As anyone who has lived with chronic pain (classified as pain which lasts for three consecutive months or more) knows, living with ongoing pain can change one’s life from situations of being able to participate in a wide range of leisure and work activities, to experiences of excruciating pain, immobility, and a need to rely on others and make many lifestyle adjustments. The sudden onset of severe pain can be baffling for patients and doctors alike. Many pain sufferers suddenly find themselves needing to rest, give up or reduce work hours, and rely on previously-unheard-of pain medications (some of which not only don’t work, but also have very negative side effects). Sleepless nights become the norm. Life becomes a day-to-day proposition. Consultations with myriad previously-unknown medical professionals become the order of day, as do time-consuming and costly investigative procedures, scans, tests and x-rays. Waiting characterises one’s life: waiting for initial appointments with highly-thought-of specialists, waiting in stark rooms and waiting for results, often only to be told: “Sorry, we can’t help you.” Unless pain indicates a life-threatening condition, the health system does not seem to be geared all that well towards helping people manage their pain. So it is helpful if health consumers are able to access physicians and teams of health professionals whose treatment methods meet their particular needs. Being in a support group can also be useful. Organisations such as Arthritis ACT-Pain Support ACT (www.arthritisact.org.au); Chronic Pain Australia (www.chronicpainaustralia.org.au); and Pain Australia (www.painaustralia.org.au), offer valuable information and support for pain sufferers. 27 July marks the start of 2020 National Pain Week.
Geri Bryant-Badham is a Canberra-based freelance researcher and journalist.
Geri has substantial experience in advocacy, policy and organising and managing projects, including handling budgets and finances. She has worked in various offices for a small business, a university and in the parliamentary, political, government and non-government sectors.