Leah Dwyer was taking part in a parents’ race at her son’s school sports day when she fell backwards and hurt her neck.
At the time, she admits she was more embarrassed than hurt.
But a few days later the 55-year-old mother-of-two from Ryde, in Sydney’s north, woke up with pain in her neck that wouldn’t go away.
Trips to a physio and a neurologist – who diagnosed her with neck muscle condition nerve muscular cervical dystonia – failed to help.
The pain became so severe that she was reduced to tears after a day at work as a massage therapist.
She went back to her GP who prescribed painkillers.
It was the start of an eight-year battle with not only what is described as chronic pain – because it has lasted for more than three months – but an addiction to codeine-based drugs.
I was taking 14 Mersyndol a day – each was 500mg paracetamol and 10ml codeine and 5mg muscle relaxant,” Ms Dwyer told nine.com.au.
That was the only way I could manage. For about eight years I was addicted.”
However, last year, the mother of two took action and managed to wean herself off the drugs, which had just been made prescription-only.
She said it was a “horrible” battle, as she suffered side-effects including sweating, sleeplessness, nausea, and racing thoughts – as well as the return of her neck pain, which was worse than before.
“I had to be very strong and persevere. It took me about eight weeks,” she said.
And while she’s still in pain, Ms Dwyer is now able to handle it with Panadol and is even well enough to kayak daily on Sydney Harbour.
She said she has learned to take a different approach to her pain, rather than relying on drugs.
“Pain is not just that body part – it’s emotional as well,” she said.
Ms Dwyer is backing today’s announcement of an Australian Government injection of almost $7m to help the more than three million Aussies who suffer from chronic pain.
That figure is forecast to rise to five million by 2050.
Health minister Greg Hunt announced $6.8m over four years in response to charity PainAustralia’s call for action.
That will include training for GP’s on how to handle to the condition, as well as a public education campaign on the use of opioids.
Money was earmarked in this week’s Budget to ensure rural Australians affected by chronic pain have better access to services.
Our Government recognises that pain, especially chronic pain places a terrible burden on sufferers Mr Hunt said in a statement.
It not only reduces quality of life for them and their families, but places many people at risk of addiction to painkillers.
While chronic pain can be a condition in its own right, common causes include arthritis, endometriosis, migraine, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain is a condition which also affect sufferers’ employment, sleep habits and relationships.
Many sufferers rely on medication to deal with the pain.
The Australian government health and welfare report shows more than three million people were prescribed 15.4m opioid scripts in 2016–17 alone.
However, opioids account for 62 percent of drug-induced deaths, killing three people a day.
Carol Bennett, CEO of Pain Australia welcomed the new funding announcement, saying the issue had been ignored for a long time.
We know there are three opioid-related deaths every day and more than 5000 hospitalisations she told nine.com.au.
That’s higher than the road toll.
It is not acceptable that we allow this situation to continue, and it’s not acceptable we have the opioid harm and deaths and that people are getting the wrong treatment.