FLIPPIN PAIN: Campaign aims to help 40% of Lincolnshire adults tackle persistent pain

Towering high above New York, the lift doors opened and in front of me was a plank.

I was invited to walk along it and after taking the first steps with the ground far below me a helicopter hovered above - no doubt in case I fell and emergency services needed to be called.

"Do you feel like jumping?", I was asked. I didn't. I had frozen and everything in my body was telling me to step back into the safety of the lift.

It wasn't real but I still felt relief as I pushed the button that would close the lift doors and take me safely back to the ground.

Mayor of Skegness Coun Trevor Burnham and the Jolly Fisherman greet the Flippin Pain team on their arrival at the Tower Gardens Pavilion in Skegness.

Flippin Pain - a UK-first public health initiative - has been touring Lincolnshire with the aim of tackling Lincolnshire’s chronic pain problem and I had just experienced one of the virtual reality experience in the Brain Bus.

"This is a brilliant example of of the experiences we have at the Brain Bus," said Felicity Thow, Team lead and physiotherapist.

"We are trying to show how complex the brain is and how sometimes we can feel a real sense of threat when really we experiencing a virtual reality headset with a flat floor in a community centre.

"Even though we know where we are we still get all the symptoms of anxiety - sweaty palms, increasing heart rate i, the plummeting of the stomach when you see how far down the ground is.

Tracey Benton from Boston was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and shares how she copes with pain.

"That is a lot like pain. Pain is a very real symptom. It's a real experience for many people but when it has been persistent ad chronic - more than the time of healing - often that is because of a persistent threat or a persistent perception of threat.

"The problem has gone away - the ligament has healed - but you are still left with the pain because your nervous system remains protective.

"We are about 'Flippin' people's perception of pain so they can ultimately lead better lives."

Flippin Pain - a UK-first public health initiative - has been touring Lincolnshire with the aim of tackling the county’s chronic pain problem after research suggested 40% of local people are receiving high levels of opioid prescriptions.

Joining the tour is Carolyn Johnson from Skegness, who says she “missed out of 10 years” of her life due to chronic pain.

The free public seminar is a public health campaign, championed by community healthcare services provider Connect Health, and supported by NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Groups.

The Brain Bus arrived in Skegness on Tuesday evening and an interactive pop-up experience village was created at the Tower Gardens Pavilion, where as well as the virtual experiences people were invited to take part in the Flippin pain survey by Trent University and were given information on diet and lifestyle.

A peloton of bike riders – including nationally renowned pain experts who came to share their experise - had set off earlier following a similar event in Sleaford the day before, stopping off a seminar in Boston and arriving in Skegness after a gruelling cycle through bad weather.

The 20 peloton cyclists expected to clock up over 250 miles during the six days of the tour, while helping to raise essential funds for UK-wide charity, Pain Concern.

Among them was Dr Deepak Ravindran, Consultant in Pain Management at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. He said cycling was much like pain management: "It can become uncomfortable but if you make a plan you can manage it," he explained.

"We are aiming to raise awareness of the problem and the solutions.

"Forty percent of adults in Lincolnshire take pain high levels of opioids and we have to change that.

"Our understanding of pain has not been in keeping with scientific advances so most GPs in consultations are forced to prescribe prescription drugs rather than the wonderful ways pain can be overcome and managed."

Richard Pell, the campaign director, is also part of the peloton. He said: “Like the rest of the country, Lincolnshire also has its fair share of challenges with physical inactivity, obesity, and an ageing population – all of which are well-established risk factors for chronic pain.

“To help address this burning issue we began engaging with the local community through a series of public events in 2019, challenging widespread misunderstanding of pain and empowering people to make informed choices about managing their pain and the healthcare support they receive.

“The pandemic derailed our initial outreach tour plans for Summer 2020, but now we’re excited to launch September’s event which feature a jam-packed itinerary of workshops, seminars and other public engagement events.”

Joining the tour is Carolyn Johnson, from Skegness, who says she “missed out of 10 years” of her life due to chronic pain. Born with a spine malformation called Spina Bifida Occulta (SPO), Carolyn has been living with pain that radiates from the base of her spine into her hips and legs.

She is sharing her journey of discovery, explaining: “I wish I had known back then what I know now. I became reclusive because it hurt too much to go out and socialise. I missed a lot of important family occasions, which I’ll never be able to get back. I can now get out of the house and do the school pick up twice a week. I also go to the gym and I distract myself from the pain with art.”

Tracey Benton from Boston was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014. Tracey recalls how she started collapsing but didn’t know why and then one morning she couldn’t get out of bed, fearing she’d been paralysed – not even able to lift her head off the pillow. She explains: “On the days I feel useless, I know I’m not useless, I’ve got a pain condition. I am not a victim; I’m a survivor because I’m learning to live with it. Some days I say I’ve been rained off! Whilst other days I have to just put my wellies on. It’s a process and it takes as long as it takes.”

On Wednesday the tour visited Mablethorpe and Market Rasen and it is in Gainsborough, Horncastle and Lincoln today (Thursday). It ends tomorrow (Friday) in Grantham.

For more details, visit www.flippinpain.co.uk.