Hould be acknowledged its own right’
daily activities in varying degrees, from lifting a bag with groceries to going up a flight of stairs. Pain can limit a person’s basic activities such as washing and bathing, walking short distances, catching a bus or driving. This affects people’s quality of life, causing emotional distress and a sense of failure.
While a broken leg can be confirmed by an X-ray, and an infection can be confirmed by a blood test to measure white blood cell count, there is no medical test to measure chronic pain levels. Thus, many people with chronic pain go from one doctor to the next searching for explanations. This process can lead to unnecessary evaluations and treatments.
In fact, the research showed that nearly 38 per cent report being in pain for more than two years.
Chronic pain also has a financial effect on the person not only due to the medication which needs to be purchased but also to the time off work these people need to take, with nearly four per cent even losing their job.
Emotional and mental issues also affect chronic pain patients and their families. Missing work and family events because of pain all contribute to stress.
Chronic pain sufferer explains why it should be listed as a disease
Rather than listing all the causes of chronic pain, the MHN believes that chronic pain should be listed as a disease in its own right. Gertrude Buttigieg from MHN explains that if two people are experiencing the same pain but one is suffering from post cancer and the other from a post car accident, the former is entitled to treatment while the latter is not.
The Malta Independent on Sunday talked to a chronic pain sufferer who explains what it is like living with chronic pain and the need for it to be listed as a disease in itself.
One of the recommendations resulting from the research carried out is for a holistic policy to be drawn up which provides chronic pain prevention where possible. Quite a large proportion of chronic pain, especially that related to back pain, can be prevented with adequate education.
Pain is also related to obesity so the policy needs to look at healthy living including weight management and physical activity. Occupational hazards also need to be addressed; for example positioning one’s computer at the right height and angle.
A 25-year-old woman has suffered from severe migraines for over eight years. The pain is so severe sometimes that she has ended up in A&E. Once the pain was so strong that the emergency doctors thought she had meningitis.
In the beginning, she suffered from migraine only once a month but then it increased to four times a week. When she had migraines she was completely debilitated saying she was lucky that her partner could take care of their daughter because she was unable to.
She used to spend four days in bed as the migraine would also affect her nerves. She recalls a time when she travelled abroad and collapsed at the airport with a migraine attack. Even working was a problem and she says she is lucky her employer is so understanding.
After eight years of suffering, she was only given suitable treatment last year and has since been prescribed medication that costs €83 a month. The treatment has helped immensely and she now only gets migraines every three to four months. “When I started taking these pills I felt I was reborn,” she says.
However, she points out that people who suffer from epileptic fits receive this medication free of charge. She feels this is discriminatory and that chronic pain should be listed as a disease in its own right to enable sufferers to receive the necessary treatment.
Scotland already classifies chronic pain as a disease and Italy has specific legislature on how to deal with pain.