At the 2016 IAIABC Annual Convention, Becky Curtis, founder of Take Courage Counseling, talked about how the workers’ compensation system can enhance the experience of injured workers.
Years ago, Becky suffered a horrible automobile accident that resulted in a fractured spine and left her as an incomplete quadriplegic. After the accident, she spent most of the first year in a wheelchair while undergoing extensive rehabilitation. She had to learn to walk again and perform activities of daily living. She was eventually pronounced at maximum medical improvement and discharged from care as her condition stabilized. Chronic pain was part of her everyday life at that point. As the chronic pain worsened, the physicians discovered she had developed a syrinx at the level of her spinal fracture. This was not operable, so the physicians treated the condition with high doses of narcotic pain medications. She developed severe depression due to the chronic pain and inability to effectively manage it.
Eventually they decided to try a functional restoration program with the hope that would give her pain relief. It was during this program that she experience a paradigm shift and came to the understanding on how the brain controlled sensations of pain. This paradigm shift made her realize that, instead of waiting for someone else to take care of her, she needed to take control of her own life and recovery. There was no magical pill that was going to cure her pain. Instead she had to change her attitude about her pain and disability.
Becky talked about the importance of a family support structure in her recovery. Many people do not have this support structure, which greatly inhibits their recovery and developing coping skills. The functional restoration program provided a good foundation for the recovery, but this is something that requires a lifetime commitment.
Becky talked about the importance of exercise in the recovery from chronic pain. Inactivity leads to muscle atrophy. This can happen very quickly, so intensive physical therapy is needed to assist with recovery. Patients need to commit to working through the pain because, if they do not, the pain will end up consuming their life and they will never fully recover.
Because of her experiences, Becky decided to dedicate her life to coaching others with chronic pain. She used her experiences to work with others to assist them in learning how to understand their pain and take control over their recovery.