Martha Hunt has been living with chronic pain since she was 15 years old.
The model was diagnosed the year before with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and was told by doctors to ‘keep an eye on it.’
However, soon enough, day-to-day activities began to hurt, including walking, sleeping and even sneezing.
Hunt says she struggles to describe her pain to others and many don’t know she has it because hers is is an ‘invisible disease.’
She’s joined This Is Pain campaign, an initiative to improve the lives of those suffering with chronic pain, to break the stigma surrounding the disease and improve access to treatment to patients.
Martha Hunt, 30, has lived with chronic pain for her entire adult life and wants to raise awareness about the ‘invisible disease.’ Pictured: Hunt, walking through an exhibition at the Oculus in New York in December for This Is Pain, an advocacy group she is involved with
Diagnosed with scoliosis at 14, Hunt soon developed chronic pain that she says feels like ‘shockwaves’ at times. Even sneezing can trigger an attack of pain, Hunt said. Pictured: at the This Is Pain exhibition, raising awareness for the treatment of pain as a disease, not a symptom
‘Ever since I was around 15 or 16, my scoliosis really started bothering me,’ Hunt, 30, told DailyMail.com.
‘Walking can be hard, sneezing would send shockwaves through my body.’
There is no umbrella definition for chronic pain because it is so different for everyone, but the term is applied to pain that lasts at least 12 weeks.
Usually we feel pain when pain sensors in the hurting area send a message to our brains, which sends the signal back to indicate that we’ve been injured.
The signal stops after the pain has been resolved – once a cut heals, or a torn muscle repairs itself.
But with chronic pain, the signal continues even after the body as healed.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can feel like anything from a dull ache to a burning to a shooting to stiffness.
For This Is Pain’s campaign, artists worked with chronic pain patients to create images of what their pain looks like. Some 20 million Americans suffer pain that may feel like shooting light for some (left), or like being knotted and compressed for others (right)
An estimated 20 percent of US adults – about 50 million people – are currently living with chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘My chronic pain feels like my body is betraying me and it’s against my own will,’ Hunt told DailyMail.com.
‘It can be really frustrating.’
Hunt said, to help spread more awareness about the often misunderstood experience she and others with chronic pain share, she joined the This is Pain for campaign.
Hunt revealed to DailyMail.com that meditation and finding ‘creative outlets,’ like writing to keep her mind off her pain help the model cope with her invisible disease
The initiative aims to break the stigma surrounding the disease and its treatment options and also by combating the challenges patients face in getting medication and therapy, and unfair treatment in the workplace.
Hunt says that, in her job as a model, her chronic pain gets in the way often.
‘I’ve been on these long shoots in awkward poses in high heels,’ she said.
‘And then sometimes I have a hard time sleeping at night because my muscles spasm.’
To help treat her pain, Hunt focuses on stretching, breathing, mediation and finding creative outlets.
‘I write a lot. I did a flower-arranging class, I did a ceramic class,’ she said.
‘When I’m focused on what I’m doing, it helps me get my mind off of the pain. Finding creative outlets is so important.’
Hunt hopes that people can reach out to those around them that may be suffering from chronic pain.
‘I hope that people understand that chronic pain is a disease and not a symptom and that it can be isolating and frustrating,’ she said.
‘Reach out to someone you know who has chronic pain so they feel supported.
‘Chronic pain can feel lonely and feeling you have someone is so important and can be overlooked.’