CHRONIC PAIN: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
“Chronic pain had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. Pain that stemmed from her back, pain that seemed to turn on and off like a light switch, progressively worse during times of high stress and seemed to manifest for no reason at all. Some days it felt debilitating, burning deep inside, referring down her leg, up her entire back, into her digestive track, some days it seemed like too much energy to get out of bed. A deep dark abyss of unanswered questions, a chase for time, where the doubts, those shadowy parts of oneself that reside in all of us from time to time…lay just behind your every step forward and seem to start catching up to you, and it is exhausting work; the continued work to bury them deep down inside. Why me? Why Now? Have I not lived through enough? What if it’s cancer? Is it left over trauma for a decade of child abuse? Is it all in my head? Her mother had bi polar and suffered from chronic pain, could it be genetic? Where ARE the answers? The questions are exhausting.
For years, she did not speak of it, she would say.. “oh it’s just an injury from running,” .. “it’s nothing major,”…. but then those deep dark questions would rise back up like a tidal wave.” – Sarah Jamieson
This was a passage from one of my journals when I turned 30, 2 years after the passing of my mother and the beginning of telling my personal story, my journey through chronic pain, mental health and surviving trauma. Spending the last 2 decades in silence on a personal path of recovery and meaning to better understand why and how “pain” exists in the body and mind, and to find out if there is a connection between onset of chronic pain and those who survive childhood trauma. The silence is no more. For those of us who have survived trauma, we each have a story to tell, and we must find strength in speaking out.
For today’s post I would like to limit my scope to an introduction to chronic pain to give you a better idea of some of the positive points of interest I am engaged in.
I share this with you because as a medical community, there is so much we still do not understand about the human psyche and about chronic pain overall, but many of us; patients and medical staff alike, are coming together to try to offer better diagnoses, treatment and services to those who suffer every day with chronic pain. More importantly, for people like me, I tell my story, so that we can build better awareness around chronic pain, break the stigma attached to it and provide a beacon of hope for those to stand tall and who can see a quality of life they wish to live and lead in the future.
What is chronic pain?
It seems like an easy question, yet in fact it is not. In medical terms the distinction between the terms “acute” pain and “chronic” has been by determining an arbitrary interval of time from onset, usually using markers for acute pain lasting 3 months and chronic pain lasting longer than 6 months.
According to WorkSafeBC policy, chronic pain exists when two conditions are met:
- The pain is still present six months after an injury or an occupational disease;
- The pain is present beyond the usual recovery time for the injury or disease.
WorkSafeBC identifies two types of chronic pain:
- Specific pain — pain related to a physical or psychological cause.
- Non-specific pain — pain that exists without a clear medical reason.
Answering the question “what is chronic pain” is difficult, because it manifests uniquely in each person, it is not easily diagnosed, and it is not easy understood by our medical community and for many who live with chronic pain. For many who live with this day in and day out there is a giant pink elephant in the room called – stigma.
Chronic pain is under-recognized and most often under-treated and it has reached epidemic proportions in this country, affecting almost six million Canadians.
Did you Know: “That means more than 1 in 5 British Columbians are living with chronic pain; which results in the daily suffering, the breakdown of family and other relationships, the potential for addiction as a way to cope, the loss of productivity and purpose, the risk of becoming impoverished.” – Pain BC
Chronic pain needs more of an agenda in our medical and therapeutic communities and many are starting to come forward to ensure chronic pain is not just on our local agendas, but provincially and federal agendas as well.
One of these organizations is called Pain BC, a local non profit organization formed in 2008.
Who is Pain BC?
Pain BC is made up of patients, health care providers, and leaders from academia, members of relevant non-governmental organizations and others, who share a passion for reducing the burden of pain and for making positive change in the health care system in British Columbia. I joined this board only a couple months ago and over the next 2 years my plan is to be a strategic part in raising the awareness of chronic pain and changing current landscapes of how we diagnose, treat and offer services to patients with chronic pain.
A dedicated group of well-educated, compassionate and appropriately resourced health care providers are essential allies for people during their journey with pain. Equally important is providing people in pain themselves with the education they need to become actively involved in their pain management, and giving patients a renewed sense of control and ownership over their lives and health.
Pain BC aims to deliver practical education sessions, providing assessment and other tools to guide and streamline practice, and continue to build partnerships to help advance systemic improvements, are all key to ” helping the helpers” improve the lives of people living with pain.
Did you Know: Despite its prevalence, a recent survey demonstrated the lack of public awareness and education around chronic pain. Twenty-one percent of respondents indicated they suffered from chronic pain while only 47 per cent of Canadians surveyed “fully believed that chronic pain is real.” Chronic pain is under-recognized and under-treated. Chronic pain affects people of all ages. In Canada, one in five people suffer daily from chronic pain. It is a ‘silent epidemic’
The Canadian health system is operating on an outdated understanding of pain. Growing awareness of the human and financial costs of chronic pain has catalyzed an international movement to address the needs of people living with pain. Pain BC is adding our voice to others around the world calling for improved pain management. It’s time for a change.
Pain BC’s Vision:
Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:
- Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
- Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs.
Self Management Support:
One of the key components of Pain BC, is the opportunity to empower patients to become leaders in their own lives. Self management and strategies are key to any successful endeavor, it is a critical piece of the chronic pain management puzzle. Research has shown that self management of chronic pain can significantly improve people’s quality of life. We all want to be leaders in our own lives, do we not?
Self Management Programs are collaborative partnerships between those suffering from chronic pain and health care professionals.
For more information: http://www.painbc.ca/content/self-management-support
Resources for Health Care Providers:
Health care providers treating patients with chronic pain are presented with unique challenges. Pain BC’s mission includes educating those health care providers and providing them access to the best resources available so that they may help their patients as effectively as possible.
To that end, Pain BC has compiled information on Assessment Tools & Clinical Guidelines, Clinical Resources, Conferences and Training, Program Design and Operation, a directory of Pain Clinics and Services, as well as a list of Links of Interest. As part of our continued work in supporting health care providers, we also provide unique memberships FOR healthcare providers to get more engaged in chronic pain; and this includes everyone from doctors and nurses, to physiotherapists, chiropractors and anyone offering skill sets in pain management and therapeutic modalities.
Pain BC provides brochures and information at your finger-tips to help better serve your community.
What Makes Pain BC Unique?
Apart from it’s partnerships and integral work behind the scenes, Pain BC offers innovative ways for patients and practitioners to get involved. The list below is just a snippet of what is offered and what is in the Pain BC pipeline for 2013/2014:
- Pain Waves Radio: Pain Waves Radio is a call-in internet radio show created by non-profit society Pain BC, where listeners can listen to, and interact with, leading chronic pain experts as they discuss the latest pain management research, tools, and trends. For more information: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/painwavesradiobypainbc
- Salons: a workshop style evening, that explores the art of public conversation. An enhanced dialogue where speakers are chosen to present on a theme, and the flow of the event is not dictated by a regimented set of parameters, but around organic dialogue. It is meant to be interactive in an atmosphere of free flowing idea generation that is goal oriented and builds awareness on the topic at hand.
- National Pain Awareness November 3-9th 2013 A national conference focused on addressing chronic pain across the country. For more information please visit : http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/index.php/en/national-pain-awareness-week/about
- Become a Member or a Volunteer: Pain BC needs you to get involved and take action on chronic pain. In order for us to break the cycle of pain and stigma, we as a community need to work together. Benefits of membership include a subscription to Pain BC’s e-newsletter, eligibility to attend education sessions and conferences for free or at reduced rates, and participation in networking events and discussion forums.
- Be involved in Research: If you are over 15 years of age and would like to participate in a Chronic Pain Survey, the CIRPD is seeking input from people with chronic or persistent pain to better understand what types of information resources are being sought.
Chronic pain still has a long way to go to be understood, but the more we continue to bring interested parties together, the more impact we can make and the more we can shrink that pink pachyderm, in the room. There is hope for those living with pain, it does not have to be a way of life. Being a leader in your own life, starts here.
Pain BC: http://www.painbc.ca/
Canadian Pain Coalition – http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/