At the height of her pain in 2010, Marie Lovell says she had reached a point where she thought life was not worth living.
Struggling with chronic back pain, which had increasingly become worse since 2009, the mother-of-three could not sleep for more than about 20 minutes before the pain woke her.
She believed she would never be able to sit through a movie on the couch with her family or join her children for a swim.
“I couldn’t drive, couldn’t work. I had that feeling that I would never do those things again,” she said.
Now, just four years later, Marie has completed a number of open water swims with her son, has entered obstacle course challenges, goes for regular bike rides, walks and is pain-free.
The 48-year-old’s story is quite remarkable. After seeing a number of doctors and physiotherapists, she was diagnosed with a “massive prolapsed disc” and was put on a waiting list for surgery in 2010.
During this time Marie saw chartered physiotherapist and Stress Illness Recovery Practitioner’s Association (SIRPA) founder Georgie Oldfield and began a treatment programme Georgie had brought to the UK from the United States, which focuses on the patient’s psychological state and how that could trigger pain.
“I think for me, a lot of it was suppressed emotion,” Marie said.
Along with tailored exercises, Marie’s treatment included journaling, meditation and training herself out of the habit of negative self-talk.
“We were encouraged to do positive affirmations and it was hard, I felt like it wasn’t true that I could get better,” she said.
“But it was about acknowledging that our minds and bodies are intertwined.”
The now-active Durham resident reached a point of no pain by the start of 2011 and encouraged others suffering from chronic pain conditions to consider all methods of treatment.
“Keep an open mind and know that it is possible to recover,” Marie said.
“For me it was about acknowledging psychological issues and stress, making time for meditation and doing physical activity – even if you’re scared of it.”
Georgie introduced the Stress Illness Recovery Programme to the UK after studying the method in the United States.
“I got into this because I was finding just as many people without pain can have the same condition (as those with pain), so that diagnosis can’t be the cause of the pain,” she said.
“To see a life-changing result in someone like Marie who had such a severe degenerative condition is just wonderful.”