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It is time to get serious about chronic pain

Dr. Steven Heidinger writes about chronic pain and the Canadian Pain Task Force
Wellness Column by Dr. Steven Heidinger

I remember preparing for my interview to get into chiropractic college. I researched the definition of chiropractic, the history of chiropractic, the name of the first chiropractor (born in Canada as a matter of fact), and I visited many chiropractors to get their advice on how to get through the interview process. The one thing they all warned me of was how NOT to answer the question, “Why do you want to become a chiropractor?” Apparently, it’s too predictable and too wishy-washy to respond with, “Because I want to help people.”

So, there I was, sweating in my 1980’s oversized suit, in front of a panel of my future peers… 

“Why do you want to be a chiropractor?” 

“To help people.”  

I thought that I blew it.

But really, that’s what it is all about, isn’t it? To help people?

I chose this career because a chiropractor helped me. I used to suffer from chronic pain with recurrent migraines and constant neck pain. Chronic pain is a problem affecting many in this country. Approximately one in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain.

Chronic pain affects Canadians in so many ways. According to Health Canada, chronic pain can have a significant impact on quality of life and general health. It can lead to stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, anger, frustration, and even suicide. Chronic pain affects our ability to think, sleep and maintain meaningful relationships. There is economic consequence as well. Chronic pain can lead to school and work absenteeism and loss of productivity. And of course, there are the health care costs of treating those with chronic pain.

Chronic pain is now classified as a disease itself, according to the World Health Organization.

Millions of Canadians have this disease and they all need to be helped.

So, what is being done to help those that suffer from chronic pain?  

As recently as March of this year, the government of Canada formed the Canadian Pain Task Force in an effort to provide guidance for the decision-makers of our health care system in their task to better understand, treat and prevent chronic pain. 

Professional organizations such as medicine, psychology, physiotherapy, pharmacy and chiropractic play a large role in chronic pain management. The Task Force considers inter-disciplinary collaboration to be the gold standard in the management of chronic pain in Canada. In other words, we all want to help people and we all need to work together.

While chronic pain does not discriminate and affects all demographics, it tends to burden certain populations more. Elderly, poverty stricken, indigenous peoples and veterans are just a few of the demographics who suffer more from chronic pain.

The Canadian Pain Task Force June Report is available to read on the Health Canada website

Look for my articles in the coming weeks to further dive into the findings of this report.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.