiotherapist for the back pain and accredited exercise physiologist for the weight management.

    From a physiotherapist point of view, the spondylolisthsis you have is amenable to change. Assessment with a credentialled McKenzie physiotherapist will be able to direct you with some self-management strategies for the pain associated to the spondylolisthesis. This will likely include some stretches and using some lumbar support while sitting. Knowing you can change your pain is uplifting… also means the use of pain tablets is significantly reduced!

    Again, I suggest you speak with your GP about where to start.

    All the best, Neil

  • 4


    Dianne Zebic

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Dianne Zebic has retired as of 31/01/2015 View Profile

    I feel you would possibly benefit by speaking to a counsellor or psychologist about all of your problems. However you would need to possibly check with your GP what treatment for pain management would work best for you. 

    Many psychologists specialise in pain management, and this type of professional along with your GP support would hopefully try to improve your condition. You can perhaps google ‘Pain Mangement psychologists’ in your area and check who is available.Your GP can give a Mental Health Care Plan which would give approx 6 counselling sessions billed to Medicare with maybe a small gap fee for you to pay or if services are bulk billed then you won't be out of pocket.

    With chronic pain we need to treat the mental, physical and the emotional factors, as most pain can cause reactive depression. For your sleep the psychoogist that deals with pain management will give you tools like visualisation, relaxation, progressive muscle techniques and stress management to improve your condition. Also speak to your GP about seeing a pysiotherapist and pysiologist to check if maybe hydrotherapy may help you ( this is water based exercises in the swimming pool) can help with chronic pain. However you will need to check with these allied health specialists what is best treatment for your type of condition.

    The other option is to ask your GP for a referral to see a Pain Specialist, who can assess your pain levels and see what is best treatment to reduce your pain, which then will hopefully help improve your lifestyle and help you with sleeping.

    Don't give up as life is worth living :)

  • 2


    Kevin S Lau


    I will listen and support you through your journey to recovery and help you sustain your health and well-being. Facebook link View Profile

    Hi there,

    Thank you for sharing your story.  It must be very frustrating to experience pain for such a long time and it seems overwhelming.

    Pain, especially of a chronic nature, can cause depression.  The fact that you are not sleeping well, drinking and feeling useless warrants you seek professional help.  

    The overweight issue and lack of regular exercise will compoound your chronic pain issue.  Seeing your GP to deal with your drinking and sleeping issues, he or she might refer you to a  psychiatrist or cousellor.

    Start off with some gentle walking exercise e.g. 10 mins each day.  A Physiotherapist will be able to assess your condition to help alleviate your pain using non-pharmaceutical method such as manual therapy, dry needling and specific therapeutic exercises.  

    The priority is for you to improve your sleep quality and have your pain reduced.

    Hope you can take some actions NOW.

    Kevin :-)


  • 1


    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Adding to the great suggestions which the clinical health professionals have offered you, as far being overweight is concerned, talking with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is worth considering.

    An APD will be able to review your diet with you and suggest ways in which it could be changed to help you lose weight in a healthy way.

    You can find an APD here; .

    All the best.

  • 1


    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    As others have suggested here, it is most likely that you are suffering from depression in response to all of the pain you are living with. It must be increadibly daunting to know where to start - good on you for taking the step of reaching out via this website for support. It sounds like a comprehensive pain management plan will be important to look at, and losing weight may reduce your pain somewhat as well. Another possibility may be to look at working with a counsellor or psychologist on mindfulness training. Mindfulness is a series of techniques that will help you reduce your experience of pain, even in the event you are unable to change the pain itself. For more information about how to use mindfulness in managing pain, you may want to check out the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn - he has a number of books and youtube clips you can look at online for more information. Here is a useful article about his approach, with links about where to get more information if you are interested in learning more.

    Wishing you all the best.

  • 2


    Shannon Moule


    I'm a registered psychologist with experience working in both community and public health settings. I have experience working with children, adolescents, and adults with a … View Profile

    I think you have taken such a courageous step to reach out for help. I get the overall sense of overwhelment as I read your story. There are a lot of great suggestions above and I agree with them, however please don't feel like you need to do everything at once. I notice a lot of people become very rigid in response to their recovery, having thoughts of "failing" or "it is just too hard" as they start to make the journey to recovery. Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

    The fact that you have thoughts of suicide I feel it is very important you start with your GP to get a mental health treatment plan to see a psychologist. This type of referral will allow you to get a rebate on your psychology consultation fees. You can nominate your own psychologist and I recommend getting someone who specliases in chronic pain conditions. Click on the following link to be taken to a free online service which helps you find the most approprirate psychologist for you.

    If you feel at any point that you are at risk of ending your life, please reach out to services such as 

    Lifeline:  13 11 14
    crisis support chat 

    Suicide Call Back Service:
    1300 659 467
    Online counselling

     Men’s Line: 1300 78 99 78
    Online counselling

    They are there to help and will not judge you for what you are going through, it is a conversation that may save your life and that of the people around you.


    I wish you all the best.

  • Dr Janine Clarke

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Janine Clarke is a Clinical Psychologist with experience working with individuals and couples. Janine has trained extensively in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and … View Profile

    I’m sorry to hear that things have been so tough for you. The bravery you have shown in sharing this post is commendable, and it’s fabulous to see the range of very helpful responses that have followed. It can be very difficult to open-up about personal and painful experiences. I really hope that this has been a positive experience for you.

    Might I re-iterate the advice contained in many of the responses – a visit to your GP as a matter of urgency would be a good idea, with perhaps a referral or referrals to other allied health professionals to deal with your pain and the distress and sadness this is causing you.

    Reducing unnecessary pain and suffering is important. However, chronic health conditions are such that temporary set-backs and symptom flare-ups are inevitable. For this reason, you might benefit from psychological support that helps you to develop a different relationship with your pain: one that leaves you feeling less ‘controlled’ by your pain, and more in charge of it; a relationship that enables you to pursue goals in the areas of your life that are most important to you, while at the same time deal with the uncertainties inherent in managing a chronic and painful condition.

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, pronounced ‘act’) is a form of therapy that you might want to think or learn more about. ACT is a modern form of cognitive behaviour therapy that uses a range of techniques, including mindfulness, to help people create a rich and meaningful life. Studies show that ACT can be helpful for a number of problems, including pain and depression. 

    There is a lot of information in these responses for you to take-in. I hope you find it useful and wish you the best of luck.


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