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Chris Teer sits on a couch holding his dog
November 5, 2018

Veteran no longer must ‘push through the pain’

Chris Teer was in the military for 18 years, first as a combat engineer, then as part of a Special Forces unit that focused on chemical, biological and radiological threats. He spent time in Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Ukraine. He endured gruelling training and saw many things he cannot unsee. He also developed severe chronic pain in his feet, knees, and lower back.

“The training involved in military service takes its toll on the body,” says Chris. “It was a gradual accumulation.”

Just when all hope was lost…

He sought help for his pain, but lost hope when treatment after treatment failed to give him the relief he needed. When he was enrolled as a patient with the Michael G. Degroote Pain Clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences, he doubted it would be any different. He is very happy to admit that he was wrong.

“The team is fantastic,” he says. “Positive, transparent, open. I had lost faith in the system, and they changed that.”

Chris came to Hamilton from Trenton for a month of treatment. The Pain Clinic’s care model includes daily sessions with a whole team of experts including psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers. They don’t just treat the symptoms of pain, they treat the causes behind it.

Unlearning ‘push through the pain’

One of the specialists he worked with was physiotherapist, Adria Fransson. She helped suppress the urge to push through the pain.

“In patients with a military background, we commonly see this mentality of ‘push through the pain,’” Adria says. “It may feel okay while you’re at it, but when the endorphins wear off, you are left depleted and in significant pain. People sometimes then become fearful of exercise because they don’t want to experience the pain that comes afterward.”

It’s important for people with chronic pain to move their bodies. But too much intense movement can also trigger pain. Adria teaches patients how to reach a happy medium, and listen to their bodies’ signals. Chris was introduced to tai chi and yoga, as well as pool exercises, and swimming lengths. He learned how to exercise moderately, and manage his breathing. He also learned how to use simple equipment at home to relieve muscle tension.

“Learning how to feel the tension in my body, and relax it was an ‘aha moment’ for me,” Chris says.

Life after the Pain Clinic

Since returning home from his time at the Pain Clinic, Chris says his mood has improved, he’s spending more quality time with his family, walking his dog more, and sleeping better. “I can’t stress how grateful I am for the treatment I received,” he says.

For Adria, seeing all aspects of a patient’s life improve is proof that the team’s model is working.

“Chronic pain is not just a physical ailment” she say. “It affects our whole life. Having a whole team involved ensures we’re helping people to make lasting changes.”