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Ask Jean Hailes about chronic pain

Ask Jean Hailes

We love busting myths, getting awkward and simplifying the complicated. In our new series, we answer the health questions on your mind. Next up is the topic of chronic pain. 

I’m in my 50s and sex has become painful. What’s happening?

It’s worth visiting your doctor to investigate what’s going on. One explanation could be the hormonal changes of menopause. These changes can affect your vulval and vaginal tissues, causing loss of lubrication, dryness, irritation and therefore pain during sex. Pain can also impact your sex drive.

The good news is there are lots of helpful treatments available. While it might feel awkward talking to your GP about painful sex, remember: you’re not alone, doctors have heard it all before!

Sometimes my period pain is so bad I can’t go to work. Is this normal?

Any pain that stops you from going about your daily life is not normal. Unfortunately, many women put up with this sort of pain, thinking it’s part of life.

The key is not to suffer in silence. If your pain can’t be managed with simple remedies like heat packs, over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication, or if it becomes more frequent or severe, or it interferes with your daily activities, don’t shrug it off.

Tell your doctor about your period pain, including when it occurs, how it’s affecting your life and its severity on a scale of one to 10. It’s important to find out if a health condition, like endometriosis, is causing the pain.

Back pain is making exercise hard. Should I stop for a while?

Listening to your body when you’re in pain, and treating injuries appropriately is extremely important. However, we know that over time, avoiding exercise is generally not the best medicine.

Without activity, our muscles can weaken within weeks – sometimes days – and this can lead to injuries down the track.

While you mightn’t be able to follow your usual workout routine, remember that even small amounts of exercise count. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about how to stay active. Walking aids can be useful for moving safely. The trick is to be kind to yourself and take baby steps.

Arthritis pain is keeping me awake at night. What can I do to sleep better?

It can be so hard to sleep well when you’re sore. Frustratingly, poor sleep can also worsen pain. To break the vicious circle, why not try relaxation exercises, such as meditation? It may improve your sleep by reducing the severity of your pain and making it easier to tolerate.

Other strategies include cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), melatonin supplements and healthy sleep habits. Chat to your doctor about the best approach for you.

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Last updated: 
17 January 2024
Last reviewed: 
14 June 2024