The Stigma of Chronic Pain

October 08, 2021 3 min read

At Abundant Natural Health, we deal a lot with people who are suffering with chronic pain conditions, so we know how vulnerable and desperate they are for solutions to restore their quality of life. It can affect a person’s ability to work, engage in relationships as well as their mental health and wellbeing.

For this year’s World Pain Day, we wanted to expose the crippling reality of living with chronic pain, focussing on the stigma of having an ‘invisible disease’.

Here are the facts:

  • Over 3 million Australian live with chronic pain- a figure expected to increase to over 5 million by 2050 [1]
  • For most of these people (56%), their pain affects their ability to operate in their daily lives [1].
  • Depression and anxiety affect 44.6% of people living with chronic pain [2].
  • Suicide rates are 2-3 x higher for people suffering with chronic pain [1].
  • 823 Australians lost their lives in 2017-18 due to the misuse of prescription opioids [1].

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain is designed to PROTECT us. It is our body letting us know that our tissues are actually or potentially being damaged [3]. For this reason, immediate or acute pain is necessary for our survival. If not treated early and effectively, acute can become chronic pain.

Chronic pain is pain that has been ongoing for more than 3 months or persists beyond the usual duration expected for an acute injury or disease. Three interconnected neuroplastic changes contribute to the development of chronic pain [4]:

  1. Peripheral sensitisation: meaning the area becomes more sensitive to any stimuli (even if it is non-painful) and fires pain signals more frequently.
  2. Central sensitisation: ‘winding up’ the nerves in the spinal cord, leading to more pain signals being sent to the brain.
  3. Descending modulation: characterised by decreased brain chemicals sent down the spinal cord to block the pain response.

Stigma

Chronic pain is REAL. It is complicated and hugely misunderstood in our society. Having an invisible disease- an absence of observable physical damage can lead to people with chronic pain being labelled ‘complainers’ or ‘drug seekers’.  It is these stigmatising responses - the lack of empathy, trust, belief, feelings of blame and even dismissal by healthcare providers which can leave a someone with chronic pain feeling isolated and out of options. This may also lead to the internalisation of stigma for people with chronic pain, who may start to doubt their own symptoms and question the credibility of their own pain [5,6].

There is an undeniable need for awareness about the relationship between mental health and chronic pain. We need public health campaigns and programs which target these stigmatising reactions (including by healthcare providers) while empowering and building the resilience of people with chronic pain [7].

Looking for natural pain relief without the nasty side effects? Magnesium is a well known anti-inflammatory with proven effective relief from muscle and join pain, symptoms of mild arthritis, osteoarthritis, period pains and migraines. This World Pain Day we are offering you 50% OFF our Magnesium Gel and Spray, but hurry this deal ends at midnight on the 11 October 2021.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read in this blog. Information is gathered and shared from reputable sources; however, Abundant Natural Health is not responsible for errors or omissions in reporting or explanation.

References

  1. (2019). The Cost of Pain in Australia. Retrieved 20 Jan 2021 from https://www.painaustralia.org.au/static/uploads/files/the-cost-of-pain-in-australia-final-report-12mar-wfxbrfyboams.pdf
  2. Hooley, J., Franklin, J., & Nock, M. (2014). Chronic pain and suicide: understanding the association. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 18(8), 435. [Google Scholar]
  3. International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). (2017). IASP Terminology. Retrieved 24 Feb 21 from https://www.iasp-pain.org/Education/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=1698
  4. Turner, J. (2019). NURS5084 Nursing the Acutely Ill Person, lecture 1, week 8: Pain Management [Lecture PowerPoint slides].
  5. Monsivais, D. (2013). Decreasing the stigma burden of chronic pain. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 25(10), 551–556. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-7599.12010 [Google Scholar]
  6. Toye, B. (2010). “Could I be imagining this?” - the dialectic struggles of people with persistent unexplained back pain. Disability and Rehabilitation, 32(21), 1722–1732. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638281003657857 [Google Scholar]
  7. De Ruddere, C. (2016). Understanding stigma and chronic pain: a-state-of-the-art review. Pain (Amsterdam), 157(8), 1607–1610. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000512 [Google Scholar]

 


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