Mother of two Jasminka Sinanovic used to love the hustle and bustle of a vibrant city, but a painful nerve injury has forced her to seek a quieter lifestyle.
A clap of thunder, a noisy neighbour or even leaving the television on a loud setting is all it takes to trigger painful vibrations in her foot, which she describes as worse than childbirth or her bones being crushed by a hammer.
“I used to love going to the cinema but because of the surround system I cannot go any more. The vibration hits the foot, the foot gets dark and then the pain increases,” she said.
Six years ago, the former Sydneysider and supermarket manager fell and sprained her ankle. She was expecting a speedy recovery, but three weeks later she developed a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS.
The condition has damaged Jasminka’s central nervous system and now everything from rain, wind, sun, sudden noise and even air-conditioning causes her to wince in extreme pain.
“My usual pain is around a seven during the day. But if there’s a loud noise or some wind, it goes up to a nine or 10.”
Since her diagnosis, Jasminka has tried prescription medicines, spinal cord surgery, ketamine infusions, physiotherapy and is currently trialling cannabis oil under the supervision of her doctor.
Though her symptoms have improved, she still experiences severe pain on a daily basis and relies on her husband to bathe, cook and shop.
She also has a little help from her furry friends, a three-year-old American Staffy, Tiger, and her bilingual peach face cockatiel, Micky.
“My pain condition has brought me into depression over the years, so it’s good to have Micky to talk to, and Tiger to give me a reason to go outside,” said Jasminka, who now lives on NSW’s south coast with her husband.
“Micky says ‘come to mummy’ or ‘what’s up’ in Croatian. I use her as a backyard alarm.”
Pain Australia CEO Carol Bennett said it’s not uncommon for patients to experience mental health conditions on top of their physical symptoms.
“Neuropathic pain is incredibly insidious and debilitating, and if people have difficulty getting it under control it really does impact their mental health,” she said.
Approximately 40 per cent of people with a chronic pain condition have a mental health condition, usually anxiety and depression, according to Pain Australia’s recent research. These patients were also two to three times more likely to be suicidal.
Ms Bennett said CRPS continues to be poorly understood by researchers, patients and the general public.
“It affects around two to five per cent of all patients with pain conditions, but the exact figures are not really known. It’s not well researched and it’s a process of elimination to arrive at diagnosis.”
Jasminka said her husband, two adult children and her pets help her to stay positive.
“Tiger has been a lifesaver. He sleeps right outside my bedroom window. He knows when I’m not sleeping and in pain and just puts his head on the window and knocks on the window to check up on me.”
What is CRPS?
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a chronic nerve pain condition that can cause burning or tingling sensations in the legs, feet, arms or hands
- Other symptoms include swelling, discolouration and skin growths
- CRPS can cause hypersensitivity to pain, as well as severe reactions to external stimuli such as wind, temperature or noise
- It usually occurs after an injury, particularly a fracture, that damages the nervous system
- CRPS is three to four times more common in women than men
- There is no cure for CRPS. However, symptoms can be managed with medicines and other treatments, such as nerve stimulation, surgery and cognitive therapy.