How one NZ woman ditched the painkillers after months of unbearable back pain

Lisa Pulman endured almost six months of excruciating back pain and was at her wits' end when she was lucky enough to hear about a new pilot.



Lisa Pulman from Hamilton had finally had enough after more than five months of excruciating low back pain with no resolution in sight. She drove herself to A&E and broke down in tears in front of the nurses. She simply couldn’t stand the pain any longer.


It had seemed like a simple muscle tweak at the time. She slipped while walking through one of the paddocks on her lifestyle block and didn't think anything of it for a few days. But then what was initially just a little sore got worse....and progressively worse, until she could barely move without being thrown into absolute agony.


“I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I saw two GPs and two spinal specialists between August and January but no one was able to help me,” she says. “I was prescribed everything from simple painkillers to MRIs and cortisone injections. It got to the point where surgery was looking like the only option," explained Lisa.

It was after her trip to the hospital, while she was waiting to hear back from a spinal surgeon, that Lisa just happened to hear an ad about Go Get Active on MORE FM. The timing couldn't have been better as she learned that it was a new pilot for Kiwis struggling with low back pain but not seeing results from the usual channels. Launched by Active+, one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary rehab suppliers, Lisa would go on to be one of the programme's first patients.


Treatment is tailored to the individual and can involve input from an experienced group of health professionals, including physiotherapists, spine specialists/surgeons, psychologists, dieticians and traditional Maori healers.


“I got in touch as soon as I could after hearing that ad and Active+ were able to help me straightaway," Lisa smiles. "I went to the Active+ Te Rapa clinic first where I started the program, commencing with physio. Then the occupational therapist came to my home to see if there was anything they could do about my environment – such as providing a stool for the shower. I was also offered counselling from a psychologist and advice from one of the Active+ dieticians. I went from feeling like no one was helping, to the complete opposite.”


Lisa has been off the painkillers for a few weeks now and has been able to return to work with a plan overseen by an Active+ occupational therapist. She has a physical job at a tomato growing business so it’s imperative that she is able to lift heavy objects and move around.


“The stretches and exercises from Active+ physio have made a real difference,” she explains. “I have been put in touch with a spinal surgeon as well but he is more than happy for me to continue what I’m doing as long as it is working.


“It has been such a relief to get so much help and support after months of agonising pain. I would recommend the program to anyone.”


Fully funded by and in partnership with Southern Cross Hospitals and Te Kohao Health Trust, Go Get Active is part of the ACC Escalated Care Pathway pilot programs that have launched in regions around New Zealand.


Patients accepted into Go Get Active also have a key contact person working alongside them throughout their treatment journey, to ensure everything is on track and that they understand their options.


Go Get Active aims to help more Kiwis get to grips with their back pain, reducing pain-related distress and improving their quality of life. If the pilot is successful, Active+ hopes to roll Go Get Active out across other regions of New Zealand.


To apply, patients need to live in the Waikato, be 18+ years old and have had pain for more than 3 weeks but less than a year. Their lower back pain must also have been caused by an injury. For those eligible, the program will be fully funded by ACC with no surcharges.


Those interested in applying for Go Get Active can phone 0800 GOGETACTIVE. A member of the Active+ team will ask some confidential questions. They will then either invite the patient in to one of their locations throughout the Waikato for an assessment, or – if they are not eligible – point them in the right direction or advise them on the best practice treatment for their low back pain.


Active+ is a 100% Kiwi-owned physiotherapy and rehabilitation network that was founded by Gill Webb in 1990 and is now partly owned by Southern Cross. It’s estimated that Active+ has helped more than 300,000 New Zealanders with injury prevention, rehabilitation and wellness.


For more details, visit activeplus.co.nz or follow Active+ on Facebook.

For more details on the ACC Escalated Care Pathways, see this link acc.co.nz/for-providers/provider-updates/innovative-new-treatment-pathways-for-injured-new-zealanders.