Raising awareness on Chronic Pain is a message for everyone

Saturday, 8 September 2018

To mark International Pain Awareness Month, Chronic Pain Ireland Chair Deirdre Ryan shares how they are striving to advocate at Local, National and European levels for improvement of life for those living with pain.

At Chronic Pain Ireland your pain is our priority… We offer daily support to people nationwide living and learning to live with chronic pain, their friends, and family. We do this through our support phone-line, email, online forum, self-management workshops, and information talks. 

Chronic pain is pain that persists past the normal time of healing, longer than 3 months. The pain may be continuous or intermittent. Chronic pain can be experienced by those who may not have evidence of tissue damage or biological reason for pain. It is an invisible condition, in that many suffering look well in appearance. However pain impacts on every facet of life, including financial, social and psychological implications. Chronic Pain presents substantial increased risk of depression, physical de-conditioning, poor self-esteem, social isolation and relationship breakdown. Yet with education and application of self-management skills people can learn to manage their condition and live life with quality and meaning.

Raising awareness of Chronic Pain is aimed at all participants in the life of a person living in pain; medical practitioners, insurers, family members and friends. It is of tantamount importance to the person in pain that they are seen and heard. It may not change their condition but it helps to know that they are not alone and that there are people out there trying to give them a voice. For those around the person in pain it is important that they see that the person needs to be believed and must be supported. Pain effects a person’s thoughts and feelings and we are not always easy to live with… Don’t poke the bear! However this is not a personal assault on those around it just shows the struggle of living in a body that is screaming in pain. Nobody wants to be flaky or unreliable. Pain is difficult to predict and flares in symptoms can be triggered in new and varied ways making it strenuous to manage and plan ahead.

Access to specialist care in general is challenging in Ireland. With Chronic Pain the ideal treatment is by a multi-disciplinary specialist team comprising of pain consultancy, anaesthesiology, psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, and others. Access to such a team relies heavily on location, in some Irish provinces it can take up to two years to see a pain specialist and they may not be part of a multi-disciplinary team. Many people in pain attempt to build their own network of specialists but the structures are not there for the sharing of records and it is fiscally onerous. It is not right that expedient quality of care received in Ireland relies on the financial resources of a patient. Exposing a vulnerable cohort of people to further strife financially.
Changing a system from the inside is complex. We recognise that it is wearisome and potentially career hazardous for consultants within the healthcare system to advocate for improved or increased resources. As in any country, politics lead policy and fickle promises are often made in relation to the healthcare system to gain votes, with little follow through. Chronic Pain Ireland is striving to advocate at National and European levels to improve life for those in pain with all key stakeholders to address this.