Chronic pain sufferers need help from the province, say advocates

February 17, 2017

'While much of the health care funding announced on Friday has been earmarked to tackle the opioid crisis, chronic pain sufferers caught in the middle hope the province will use some of it to put a system in place to help them.

One out of every five people in British Columbia lives with chronic pain. For Ada Glustein, an active Vancouver senior, the pain was initially all-consuming.

“It was hard to concentrate on anything else, it hurt so much. It was a deep ache that was constant,” Glustein said.

She would later learn her pain stemmed from scoliosis and spinal stenosis. Glustein has now been living with chronic pain for 17 years, managing it with a combination of nerve blockers, codeine and non-traditional methods, such as meditation and aqua-therapy.

Glustein says for years she didn’t know what was plaguing her. What’s more, she says doctors weren’t as helpful as she’d hoped.

“One told me that I just needed to tighten up my core muscles and I’d be fine,” Glustein said.

It was a similar experience for Keith Muldrum. He’s been living with chronic pain since a single-vehicle rollover in 1986.

“When I was 19, I was told there was nothing wrong with me, it’s all in your head. You need to just go away,” Muldrum said.

Pain sufferers say these experiences are all too common, so they suffer in silence. They say the current health care system doesn’t know how to deal with something it can’t immediately see.

“I think they’re overwhelmed and when they don’t know how to fix it… doctors become doctors because they want to help people and when they can’t, they get overwhelmed and they push back. We need to help them,” Muldrum said.

That’s where Maria Hudspith comes in. She and her team at Pain BC are hosting a summit this weekend focused on just that, bringing together pain sufferers, policy makers and doctors to discuss the challenges and look at solutions.

She’s also advocating for more money to be spent on chronic pain care.

“Some of the things that have come out of the health accords is the focus on mental health, the home care piece – those will benefit people who live with chronic pain, but that doesn’t get us away from the need for a dedicated chronic pain strategy,” Hudspith said.

It’s a strategy Glustein says is desperately needed.

“Nobody’s wishing to live with pain.”'

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Nadine Stewart

Global News