“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
Every superhero has to deal with a certain amount of pain, whether it be overcoming the adversity of a villain, or overcoming some great obstacle. Sometimes the villains hardest to battle, are those forces we cannot see, those forces that reside within us. This was a passage from one of my journals when I turned 30. This is a personal story of my journey through chronic pain, surviving trauma and spending the last 2 decades 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. There is much data to support this theory, but 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.
* 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?
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to join the board of Pain BC, to learn more about it’s impact on the community. 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.
Superhero’s come in many forms, and part of RUN4ACAUSE’S mission is to ensure that every person has the same access to services and support groups who can empower them to become leaders in their own lives. This is one org that is well on their way!