Three minutes to a lifetime of pain

Three minutes.
Three turns of a clock’s second hand was just the time needed to completely change Edouard’s life.

On that fateful day, Edouard did what he loved the most – cycling. As he spun, his was filled with the same thoughts he had every morning. What to do at work, what to eat for lunch, where to do his cycling adventure next. Until a vehicle being driven by a girl who had just received her driver’s license smashed into him.

Ever since then, for over a decade now, Edouard has been experiencing a series of physical conditions an individual would call painful. Not just your average pain, but a pain that persists constantly, almost never ending. A state that one in every five Canadians suffers from – known in the medical world as chronic pain.

Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of this term – not many have. While it is not as widely talked about as cancer or heart disease, it is just as – or even more – debilitating. The Canadian Pain Coalition defines chronic pain as “pain that persists over three months, beyond when an injury should have healed.” They say that chronic pain appear occasionally, as in a pattern, or continuing and could be experienced for more than 12 hours per day.

The Canadian Pain Coalition says that there is a major difference between chronic pain and the normal, everyday pain we all experience – chronic pain does not have a purpose; unlike the normal pain that is supposed to warn us of harm in our bodies.

According to the Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain, there are two types of chronic pain: musculoskeletal and neuropathic.

Musculoskeletal pain is one that is felt among the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons – and can be caused by several circumstances such as accidents and diseases. Neuropathic pain, on the other hand, is a compound situation that does not have a direct, apparent foundation – factors such as impaired tissue, broken nerve fibers, and brain processes may have to do with it.

For Edouard, one of the most significant damages brought about by the accident was on his wrist, in which he would feel a painful, tingling sensation that never seemed to go away.

You or your loved one may be experiencing chronic pain – the most important action anyone could take at any point is to spot and acknowledge it. According to the National Institutes of Health, the symptoms of chronic pain are pain that persists for months or longer, and pain that could have resulted from from an initial injury.

They add that in diagnosing chronic pain, medical professionals work hand-in-hand with the patient to create a treatment plan that is personalized based on their situation. Because chronic pain is such an individual experience that varies widely among individuals, there is no one single way to diagnose it. The ultimate aim is to ease the pain being experienced, and treatments can range from medications, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, nerve blocks, surgery, and self-management programs.

Living with chronic pain has a significant impact on one’s psychological well-being. The Canadian Pain Society’s Pain in Canada Fact Sheet mentions that “50% of people waiting for care at Canadian pain clinics have moderate to severe levels of depression and 34.6% report thinking about suicide, 72.9% report the pain interferes with their normal work.” Check out this Pain in Canada Fact Sheet to see several other facts regarding the extent to which pain significantly affects millions of people in Canada. A Statistics Canada Health Report stated that “those in chronic pain were less likely to be in flourishing mental health (69% versus 79%).”

Do you know someone living with chronic pain? The best way for you to help ease their condition is simply to give them as much support as you can. Can you help them do groceries? Accompany them to physiotherapy? Take them out for a view of the city? Be as non-judgmental with them as much as possible. Edouard said that while living with chronic pain was a true test in his life, going through it would be practically impossible without the support of his girlfriend, who relentlessly went through all moments – especially the most painful ones – with him.

Chronic pain. It’s not likely that you have heard of this word until today, but it’s likely that you know or have closely interacted with someone living with this condition. While chronic pain may not always be the most straightforward condition to treat, it is certainly one that does not require too much tangible support – your presence alone can mean a significant ease in pain to someone experiencing it. Your three minutes of just being there can spell the difference between them having three minutes – or a lifetime – of pain.

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Edouard and Daniel

By Frances Raquel Narvaez

Sources:

  1. http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/index.php/en/help-centre/conquering-pain/all-pain-the-same
  2. http://www.cirpd.org/PAINMANAGEMENT/ChronicPain/Pages/Default.aspx
  3. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html
  4. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2015001/article/14130-eng.pdf
  5. http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.canadianpainsociety.ca/resource/resmgr/Docs/pain_fact_sheet_en.pdf
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