A recent CBC News article reported that one in five Canadians currently struggle with chronic pain and for many, it substantially interferes with the ability to function in their daily lives. More than half of chronic pain sufferers also suffer from severe depression. The problem is amplified by the fact that most Canadians with chronic pain either do not have access to pain clinics, or if they do, the wait time is more than one year. What makes matters worse for chronic pain sufferers is that friends and family often don’t understand, minimize or disbelieve the symptoms, so persons struggling from chronic pain often suffer alone.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is different from the immediate pain sensation triggered by our nervous system to alert us of an injury or illness. Rather, chronic pain is ongoing pain that persists long after a person should have recovered from an initial injury -- generally for at least three to six months. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, with the advent of chronic pain, pain signals continue to fire in the nervous system for months or years, long after the initial mishap. Dr. Ron Melzack, a pain specialist from McGill University, states that a doctor or pain specialist cannot really diagnose chronic pain; rather, only the patient can effectively describe their pain and how it impacts their body and the ability to function.
Common symptoms or ailments associated with chronic pain are headache, lower back pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (which results from nerve damage), and psychogenic pain (involving pain not due to a past injury or disease). Some individuals suffer from multiple chronic pain conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis and various other conditions.
There is a misconception that only elderly people suffer from chronic pain, but chronic pain syndrome actually affects Canadians of all ages, including children. For children, common symptoms associated with chronic pain include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain and musculoskeletal pain. Dr. Mailis-Gagnon, a prominent pain specialist and the director of the Comprehensive Pain Program of the Toronto Western Hospital, explained to CBC News that chronic pain effects a wide variety of Canadians, including those that suffered severe bodily injuries, amputees, burn victims and others with less severe injuries. People who undergo surgery are sometimes left with chronic pain resulting from nerve damage associated with the surgical procedure.
Another problem for chronic pain sufferers is that medical practitioners, on average, have very little training to deal with chronic pain. Dr. Mary Lynch, a professor of pain medicine, says that veterinarians receive five times more training in pain management than do medical doctors (according to the CBC report). One misconception that disadvantages the treatment of chronic pain, is that it is often perceived as a symptom of an underlying injury or condition, rather than a condition in its own right. This inaccurate perception gives rise to the belief that if you treat the underlying condition, the pain will disappear, which is often not the case.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for accident victims to develop chronic pain syndrome, even after their initial injuries have seemingly healed. This condition can affect the ability to continue to work in one’s chosen profession, maintain normal social relationships and perform day-to-day activities. Chronic pain can remove a person’s enjoyment in life, and depression can further impact the accident victim’s ability to function normally.
When chronic pain results from an accident caused by another party’s negligent action, such as a motor vehicle accident or slip and fall, the injured person is entitled to seek compensation for loss of income, rehabilitation expenses and general damages for pain and suffering. If you or a family member are struggling with chronic pain resulting from an accident, call the experienced lawyers at Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) for a no-obligation consultation. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff can answer your questions and explain your legal options for seeking fair compensation for your injury and pain.