GEORGIE Oldfield is feeling the pain.
A weekend of strenuous hill walking in preparation for an attempt at the Three Peaks Challenge in April has left her feeling somewhat sore.
But Georgie’s not the kind of person to let it worry her. After all, she has made treating pain her career as a physiotherapist.
More recently, she has researched the emotional causes of pain – as opposed to the sprains, strains and slipped discs resulting from physical activity.
Now she is building a business which offers a new way of tackling ailments which have their origins in issues such as stress, bereavement and workplace troubles.
Georgie, who runs physiotherapy clinic The Pain Relief Centre at the family home in Longley, is also devoting lots of time to a newer business, The Stress Illness Recovery Practitioner Association (SIRPA).
She says: “SIRPA is a programme to train qualified health practitioners such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, hypnotherapists and doctors.
“This type of treatment has been pioneered in the States for 40 years, but is only gradually taking root in the UK. It is about changing people’s minds from the view that all pain is physical in origin to the fact that some pain is stress-related.”
Georgie cites the example of a talented young diver who suffered chronic back pain which persisted after she discovered she had been spotted for Olympic training.
Georgie was able to cure the pain within months by using her programme after the diver had undergone lengthy physio and operations to no avail.
In another case, a local man faced a premature end to his career after three operations for slipped discs failed to provide a cure. After six weeks on Georgie’s programme, he was able to go back to work and resumed playing football. “His sister had died,” says Georgie. “He was trying to cope with things, but in his case the physical pain was a manifestation of inner tension.”
Georgie’s success in helping cure pain with emotional origins has brought people from as far afield as Sunderland, Dublin and Wales to her door to be treated for conditions such as sciatica, migraines, back pain, RSI and whiplash.
SIRPA had its beginnings when Georgie, who qualified in physiotherapy in 1987 and spent seven years working in the NHS, was conducting research into psychological medicine and discovered the work of Dr John Sarno, a professor at the New York University Hospital.
She says: “It answered all the questions I had about stressed-induced pain.
“When I left the NHS to set up The Pain Relief Centre, I started getting severe sciatica. However, I wasn’t receiving a monthly salary any more and I was going through the stress of setting up a new business.
“I used Dr Sarno’s techniques on myself and got rid of the pain problems. I started recommending it to my patients and got some really good results.
“I started looking at training so I could do more, but there was nowhere in the UK.
“So, I picked up a pen and wrote to Dr Sarno. I went to America in 2007 to meet him and came back to set up my own programme. I have attended conferences and worked with two other professors in the field in the States since then.”
Georgie is joined at SIRPA by co-directors Greg Smith and Paul Scott, who complement her role as practitioner and researcher with their expertise – Greg as a former director of a plc and Paul who has skills in marketing, IT and social media.
“I have been working hands-on as a physiotherapist for 25 years,” says Georgie. “I use my hands-on skills to treat acute injuries and the rest of the time I am dealing with chronic pain problems.”
Says Georgie: “My mum was a physiotherapist for a short time. She always thought I would make a good physio.
“At school I wanted to be a physiotherapist or a marine biologist. I thought there would be more chance of getting a job as a physiotherapist, but I never envisaged having a private practice.”
Georgie worked in Taunton and Plymouth before meeting husband Stuart on a holiday flight. She recalls: “I came back from holiday and told my parents: ‘I’ve met the man I’m going to marry’.”
Later, Georgie got a job at Bradford Royal Infirmary. She also worked with elderly patients in the community, where she became interested in issues of chronic pain.
“I started taking private patients in 2003,” says Georgie. “I left the NHS in 2005. I set up The Pain Relief Centre in January that year and left the NHS in August. I set up the clinic because of the results I was getting. I was getting frustrated by the limitations in the NHS.”
With SIRPA, Georgie is busy updating an existing CD as well as producing an e-book and a newsletter to spread the word about stress illness recovery. She also speaks at conferences and runs workshops. Georgie has even led a two-day course for employees at the European Union who have been affected by chronic pain.
Georgie sees huge potential for the treatment methods she espouses – particularly in reducing employee sickness absence.
She also get e-mails from people in Europe, Australia, China and India, keen to try out her treatment methods as there are only a handful of practitioners – mainly in the USA.
Not surprisingly, Georgie recognises the benefits of a health lifestyle. “I will take time out for myself,” she says. “I will go outside and get some fresh air. It is all about looking after yourself emotionally, physically and nutritionally.”
But she says: “I need to be motivated to exercise, so I do that with friends – going walking, running or swimming.
“I would work 24/7 if I allowed myself. I love my work and I’m passionate about it, but I could very easily overwork because I work at home. I set time limits to make sure I make time for myself.”
Last year, Georgie celebrated her 50th birthday by completing the Great North Run. She also undertook an 80-mile charity walk on coastal paths around Cornwall. She raised £1,500 for good causes with her efforts.
This year, she is helping daughter Evie raise the £5,000 she needs to work for a year at an orphanage in Peru . Fundraising events include an evening at the Temujin Restaurant in Milnsbridge next month featuring magician John Danbury.
Georgie and a group of friends tackle The Three Peaks in April – aiming to scale all three in under 12 hours.
“We are in training now and the aim is to increase the distance we walk each time we go out.” she says.