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''I feel like I'm living in HD''

Sarah Houldcroft
Sarah Houldcroft

In 2017, Sarah Houldcroft felt pain in her back and leg after trying to help her elderly father out of his chair. Although she had a history of issues with back pain, she brushed it off as “just a silly little accident”. But instead of going away, over time, the pain became much worse.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t walk, work or drive”, Sarah recalls. “I was housebound and became dependent on others. I was prescribed strong painkillers, which caused side effects.

“I started to think I would never walk again. The pain became all-consuming and at my lowest moment, I felt suicidal. But I thought of my son and knew I couldn’t leave him without a mother. That was when I realised I had to take action, to get my life back.” 

That was when Sarah was referred to Gurpreet Singh, a clinical specialist physiotherapist at Leicester’s Hospitals.

Gurpreet said: “It was clear that the pain was disabling and ruling every aspect of Sarah’s life. She was stuck, but she desperately wanted to get better.Connecting with Sarah was the foundation which enabled her to build trust in our approach and learn that a step-by-step journey could help her re-engage with moving her body and get back to living her life.”

With Gurpreet’s guidance and support, Sarah started to change her mindset.

“He explained that my body had become highly sensitised and protective in response to the pain. I was afraid that if I moved, I would injure myself further. But I needed to understand that if I moved my back or leg, it wouldn’t break.”

Sarah gradually began learning how to move her body again. “I changed the pictures on my wall and wrote down positive affirmations. I took it one day at a time and would reset the following morning. If I had a bad day, it was OK, because I could start again tomorrow.

“The first big goal we set together was for me to go out on my own and walk my dogs. The day I achieved it was so special.”

Today, Sarah is living pain-free and busy doing DIY, after recently moving house. “I’m rebuilding my business and have a new circle of friends. I feel like I’m living in HD.”

Her advice to others who are suffering with back pain is to “be proactive” about their condition.  

“Much of it comes from within. You have to be prepared to help yourself, be positive and if you’re struggling, find a good health professional who can help you get back in control.

As a first port of call, a fantastic resource is available to download for free. The MSK app has been developed by Therapy teams at UHL and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust to help you to manage musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as low back pain.

The app, commissioned by Planned Care / Better Care Together, is packed with evidence-based information and self-help tips to help you to understand your pain and take steps to boost your recovery. To download, just search 'NHS MSK' on your app store.