Hould be ac­knowl­edged its own right’

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

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.

Pre­vent­ing pain

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.

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