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News / Health / Clark County Health

Pain-management program helps people with quality of life

Battle Ground nonprofit seeing good results with Taking Back My Life group

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter
Published: November 16, 2017, 6:00am
5 Photos
Shannon Livingood of Vancouver, center, dishes herself a bowl of soup during the final meeting of the Taking Back My Life pain management group Tuesday at Battle Ground HealthCare in Meadow Glade. Livingood enrolled in the nine-week program to learn how to manage her chronic pain without medication.
Shannon Livingood of Vancouver, center, dishes herself a bowl of soup during the final meeting of the Taking Back My Life pain management group Tuesday at Battle Ground HealthCare in Meadow Glade. Livingood enrolled in the nine-week program to learn how to manage her chronic pain without medication. Ariane Kunze/The Columbian Photo Gallery

MEADOW GLADE — Nine weeks ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to get Shannon Livingood out of bed before noon.

The 46-year-old has chronic pain — the result of domestic-violence injuries suffered several years ago. Getting out of bed and being active were often unbearable.

“My couch and my bed were my best friends,” the Vancouver woman said.

But these days, Livingood is up by 7:30 a.m. She’s dressed, ready for the day and out the door by 9 a.m. She runs errands. She explores the community. She goes to the gym.

“I truly want my life back,” Livingood said.

And Livingood said she’s well on her way to taking her life back, thanks to a free pain program at the nonprofit Battle Ground HealthCare.

How to Help

Battle Ground HealthCare — which provides free chronic medical, dental and rehabilitation services in the Meadow Glade area — is always looking for health care providers to volunteer at the clinic.

Currently, the clinic is particularly low on primary care providers and is looking for doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to volunteer.

Those interested in volunteering can contact the clinic at info@bghealthcare.org or 360-687-8941.

Taking Back My Life is an evidence-based, self-management program that provides an alternative to medication for pain management. The dozen or so participants in the nine-week program meet for two hours every Tuesday.

Each class has four components — occupational therapy, physical therapy, dietary and mental health — and instructors provide education and tips for managing pain in each of those areas. For example, one class may cover how exercise can change pain, the importance of sleep hygiene, how foods can cause inflammation and pain, and the link between stress and pain.

“The goal is to help people improve their quality of life, whether or not their pain changes,” said Sue Doyle, rehabilitation services and chronic pain program coordinator at Battle Ground HealthCare. Doyle leads the occupation and physical therapy components of the classes.

And the data show that the program does just that, Doyle said.

Battle Ground HealthCare analyzed the outcomes for 58 program participants and found clinically and statistically significant improvements in physical function, anxiety, depression, fatigue, satisfaction in social roles and pain interference, Doyle said.

In addition to the educational components of the class, the program offers a group dynamic and support system that doesn’t exist in individual pain-management programs, Doyle said.

“There’s nothing like this in the area — even if you had the money to pay,” she said.

Taking Back My Life is free to anyone at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The Battle Ground program is funded by a state grant and uses money the state received after suing an opioid producer.

‘I’m controlling it’

On Tuesday, Livingood and her group mates celebrated their completion of the program. They started the final session by sharing their recent successes.

John Kelleher shared his success with a demonstration.

The 61-year-old began the program in a wheelchair. Kelleher signed up because he’s a Type 2 diabetic and dependent on insulin. He has constant pain in his feet from neuropathy. But right before the program began, Kelleher broke his kneecap.

Four weeks later, Kelleher was walking with a cane. And this week, nine weeks later, Kelleher stood before his group mates and did five unassisted squats.

“I felt so much love and support with this group,” he said. “It kept me going. I’m sorry it’s over.”

For Kelleher, learning about the importance of fiber in his diet and how to pace himself through exercise have been the most beneficial. While the program didn’t eliminate his pain, it’s equipped him with tools to better manage it, he said.

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“It still hurts, but the hurt isn’t controlling me,” Kelleher said. “I’m controlling it.”

Tish Boxley of Battle Ground hurts every day, too.

“When I wake up in the morning, there’s not a part of me that doesn’t feel like it’s 100 years old,” she said.

Boxley takes several medications to help manage the pain from past injuries and health issues. Her goal is to get off of all of them. This week, she told her group mates that she’s on her way to achieving that goal. With her doctor’s help, Boxley weaned herself off of one medication.

The pain is there whether Boxley takes the medication or not. Through the program, Boxley said, she’s learned simple things she can do to take back control of her life and her pain.

“It’s a choice, and that’s what I recognized,” Boxley said.

“Taking Back My Life is exactly that,” she added.

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Columbian Health Reporter