A significant gap often exists between the clinical understanding and treatment of pain, and the experiences of people who live with pain. To begin to close this gap, it’s important to have effective communication between the patient and their healthcare provider.
“Only through meaningful conversations between the healthcare provider and the patient living with pain can they decide upon the best possible paths forward,” said Joletta Belton, co-chair of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Global Alliance of Partners for Pain Advocacy (GAPPA) Task Force.
Bridging the divide
IASP established GAPPA in order to integrate the lived experience of pain into the study, research, and management of pain. GAPPA is also invested in providing resources and education that help people living with pain to live well and return to activities they enjoy.
The need for this effort is urgent.
IASP estimates that, globally, 1 in 5 people live with pain and 1 in 10 people are diagnosed with chronic pain each year. In fact, only a small percentage of the world’s population is free of disability, injury, or pain. These are staggering numbers. Based on initial research over the past year, the global burden of pain will only increase as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this data, the impact of chronic pain is underestimated. Why?
The influence of pain
One reason is that data on pain in many conditions has not been sought until recently. For example, myths fostered views that infants do not experience pain, that pain is inevitable, and that treatment is futile for the elderly. The widespread burden of chronic pain following surgery has also not been defined until recently.
For a long time, pain has been hidden behind the diagnoses of other conditions and has not been regarded as a global health priority in and of itself.
There is a long way to go when it comes to understanding pain and how best to treat it.
“Change is happening,” Belton said. “We now recognize how important it is to learn from lived pain experiences, and the need for patients to have an active role in their pain care in order to achieve the best outcomes.
“Patients should be empowered to ask direct questions and have meaningful conversations with their care providers to address their unique needs and individual situations. Together, patients and their healthcare team can come up with the treatment plan that is right for them.”
Anyone touched by or interested in chronic pain can find information about the latest news and research in RELIEF news, a newsletter published for the public by IASP.