September is Chronic Pain Month
If you look up chronic pain in the dictionary or on Google,
you will find a variation of the following definition: ‘Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain in one or more regions of the body that lasts longer than the typical period of time expected for healing, usually three to six months.” Chronic pain affects you not only physically, but socially, emotionally and psychologically as well- impacting everything from sleep and mental wellbeing, to work, activities of daily living (i.e. showering) and relationships. On the opposite spectrum of pain, is acute pain, which typically follows an injury like a broken bone or a torn muscle and is generally short lived.
Chronic pain arises for a multitude of reasons and sometimes, for no obvious reasons at all. There are various types of chronic pain including, but not limited to– widespread pain, pain in specific regions, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, migraines, muscle and joint pain etc. It is also not uncommon for someone to have multiple types of pain that they have to manage.
Not only are 1 in 5 Canadians affected by chronic pain, but chronic pain affects more North Americans than diabetes, heart disease AND cancer combined- and yet, accessible treatment for patients, and resources available for both patients and health care providers alike are extremely limited.
The theme of this year’s Chronic Pain Awareness Month is ‘My Pain Plan’ which focuses on the vital importance of an individualized, multidisciplinary, holistic, multimodal approach to pain care. There are no two pain stories exactly alike, just as there are no two bodies exactly alike. For this reason, treatment needs to be highly individualized. Unfortunately, there are an incredible number of barriers that prevent patients from accessing necessary care, including lack of financial support, geographical restrictions, limited insurance policies, difficulty with mobility or transportation and so much more. A 2018 Canadian study reported that approximately 50% of people in chronic pain wait anywhere from 6 months to 5 years to access treatment and resources- specifically from a multidisciplinary approach.
Chronic pain is still widely misunderstood by many healthcare practitioners,
and therefore the approach to pain management in many cases, still remains on pain caused by mechanical dysfunction alone, and does not take into consideration an extremely important piece of the puzzle; the mind and body connection. Our brain and our body are in constant communication-when your body senses the world, that information is passed through our nervous system, to and from the brain. Focusing on a more holistic approach will help patients and health care providers better understand the underlying causes of the persistent pain, which will in turn help improve treatments and alleviate suffering.
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of stigma around chronic pain, as it is typically not something that you can see-there are often no physical symptoms to go along with the pain.
Due to this reason, it is estimated that nearly 20% of people living in chronic pain hide their pain from those around them-afraid of being shamed, judged or worse, not believed. Everyone who is living with chronic pain has a different story, and therefore has a different experience with their chronic pain, but most have one common interest… we want our voices to be heard, we want access to better pain management and resources and we want to increase the quality of our life- in the absence of a long-term cure.
Chronic Pain Awareness Month is an incredible opportunity for those living in constant pain, or those that know someone living in chronic pain- to share their experiences.
To help educate not only those closest to us, but anyone and everyone who is willing to listen. Let’s share each other’s stories and raise awareness to the rest of the world for the critical need for better access to multidisciplinary pain management for all that live in chronic pain.