Each year, pain in Canada costs more than $40 billion dollars when factoring in the direct costs of treatments and the indirect costs associated with things like lost wages. Though it is common in many conditions, ranging from cancer to arthritis, it remains a vastly underfunded area of research.
“Historically, very few resources have been allocated to pain research,” says Dr. Norm Buckley, Scientific Director of the Chronic Pain Network and McMaster’s Institute for Pain Research and Care. “Funding the Chronic Pain Network in 2016 marked an exceptional level of investment in pain research by the government.” Even more headway has been made with the creation of the Canadian Pain Task Force in 2019. “Our challenge now is maintaining the momentum created so that Canadians see knowledge generated by these initiatives translated into tangible action,” explains Buckley.
While the opioid epidemic has been front and centre in the news cycle for years, those living with chronic pain have largely been left behind in efforts to curb overdoses and abuse. Unprecedented challenges wrought by COVID-19 have compounded issues many living with chronic pain face. “Pain is everyone’s problem and, as a result, it appears to be no one’s responsibility. This means that resource allocations for research, for example, do not reflect the frequency or impact of the problems arising from pain,” says Buckley.
The publication of three reports from the Task Force has put pain in the spotlight. “The Canadian Pain Task Force’s Action Plan is the result of more than 15 years of vigorous advocacy by a broad range of Canadians - those living with pain, researchers, educators and healthcare professionals from many disciplines. This reflects the complexity and impact of pain as a problem in our society.” In addition to input from members of the Task Force itself, pain experts across the country, including Buckley, were consulted as members of an external advisory panel. Public consultations with more than 2,000 stakeholders were also held.
As part of National Pain Awareness Week in Canada, which takes place November 7 to 13, organizations from across the country are using their collective voices to advocate for the one in five Canadians living with chronic pain. Through social media campaigns and awareness events, they are amplifying the message that we cannot wait; the time for action is now. We must make pain a priority.
If you want to use your voice to help create awareness, visit paincanada.ca for pain facts and resources that can easily be shared across social channels.