Mystery condition haunting woman
ELEANOR Naughton doesn't remember getting through an hour without thinking about her pain for the last decade.
But perhaps the worst thing about the 24-year-old's chronic pain is there's no real explanation for it.
Doctors believe the Sydney resident's brain has trained her to be in agony all the time.
"They think there's maybe some underlying auto-immune condition they'll find some day, but they've pretty much ruled out everything modern medicine can rule out," she tells news.com.au.
"Their thought is my brain is overly efficient at sending and receiving pain signals and does it automatically.
"On a good day I'm a four out of 10. I haven't had a day without pain since early high school. I don't think I've gone an hour without thinking about it for nearly a decade."
Ms Naughton isn't alone. One in five Australians - from children, teens and to the elderly - lives with chronic pain, according to Chronic Pain Australia.
That figure rises to one in three people over the age of 65.
Ms Naughton's pain started when she was just five years old.
She had short achilles tendons, which meant she couldn't put her heels on the ground.
"So I'd be stuck toe walking," she said.
"I got leg pain and they thought it was due to a tendon issue kids grow out of."
The finance consultant at Ernst & Young had surgery to lengthen both achilles tendons when she was six and had to be in full leg plasters and a wheelchair.
Years went by and she was told the pain she was experiencing was "growing pains" or "muscle cramps" until the pain got worse in her teen years.
She was about 14 years old when the pain really started to have an impact on her day-to-day life.
Ms Naughton went back to her original surgeons to work out what was going on and tried everything from physiotherapy to massage.
Eventually, she had to wear ankle support orthopaedics - a kind of brace you wear on your legs to manually stretch out muscles and ligaments.
She wore the support 24-7 for six months in high school and still there was no change in her pain.
Ms Naughton underwent a second surgery to lengthen her achilles tendons again, this time from the calf muscle.
"Everything mechanically was fine but it was ongoing, spreading nerve pain," she said.
Neuroplasticity - the brain's ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life - is usually a good thing, but in Ms Naughton's case it's bad.
"My neuroplasticity is out of control," she said.
"Usually, it wires your brain to do good things, but for me it's learnt my pain is an automatic response.
"It's really up and down. I never know when it's going to flare up badly.
"On a bad day I'm unable to leave the house or walk. My legs lock up, I won't be able to bend my knees. Depending how bad it is, sometimes I'll pass out, and when it gets that bad, sometimes I'll have to go hospital.
"No one can work it out, which is annoying in itself.
"When you're in that much pain, you're wired to be distressed and think it's something that needs fixing."
Ms Naughton said the most frustrating thing was getting knocked back at the chemist for a script for Endone, a strong painkiller she occasionally needs to take.
She said she'd been knocked back half a dozen times in the last two years.
Chronic Pain Australia's annual National Pain Week survey revealed many people living with chronic pain want access to medicinal cannabis to be simpler and more affordable, with 32 per cent of people speaking to their GP about accessing the treatment.
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