A new report from the Canadian Pain Task Force is calling the issue of chronic pain a “significant public health issue” and says the health sector has a chance to overhaul how it is treated to better help Canadians.
The report notes that one in five Canadians are thought to live with chronic pain, with two-thirds of those reporting their pain as moderate to severe.
“People living with pain have limited access to the services they require and often face stigma and undue suffering as a result of their condition,” the report reads.
Chronic pain has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease, and is defined as pain persisting or recurring for longer than three months, associated with significant emotional distress, significant functional disability and the symptoms are not better accounted for by another diagnoses.
It notes chronic pain more often afflicts those in populations living in poverty, Indigenous peoples and women, among others.
The opioid overdose crisis has also complicated the treatment options for those suffering from chronic pain.
The task force claims people who could benefit from opioids to manage pain are now facing barriers to obtain a prescription.
“There is a need to promote shared decision-making between health care professionals and people living with pain. Prescribing decisions must be based on the unique needs of the individual, but this is not supported by the current environment.”
The report calls for better co-ordination between the provinces and territories as a starting point.
“Provincial/territorial policies and efforts could be better coordinated to reduce duplication of effort, maximize efficiency and implementation of best practices, and ensure people living with pain have the same level of care across Canada,” the report reads.
Pain BC – an organization that looks to help those suffering from chronic pain in British Columbia – welcomed the report and its conclusions.
“This report makes Health Canada aware of what Canadians with pain have known for too long: that pain care is largely not accessible, many health care providers lack the knowledge and skills to manage pain and breakthroughs in research are hampered by lack of funding,” said Executive Director Maria Hudspith in a statement. “We hope this report lays the foundation for a national pain strategy that will improve the lives of Canadians who live with pain.”