I am a person who has lived with chronic pain following an office accident 25 years ago.  I am not alone.  One in five or 6.8 million Canadians live with undermanaged chronic pain that can negatively impact our work, school, family, social, and personal lives.

Relentless pain can dramatically reduce our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. At its least, the pain is disruptive and depressing; at its worst, the pain is disabling and dehumanizing. Research tells us that people living with pain have double the risk of suicide as compared with those without pain.  

Chronic pain is finally being recognized as a disease in its own right. It has a worse quality of life than chronic lung and heart disease and causes needless burden and suffering for us, our families and caregivers. Because of myths and lack of understanding about this disease, people like me are labeled as complainers, malingerers and drug seekers.

The state of pain in Canada is in epidemic and critical proportions: health systems are ill equipped to provide effective multidisciplinary pain management; health care providers, people with pain and their supporters require more education about pain management and self -help; pain costs Canadians significantly in lost income and health expenses while pain costs Canada an estimated $56-60 billion each year in lost productivity and health care expenses. This is the bad news.

There is good news too.

Over the years, I have learned it is possible to live well in spite of the pain.  If I can do it, others can too! I developed a pain plan which I work at every day.  It includes learning about chronic pain and self-help coping strategies, adapting my lifestyle to keep involved in life, eating well, exercising, and volunteering.

Organizations like the Canadian Pain Coalition (CPC) are advocating for improved pain management services, providing education for people living with pain and supporting research that has potential to improve their lives. CPC focuses on awareness building by establishing National Pain Awareness Week, adopting the “knot of pain” as a symbol of hope for living well with pain and promoting the importance of media events like the premier of "Cake" at TIFF 2014.

Canadians can help by getting involved and asking for the adoption of the National Pain Strategy and provincial pain strategies for improved pain care. Together, we can make a difference.